Whole Class Workshop

Writers

  • If your draft will be workshopped, bring enough copies for everyone in the class. The class will discuss your paper, pointing out what they liked, disliked, and didn't understand about your paper and offering revision advice. Everybody will return your paper to you with their written comments/suggestions at the end of the class.
  • Think of your writing as a work in progress.
  • Listen carefully to each student's response, question, or suggestion. Ultimately you do not have to do what is suggested but at least be open to another's viewpoint.
  • Try not to simply justify something you have written. If someone is confused about a passage, or critical of an idea, take the time to at least consider his/her comments and suggestions.
  • Simon and Schuster's Handbook for Writers advises writers that "constructive criticism can help you read your writing in a fresh way that results in better revision. Encourage your peers to be honest" (73).
  • I may or may not agree with what is said in class about your draft. During whole class workshops, I will try to keep people responding and talking about your draft regardless of what I think of the comments. Remember that, in the end, "you are the person who decides which comments to use, and which to ignore, when revising" (73).
  • While the comments that come out of a workshop session may not always be the ones you will want to use, it ultimately doesn't matter because the real benefit to workshopping is for everyone to practice evaluating writing and to understand writing as a process. Furthermore, workshopping allows writers to see the many different possible ways to handle a single writing assignment!

Readers

  • Be ready to discuss your classmate's paper in class. In order to get participation points, be sure to offer at least one substantial comment or suggestion every workshop.
  • We’ll read the paper in its entirety before you write any substantial written comments on your classmate's paper. After we read the paper, you'll want to spend a few minutes re-reading the paper, marking comments and suggestions as you go.
  • Think of your classmate's paper as a "work in progress."
  • Ask questions about your classmate’s paper.
  • As a general rule, you should try to focus your comments on higher order concerns such as being able to identify the paper's unifying theme/thesis and the details offered to support this thesis. Focus on the arrangement, organization, structure, or form of the paper. Look at the paper's coherency, (do the ideas fit together throughout) and its development of ideas.
  • As a general rule, avoid focusing on sentence level issues. If the writer does have some grammatical or punctuation errors, point it out on the draft itself with written comments.
  • Try to be tactful. Always treat the writer and his/her draft with respect. Critique the draft and not the writer.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions—many times questions can be beneficial to the writer since they serve as an indication that his/her writing is not as clear as it should be.

(The following list is from Simon and Schuster's Handbook for Writer's)

  • Think of yourself as a coach, not a judge.
  • Be sure to point out what you think is well done.
  • Offer honest, constructive suggestions for improvement.
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