Workshopping Responses

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

You have all had the chance to quickly read each other’s work before class. But I still want you to begin your discussion of each piece by having its author read it aloud in a clear and measured voice. Everyone should have the piece open on their laptops; everyone should also have pen and paper ready to use in taking notes.

I’d like readers to focus on three questions:

  1. What are the most interesting things the author does as a reader of Spelman? What does she notice about the book that you didn’t? What key words, passages, or examples does the author work with?
  2. What connections does the author make to (a) her own experiences, (b) her observations of other people or events, or (c) other texts she has read, viewed, or listened to?
  3. How might the author develop this piece? If she were to use this piece as the basis of her first essay, what might she add to it? What would you like to hear more about? What kinds of examples might the author add—either from Spelman or from her own experiences?

Please plan to spend about ten minutes reading and discussing each of your pieces, because I’d then like you to spend the final 20 minutes or so of the class on another task—which is to select one piece from your group that you’d like to present to the whole class on Thursday.

Obviously you’ll want to select a piece you admire, that you feel the rest of the class can learn something from. Once you’ve decided which piece you want to highlight, I’d like the readers together to compose a brief comment on the piece in which you

  1. Draw our attention to a specific moment in the text of the response—either because the author says something of particular note about Spelman or does something especially nifty as a writer.
  2. Offer a few thoughts on how the writer might develop this response into a full-length essay.

Your posted comment will count as your class work for today. You’ll then be able to refer to this comment on Thursday when you present the piece to the rest of the class.

Meanwhile, I’d like the author of the piece to

  1. Make your response a “sticky post”. Click edit, and then click on the tag in the upper-righthand corner. This will bring your post to the top of the feed.
  2. Write a brief email to your GTA and me about what you might do with this piece if you decide to develop it into a longer essay. This email will count as your class work for the day.

Have fun!

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