The Story Workshop® Approach
Story Workshop programs serve a range of elementary school populations from the inner city to the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. The primary demographic groupings are Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian. The far west suburb classes include Caucasian, African American, Asian Indian, Southeast Asian, Hispanic, Chinese, and Japanese groups. On the south side, the classes are predominantly African American, reflecting both middle-class and poverty-level circumstances. The west side classes are predominantly African American and Hispanic and tend to have English language learners (ELLs) in each grade and classroom. ELLs are predominately Hispanic, but also include Chinese, Vietnamese, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern, among other linguistic and cultural backgrounds. ELL and special education students are mainstreamed in the classes.
Originated and developed by John Schultz, Story Workshop programs for adults and elementary and secondary school students have been conducted in the Chicago metropolitan area since 1965. (View the video clip to meet Story Workshop originator John Schultz.)
From private adult classes to supplementary children's classes, from grad school to grade school, teachers have used Story Workshop approaches (formats, exercises, and coaching strategies to explore read-write-read and speak-write-speak models. Because the Story Workshop approach involves listening on the part of teacher and students, it is identified as a reading, writing, speaking, and listening approach. These capacities -- and modes of understanding -- are called upon and integrated into classroom activities.
Story Workshop Training and Programs
In the greater Chicago Metropolitan area, Story Workshop programs have been developed with schools through the following:
In general, Story Workshop classes are conducted for grades 4-5, 5-6, 6-8, and high school classes -- as well as on the college level. High school teachers with Story Workshop training incorporate Story Workshop approaches into their language arts curriculum and other study areas. Story Workshop principles, techniques, activities, and coaching strategies are used in formats that can be tailored to all age levels.
Overview: The Coming Together of Capacities
Schultz notes that students write better when they care about what they're writing, particularly when they're writing outside the classroom to entertain their peers, in other words, when the communication of meaning has urgency for them. Students tend to overcome writing problems when they have something to say, feel strongly about something, or "see it clearly," that is, in their mind's eye. They tend to write better in journals, letters, and in-class assignments -- forms and occasions where they are directly addressing the writing to someone or to an immediate or "felt" audience. Most students, when they write for an audience of their peers (teachers included), produce better sentences. Their sentences also become better formed when they see an event or sequence clearly in their mind's eye and try first to tell it and then write it so that an immediate audience can understand it.
The Story Workshop approach employs several modalities of learning at once: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Schultz believes that this is what makes it possible for students of diverse backgrounds and mixed levels of abilities to work together on more or less common ground. For teachers, a few active principles are key:
The Story Workshop approach is also identified with guided discovery, positive reinforcement and critique, and learning from positive demonstration.
Integrated into the school curriculum, the Story Workshop approach can focus on the genre or task at hand with the use of appropriate models and coaching of the process. Story Workshop formats and activities apply to creative writing, composition, writing across the curriculum, and professional writing, depending on the goals of the class or group. Workshops can be two- to four-hour sessions meeting once a week, one-hour sessions meeting three times a week, and one-to-one tutorial and conference sessions.
In a thorough review of research on the reading-writing relationship, Tierney and Shanahan (1990) concluded, "We believe strongly that in our society, at this point in history, reading and writing, to be understood and appreciated fully, should be viewed together, learned together, and used together" (p. 275). The Story Workshop experience supports the proposition that through actively relating reading, writing, speaking, and listening, students learn to read and write. The effectiveness of the write-read-write approach, combined with the speak-write-speak model, has been widely supported by literature in the field (Loban, 1963; Falk, 1979: Moffett & Wagner, 1983; Shanahan, 1984; Shanahan & Lomax, 1988; Stauffer, 1970; Cambourne, 1981; Stotsky, 1983; Tierney & Leys, 1986). In addition, the Story Workshop approach has been cited and widely published (Shiflett, 1973; Schultz, 1977, 1978, 1983).
