-- in which students examine one another's work -- lie at
the center of most ENWR classes. Workshops give students the chance
to improve both as readers and as writers. They also help students
to understand that writing is a process that involves revision
informed by reader feedback.
In an effective workshop, writers get helpful comments from their
peers and learn to think critically about their own work. Ultimately,
then, good workshops mean that students can revise without direct
input from the instructor.
Key guidelines | Workshop
Procedures | Workshop Variations | Workshop
Here are a few key guidelines:
* Workshop goals must match the course content. Especially at the beginning
of the semester, these goals should be well and narrowly defined. (For example,
a class that has been working on claims might identify paragraph-level claims
and decide whether they are contestable, supportable, and appropriate to the
genre and academic discipline in which the writer is working.) Defined goals
ensure that workshops reinforce other class activities and keep students from
offering purely local grammar corrections and vague assessments of whether the
paper "flows." Students should provide specific, written comments
to each other's work.
* Early on, you should set the workshop goals. As the semester progresses, the
class might generate them ahead of time, using the shared vocabulary of LRS.
* Editor's worksheets are a good way to keep students focused on the particular
goals of any workshop.
* Students work best as articulate readers. Ask them to report and evaluate
what they see on the page. This feedback is an invaluable resource for writers,
especially novices, who are often surprised to find that the argument in their
heads (or their outlines) never made it into their essays. Student editors should
comment on what's actually on the page instead of what the writer might have
written, where the argument could have gone.
* After the workshop, ask writers to review the comments on their own papers
and turn in some written account of what they learned and how they will proceed
in light of the feedback they received. (They might write this in class or as
a homework assignment.) This step reinforces the results from the workshop.
(adapted from work by Betsy Winakur Tontiplaphol)
* Students should always know in advance that their writing will be workshopped.
Writing should be submitted before class so that students have a chance to consider
and refine their reactions to the papers. Papers for workshopping should not
be submitted with any further explanation of the student's work; the text should
stand on its own.
* Before the first workshop, have a class discussion about what makes a
good or bad workshop. Students have often workshopped before and have strong
about them. Then, model a workshop. Hand out a piece of writing (written
by you, a former student, a published author—anyone who isn't
actually a student in the class) and ask students to comment as if they
to the author in a workshop. Afterwards, ask students to critique the comments
that their classmates offered.
* Ideally, workshop groups should probably be between 2 and 4 people. A smaller
group means that everyone is sure to get involved but there isn't a huge reservoir
of ideas to draw on; a bigger group means that there can be lots of discussion
and debate, but quiet (or underprepared) people can hide.
* At least at the beginning of the semester, you should probably assign workshop
groups, so that you can separate chatty best friends, spread out class leaders,
or group together people with similar paper topics. It's also handy to change
groups around early in the semester so that students can all become familiar
with one another. Later in the term, you might want to keep students in the
same group for several workshop sessions, so that they can become familiar with
one another's writing.
(adapted from Betsy Winakur Tontiplaphol)
Typically, the workshop group works together to evaluate all relevant aspects
of a paper. Here are some possible variations.
* Have the whole class workshop the same document. This ensures that everyone learns the same lesson, but
can cause quiet students to retreat from the discussion.
* Exchange papers in such a way that students aren't reading the work of anyone
in their workshop group, so that, for example, Group A and Group B would exchange
papers. Then, Groups A and B could come together to report back about each essay.
* Ask each group to act as a specialized unit: a writing SWAT team. During a
problem statement workshop, for example, there might be a status quo group,
a destabilizing moment group, a consequences group, and a resolution group.
The students in each group will focus only on their designated element when
they read the class' papers, which will be analyzed within the group then passed
on to the next team.
* Designate specialties within each workshop group. During an argument workshop,
for example, there might be a claim member, a reasons member, an evidence member,
and an acknowledgment and response member. Then, each member could comment only
on her given specialty, but the group could reach a consensus on how well all
the parts fit together.
* Devote a workshop to expectations and predictions. For example, ask students
to write introductions but exchange only the status quo, destabilizing moment,
and consequences. Then, workshop groups can predict what they think the resolution
is and compare them with what the writer actually came up with. This helps writers
to understand the importance of reader expectations.
* Move around and get rid of the worksheet. When students get out of their chairs
and put their pens down, the energy in the classroom can really improve. For
instance, to workshop for acknowledgment and response, ask students to stand
in two lines, facing someone in the line opposite them. Students on one side
should all tell their claims to the person in the opposite line, who will answer
with an objection (acknowledgment), and then the claimer will have to come up
with a response. When they're through, students in the claim line should move
down one place, so that they can tell their claim to a new person, and hear
* Vary the time limit and formality level. Some workshops might last for an
entire class, and others for only a minute or two. Some might involve complicated
worksheets to be filled out, and others might only require sketches or verbal
For more on workshop variables, with specific
pros and cons, click here.
Parts of Argument
The Whole Paper: These workshops address,
in various combinations, argument, problem statements, and style. They are
most useful later in the semester, when
your students are familiar with the course's principles and are
ready to workshop complete
drafts. You can also adapt and excerpt these worksheets for
shorter, more focused workshops or workshops of partial drafts.