Workshopping

A writing workshop is an exercise in turn taking. A writer shares copies of a piece she is working on with the members of her group, reads  a section of the text aloud, and then quietly takes notes as her readers offer their impressions  and advice. After all the readers have responded, the writer may ask them questions and the group can have a less structured conversation about the piece. Then the group moves on to the next writer and his piece—and the same process is repeated until everyone in the group has received feedback on their work.

Most groups find it useful to work along the lines of the following script:

Writers

  • Bring copies of your writing to the workshop (or circulate them beforehand).
  • Tell your readers the kinds of feedback you would most like get to your writing, or any questions or concerns you may have about your piece.
  • Read your piece (or sections of it) aloud.
  • Listen quietly and take notes on the responses of your readers.
  • Ask questions after all the readers have responded to your work.
  • Collect the annotated copies of your text from your readers.

Readers

Before reading

Take notes on any issues or questions raised by the writer or your teacher.

While reading

Read along with the writer with a pen in your hand.

  • Mark effective passages with a straight line.
  • Mark passages you want to ask questions about with a squiggly line.
  • Circle or bracket key terms or ideas.

After reading

Once the writer finishes reading, take a minute or two to jot down some notes on:

  • What works best in this draft (or section).
  • What the writer most needs to work on next in revising.
  • Any issues or questions raised by the writer or your teacher.

Draw on your notes to offer the writer advice towards revision. If you’ve already responded in writing to this draft, try to add to (rather simply repeat) your written comments. Similarly, each reader should try to add in some way to the observations or advice of previous readers.

Once all of the readers have had their say, the writer may ask the group questions about either their comments or aspects of the writing that they haven’t yet discussed. Before you move on to discuss the next piece, make sure to return your annotated (and signed) copy of the text to the writer.

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