By Jess Kusak
On what was one of the last warm and sunny Saturdays in the Las Vegas Valley this fall, children spending the day having fun and playing games would have been expected. For over 100 local grade school students, fun and games were had at the School of Education’s annual Writer’s Workshop Extravaganza. During this special day of creative learning, NSC’s School of Education students led students, from kindergarten to sixth grade, an array of interactive writing activities.
In the course, Teaching Writing Across the Curriculum (EDRL 427), education majors are trained to teach writing fundamentals across all subject areas and grade levels. Students taking this class are then able to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting by taking part in the annual Writer’s Workshop.
Roxanne Stansbury, Assistant Dean of Education, is passionate about the Writer’s Workshop, because it allows education students to get an authentic feel for a classroom setting. In most method courses, students only have the chance to teach to their peers. Students miss out on the real-life aspect of a class setting such as the different developmental abilities, behavior management, or other diverse needs a classroom of children would possess, Stansbury explained. The Writer’s Workshop affords students majoring in education the chance to be put into a real-life classroom setting.
Roxanne Stansbury and Clairin De Martini, a lecturer with the School of Education, coordinated the workshop, which has grown considerably over the years. Pre-service elementary and secondary education teachers from the School of Education created the lesson plans and provided all of the instruction to the children participating. De Martini notes the popularity of the workshop amongst graduates of the School of Education. Our graduates cite the Writer’s Workshop as one of the most helpful experiences during their studies, because they get to develop and implement a lesson for students and can then reflect on the experience and grow from it.
This year, the workshop welcomed students from Bailey, Taylor, Gibson, and McCaw Elementary schools and Burkholder Middle School. In order to accommodate the wide range of learning abilities, the children were divided into four different writing rooms, each with its own engaging theme to pique their interest. Additionally, each room had a different subject area on which to focus, so pre-service teachers could cultivate skills.
Some of the children our students teach will want to be architects, doctors and engineers, and writing skills are just as important in these fields as any other, said De Martini. Children going into the Fractionland room learned about implementing their writing skills as they wrote about their experience of fractions and money on an imaginary adventure they all went on together. In another room, children took a deep-sea adventure into the world of biology and wrote about sharks from the shark’s perspective.
Speaking to the importance of writing in today’s content-rich environment, De Martini explained, Writing is the most difficult literacy skill because it requires you to compose your own ideas and put them to paper. Research is showing kids are not writing enough in our communities. They need to have exposure to narrative and expository writing and the Writer’s Workshop fulfills that need.
Serving the needs of the community is an important component to the success of the Writer’s Workshop. Based on the turnout that we get each year, we can see there is a need in the community for programs such as this, said Stansbury. We hope this program can one day turn into a reading clinic for elementary and middle school students during summer break. Until then, we want to continue to demonstrate to our community that NSC is here as a resource and provide resources as we can.
The Writer’s Workshop is a testament to the commitment of NSC’s School of Education in preparing effective educators to serve the Southern Nevada community.