Writing is not easy. Anyone who claims otherwise is pulling your leg. Writing requires the curiosity to inquire into your own thinking and to build your expertise through research. It requires the patience to wait and watch while ideas coalesce in your mind. It requires the willingness to put those ideas on paper even though they don’t quite make sense yet. And it requires the stamina to keep toying with paragraphs, sentences, words, and even punctuation until your message has finally come through clearly.
No wonder so many of us dread having to sit down and write!
It’s a common misperception that good writers always know exactly what they think and how to express it, that their writing never needs work to become clearer or more coherent. The millions of people who write regularly, whether for work or for enjoyment, know this is not the case. The Rising Writer Workshop aims to reverse these misconceptions, making the writer’s practice accessible to everyone regardless of preconceived notions or existing expertise.
The curriculum — with lessons adapted from “The Writer’s Practice” by John Warner (Penguin Random House, 2019) — presents a series of writing experiences through which students discover the attitudes, resources, concepts, and habits of mind that empower all writers to approach difficult tasks and believe in their own potential for improvement.
The best way to learn a skill is by doing it. At every Rising Writer session students will be assigned a writing experience. We refer to these writing assignments as “experiences” because we want students to approach each task not as just another hoop to jump through for a teacher but as an experience from which they can gain insights, develop skills, and perhaps even find enjoyment. We want students to feel motivated to make choices and write with a voice that expresses ideas and opinions that matter to them, knowing that the best writing comes when we’re writing about subjects we’re passionate and knowledgeable about. But this doesn’t mean a sacrifice of rigor. Each task will still require a clear process of brainstorming, drafting, revision and editing and will often require research to gather evidence in support of the writer’s ideas.
The main objective of The Rising Writer Workshop is for young writers to develop a writing process that works for them and allows them to generate high-quality, effective pieces of writing. There is more to writing instruction than just drilling the formulaic structure of a five-paragraph essay and asking students to replicate it in response to a narrow set of academic prompts. Our aim is to direct students’ attention away from mechanics and toward questions of audience, purpose, genre, message and style — the elements that guide writerly choices and thus make writing a highly personal and potentially fulfilling endeavor. With this approach, we hope to redefine writing for students who have previously seen it as a futile process of guessing what a teacher or other authority wants them to say. Writing is actually an opportunity to solve interesting problems, develop complex opinions, and participate meaningfully in conversations that matter to us.
The four categories of activity in The Rising Writer Workshop are skills drills, analytical experiences, argument experiences, and reflections. Writing experiences might include the following high-interest prompts:
Besides guiding these writing experiences, instructors focus on crucial writing skills and the challenges writers (young and old) often face in their writing process:
Students will be expected to submit writing assignments weekly and, at the end of the course, will reflect on the portfolio of pieces they have created and the progress they have made. Instructors will provide formative written comments for each assignment and will devote time in class to group discussions about the experiences. The goal is to encourage students to write more, enjoy writing, and improve their skills.
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