Writing Workshop is a strategic approach that provides students opportunities to use critical thinking through the steps in the writing process. Expressly, students think critically about what they are actually writing through a planned process. Big Universe offers a variety of lesson plans that include a story from the library, and a plan for writing with a critical thinking component.
Simultaneously, students taught to be aware of the importance of communicating ideas effectively through writing. In particular, students must keep in mind that judgments, interpretations, arguments, or opinions need to be supported not only through quality writing structures but also through effective thinking.
In the book Toward a Pedagogy of Critical Thinking, written by Henry A. Giroux, there are five critical thinking strategies for writing, and these are implemented through writing workshop in the classroom.
- Free writing – Students write nonstop for a period of time (10-15 minutes) without stopping to make corrections, cross anything out, or critique their thoughts. This type of “stream of consciousness” writing gets students more comfortable with the act of writing, allows for a flow of ideas, and uncovers new ideas.
- Group discussion – This technique brings small groups of students together to discuss the writing of either one or all students in the group. Students act as peer editors of ideas only. The editing of the techniques or structure of the writing happens later, Students collectively discuss how the ideas are formed, supported, and argued.
- Editing – After students have formulated their ideas, structured and supported their arguments, they are ready to have their writing edited by a peer and/or teacher. The editing process is one of collaboration with the editor and the writer.
- Peer review: This technique is known as refereeing. Individual students submit their text to peers to be scrutinized for form, structure, and content. This is a useful strategy in building confidence as a writer and helps students understand how powerful their writing can become.
- Publication – Students should have the experience or making their text public. When they subject their writing for publication, they are putting their ideas in view of others for critique and discussion. Publication can take many forms: classroom displays; writing contests; submissions to newspapers, magazines, websites, or professional journals; and submissions to classroom or school publications.
Writing Traditional Stories from a Different Point of View
Big Universe’s Library has the story of the Three Little Pigs, Retold by Jennie Luna Alameida. Writing traditional stories from a different point of view is an example of how to apply critical thinking in writing immediately after reading a story. The Three Little Pigs is a traditional story told from the point of view of the Pigs.
A non-traditional story of the Three Little Pigs, written by Jon Scieszka, called The True Story of the Three Little Pigs told from the wolfs point-of-view, and ultimately prompting students to think from a completely different perspective. After reading both books, use a graphic organizer to compare the differences between the two stories.
The Big Universe library has a Read-Aloud of Cinderella, one version in English and another version in Spanish, whereby, students can write from the point-of-view of one of the Step Sisters.
In the Big Universe library a popular story The Three Billy Goats Gruff can be written from the point-of-view of the troll.
In the library online, Goldilocks and the Three Bears can also be written from the point-of-view of Goldilocks.
In the story of Pippo the Fool, Big Universe offers an opinion writing lesson plan, which fosters critical thinking skills to a practical writing application. Unlike in the primary grades, where students are encouraged to write a conclusion sentence that does not include new information, in this lesson plan students are encouraged to write a concluding sentence that is different from the topic sentence and one that provides a satisfying ending such as: “Pippo proved that he was smart and creative, and he was not a fool at all.” This lesson plan involves reading and then applying critical thinking skills in an opinion format that challenges students to develop a creative conclusion sentence.
Reading and writing go together simultaneously because it fosters critical thinking and writing skills, thus keeping the student’s interest in the topic heightened with a grounded frame of reference. In connection with the Writing Workshop format, along with a story connected within the lesson plan, critical thinking skills are consistently applied to most practical writing ideas.