The Story Workshop approach puts a particular emphasis on Oral Reading and Recall activities (see "Replication Details"), which give students the experience of reading while developing observational and analytic abilities. Story Workshop activities are geared toward improving reading comprehension and absorption in reading while increasing awareness of what makes writing effective. Voice permission is a critical aspect of this approach: It helps students connect speaking voice and written language, their own familiar language with the language of books. Researchers have noted how the connection of students' own voices to written language is crucial to the process of absorbing and using forms of written language, making mature written language familiar and useful to the student (Cambourne, 1981, Keithley, 1992).
Research supports the principle of relating oral, reading, and writing skills. Brian Cambourne (1981) sums up three necessary experiences: (1) reading the spoken language that one is most familiar with, that is, one's own speech that has been written down; (2) hearing the written language of books that other more mature users of the written mode have produced; and (3) reading the written language that other more mature users of the written mode have produced. Numerous studies speak to the principles that frame Story Workshop approaches and serve as a foundation for the powerful reading-writing, speaking-writing, and audience-writing connections explored and developed by students from a diversity of backgrounds in a Story Workshop class (Albers, 2005; Bolinger, 1968/1975; Diringer, 1968; Falk, 1979; Gardner, 1974; Kroll, 1981; Loban, 1963; Vann, 1981).
Albers, R. (2005). The voices in our head: Finding voice in a Story Workshop class. Writing in Education, 36, 39-49.
Bolinger, D. (1968/1975). Aspects of language (2nd ed.). New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.
Cambourne, B. (1981). Oral and written relationships: A reading perspective. In B. M. Kroll & R. J. Vann (Eds.), Exploring speaking-writing relationships: Connections and contrasts (pp. 97-98). Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
Diringer, D. (1968). The alphabet (2nd ed.). London: Hutchinson.
Falk, J. S. (December 1979). Language acquisition and the teaching and learning of writing. College English. p. 445.
Gardner, H. (1974). The shattered mind. New York: Random House.
Keithley, Z. (1992). 'My own voice': Students say it unlocks the writing process. Journal of Basic Writing, 11(2), 82-102.
Kroll, B. M. (1981). Developmental relationships between speaking and writing. In B. M. Kroll & R. J. Vann (Eds.), Exploring speaking-writing relationships: Connections and contrasts (p. 53). Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
Loban, W. D. (1963). The language of elementary school children (Research Report No. 1). Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English.
Moffett, J., & Wagner, B. J. (1983). Student-centered language arts and reading, K-13 (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Vann, R. (1981). Oral and written communication in EFL. In B. M. Kroll & R. J. Vann (Eds.), Exploring speaking-writing relationships: Connections and contrasts (p. 166). Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
Schultz, J. (December 1977). The Story Workshop method: Writing from start to finish. College English, 39, 4, 411-436.
Schultz, J. (1978). Story Workshop: Writing from start to finish. In Cooper, C. & Odell, L. (Eds.), Research on composing: Points of departure, pp. 151-187. Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
Schultz, J. (1983). The teacher's manual for writing from start to finish. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
Shanahan, T. (1984). The reading-writing relation: An exploratory multi-variant analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 466-477.
Shanahan, T., & Lomax, R. (1988). A developmental comparison of three theoretical models of the reading-writing relationship. Research in Teaching of English, 22, 196-212.
Shiflett, B. (November 1973). Story Workshop as a method of teaching writing. College English, 35, 2, 141-160.
Stauffer, R. (1970). Group instruction by directed reading-thinking activities: The language experience approach to the teaching of reading. New York, NY: Harper and Row.
Stotsky, S. (1983). Research on reading/writing relationships: A synthesis and suggested directions. Language Arts, 60, 627-642.
Tierney, R. J., & Leys, M. (1986). What is the value of connecting reading and writing?. In Peterson B. T. (Ed.), Convergences in reading and writing, pp. 15-29. Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
Tierney, R. J., & Shanahan, T. (1990). Research on the reading-writing relationship: Interactions, transactions, and outcomes. In R. Barr, M. L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P. D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 2, pp. 246-280). New York: Longman.