In chapter 8 of our textbook Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, it explains why having a writing workshop during class time is beneficial. First, they will be writing in class so the teacher can see where students need assistance and guide them properly. Also, students can choose specific topics that interest them in the content area, so they will hopefully be more motivated in the assignment.
I think a writing workshop would work well in Biology. Our textbook gives a great example of using a writing workshop to write lab reports (p. 197). Earlier this year, I assigned my Biology students a persuasive essay when we studied Genetics and Heredity. The students could choose to write about the Human Genome Project or DNA manipulation in living organisms. They needed to choose one side of the debate on whether their topic was advantageous to society or more dangerous to society.
This would have been a great assignment for a writing workshop. I would have begun the workshop by modeling how I would write an essay. I would choose a topic and a side of the debate. I would write this out and project it on the classroom screen so they could see it. I would also hand out the assignment to them so they would have it in written form. I wouldn’t need to show them the whole essay, but point out that they need an introductory paragraph, three or so supporting paragraphs making their argument, and a concluding paragraph. I would then show them how I want them to cite their sources. After modeling this, I would have them choose a topic, pick a side, and use what information there is in their textbooks to begin writing information for their essay. I would circulate and see if they have questions and where they are going with the essay.
I think writing workshops can be used in many content areas, even getting the opinion of students on topics like bullying or cheating. A teacher can model an essay and then let the students get started and circulate around the students to see how they are doing. Writing workshops are a great tool for writing in the classroom.
Daniels, Zemelman & Steneke, Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, 2007 Edition.