Today, Mark Overmeyer begins his Blog Tour with a stop at CREATIVE LITERACY to discuss his new book WHAT STUDENT WRITING TEACHES US. I reviewed it here at the beginning of June and hope that many of you had a chance to check it out at Stenhouse. This much needed book gives us insight into the importance of authentic assessment within workshop.
I had a chance to interview Mark about his new book. And some of you had additional questions that you sent in after I reviewed it in early June.
When did you know you wanted to write a book?
I knew I wanted to write my first book (When Writing Workshop Isn't Working) when I was leading staff development in my district and I kept getting the same types of questions: What do you do with students who don't know what to write about? How do you help students revise? How do you organize and manage conferences?
This led me to try my hand at writing a book in a question/answer format based on all of these common concerns many of us have about implementing a writing workshop in our classrooms.
I decided to write What Student Writing Teaches Us after my editor at Stenhouse, Bill Varner, helped me to develop this topic - I had a few other ideas, but as he talked with me and read my proposals, he suggested I try writing about assessment in the writing workshop. At first I was uncertain because I did not think assessment was a topic I knew a lot about, but in the end, this may have helped me. As I mention in my book, I do not take the stance of any kind of expert, but more just a teacher who has a lot of questions about what works for teachers and students in real writing classrooms. I spent two years listening to students talk about their writing processes and teachers talking about their assessment practices. If I had felt like an "expert", I do not know if I would have looked and listened in the same way. I learned so much, and I hope the best of what I learned is presented is practical and helpful.
What are you hoping the book will accomplish?
I am hoping that teachers who read the book will come away with ideas for using formative assessment effectively in the writing workshop. I believe that if we want to become better teachers, we must use student writing to guide our instruction. For many years, I often dreaded looking at student writing because I was only "grading" their work. I did not think about what my students were learning or what they needed from me because I was too busy grading. I am hoping this book will provide very practical suggestions for teachers about how to avoid falling into the evaluation trap whenever they look at student work, and instead, to let student writing guide their teaching.