Provide a Listening Purpose During Author’s Chair
FAQ: How do I make the Author’s Chair a more meaningful experience for the whole class?
ANSWER: The writer’s workshop should end with an Author’s Chair. This 3-5-minute all-class meeting is intended to highlight some of the great 6-Traits writing generated that day.
However, if you’re not intentional, the show-and-tell nature that often permeates the Author’s Chair can make it a long and rather purposeless time of the workshop. Rather than taking volunteers (e.g., Who would like to share today?) or drafting kids based on the day of the week (e.g., Our Tuesday sharers are __, __, and __.), invite students to share for an intentional purpose.
During Writing Time, look for students who have executed a writing skill well. Invite them to share that portion of their writing. (Sharing only parts of pieces ensures that the Author’s Chair will stay short and focused. Depending on how long each student’s excerpt is, there may be 1-3 students sharing each day.)
As the Writing Time concludes, transition to the Author’s Chair. As the teacher, you will occupy the “chair” first. (Be sure students know if the term “Author’s” Chair references a literal piece of furniture or a special microphone or it’s a figurative term simply meaning they have the floor.)
Seated in the chair, the teacher will announce four things: the first sharer, the piece the excerpt comes from, the trait done well, and the specific writing skill this student accomplished. This provides the rest of the class a listening purpose and gets them all considering if they are currently implementing that same skill or not.
Such an introduction might sound like this:
Our first sharer is Brittney. Today Brittney is going to share one of the body paragraphs from her research report on George Washington. Listen to how many different details she offers her readers in this single paragraph. This kind of elaboration and development makes her trait of ideas very strong. Brittney, please come up and share that one part we talked about.
After this short introduction, exit the Author’s Chair and give the student-author the floor. But don’t stray far! The student will only read the small portion you indicated. This won’t take long! As soon as she finishes reading, reclaim the chair and introduce the next sharer.
Notice that the listening purpose outlined before the student-author shares replaces the peer comments that teachers typically ask students to provide after the piece is read. This is intentional. In many cases, students are not familiar enough with the qualities of strong writing to offer specific feedback. Thus, they tend to give generic praise like I like it. and That was good. However, when the teacher provides a specific listening purpose packaged as a compliment, students hear what precise trait-specific feedback sounds like. This will eventually give way to more meaningful peer conversations in the future.