by Rebecca Zisch
On a recent Saturday, classrooms at 311 Water Street were full of 36 Nevada State College School of Education students, as well as 75 Clark County School District students ranging from kindergarten through high school. Everyone was there for Writing Workshops coordinated by Lecturer Roxanne Stansbury for her students in the NSC School of Education. Stansbury’s NSC students had created the lesson plans and were leading the workshops, but they were also learning just as much as the younger students who had come in for the special day.
Teaching Writing Across School Curriculum (EDRL 427) is a course focused on writing for learning in all subject areas and at all grade levels. Because of its broad appeal and application for aspiring teachers, the students in Stansbury’s class represent a wide range in career focus throughout elementary to secondary education. The students had planned workshops by age group so that young people from 5 15 years old could work on writing skills that pertained specifically to their grade level.
A group of 11 and 12-year olds were gathered in one classroom practicing their scriptwriting skills. They played a vocabulary development game learning about adjectives and description and incorporated that into writing original scripts. Joanna, Michael, Shanay and Paige all attend Faiss Middle School and worked on a script with vampires and a dramatic chase scene. Joanna, age 12, said it wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be because, we learned to try not to think too hard about what you’re writing and just let it happen.
Stansbury says the workshop provides real life classroom challenges for the NSC students. These workshops put them into a situation relevant to their future as teachers. They get to immediately apply what they’re learning about how to be effective teachers. When they practice with their fellow students during regular class time, they don’t have to deal with real kids who are distracted and get off task.
The focus of all of the writing workshops and the Writing Across School Curriculum course is to learn to develop lessons through which students work on their writing no matter what the subject is.
As Stansbury explains, Reading and writing are not subjects themselves. They are tools for learning other subjects. Students learn about developing ideas and effective communication through writing whether they’re in an English, history, science or math class.
One workshop that dealt specifically with science was for the 9 and 10-year olds. In Masters of Disasters, they were making volcanoes, tornados, with everyday objects and products. Later in the day, they wrote letters from the point of view of the disaster itself as if it were writing to the community it was headed toward, announcing its impending arrival and how it would affect their community.
Each workshop was set up so that in the morning the students worked on projects and after lunch they completed their writing so that they could publish something to take home.
For example, the 5 and 6-year olds worked in art stations, writing about turkeys and their five senses. By the end of the day, they had created picture books with all of their drawings and ideas. At the other end of the hall, nine high school age students played Scattegories in the morning to get their creative thoughts flowing. By the end of the day they had written and recorded a rap about math.
Dean of the School of Education Francine Mayfield was very pleased with the work everyone had put into the workshops and the field experience the NSC students were receiving. She commented, Roxanne’s done a great job organizing this workshop. And it provides pre-service teachers a great opportunity to get experience with actual students.
Megan King, an Elementary Education major, agrees. This is a great way for education students to get hands-on experience in the classroom.
King is scheduled to graduate from NSC in May 2009 and is feeling ready to get into her own classroom. I feel prepared. All of the professors here are really great. I’m excited about getting into my own classroom. I really think I’ve got a good foundation for my teaching career.
When asked if she was surprised there was such a big turn-out of an event on a Saturday, King smiled and said, the kids are here because it’s fun and they’re having a great time. And I know it might sound odd, but we do it because we love it. I probably couldn’t think of anything else I would want to do on a Saturday.