Sherry’s Writing Weblog

November 22, 2008

Circle Check Out

Filed under: Writing Lessons — sdoherty @ 2:21 pm

Paula Tullio recently introduced me to a fabulous book – Critical Literacy and Writer’s Workshop:  Bringing Purpose and Passion to Student Writing, by Lee Heffernan.  If you are interested in taking your students to a new level in writing, this book is a must-read.  It is a short, concise, easy read that will challenge your thinking about writing and change your program.

One idea that I particularly like in this book is called Circle Check Out.  Heffernan uses this idea as a replacement for the Author’s Chair.  Her take on the Author’s Chair is quite thought provoking.  She believes it can actually be an obstacle, as it places the student in a very vulnerable position.  The examples that she provides to support her argument sway my thinking, and I have always been a big fan of the Author’s Chair.

Circle Check Out is a time to share strong writing and to demonstrate experiments with the writing craft. It always takes place at the end of writer’s workshop.  Students sit in a circle and share excerpts of their writing (a strong lead, descriptive sentences, etc.), rather than the entire piece.  If the students do not want to share snippets of their writing, they are asked to give a progress report about what they worked on that day.

Heffernan begins her writer’s workshop with a mini-lesson.  The students are accountable for incorporating the mini-lesson into their writing, and share evidence of this at the Circle Check Out.  If they don’t have an example of a mini-lesson concept, then they may share something that excites them.

This book offers many other amazing ideas.  What I like most, is that it focuses on incorporating critical thinking into the writer’s workshop.  Students are encouraged to think and write about social issues.  Heffernan’s book can be found using the following link:

If you use this idea, or any other from the blog, I would love to hear from you.


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