The rocking chair, a coveted and sacred place in my classroom. Do you have one in your room? It may not be a rocking chair, but a comfy big chair, a pillow, a stool, or even your teacher chair. What's significant about this spot is that it means a student-author gets to share part or all of a writing piece. The portion to be shared should be agreed upon during your conference with the student and before the student shares. In younger grades the whole piece may be shared, but for older students you may want to share only a portion that you've identified, maybe even one that has a specific lesson or targeted skill.
Once the student-author has read their writing piece to the class, he/she should call on classmates for positive comments and suggestions for improvements. This whole process should be modeled by you before any student shares, and should be closely monitored during the process to make sure they are following the guidelines. I use the framework of the Six Traits of Writing for positive comments and suggestions for improvement. The student-author calls alternately on both boys and girls, will take 3 positive and 3 suggestions during their sharing. A positive comment might look something like this:
"I like how you had a beginning, middle, and ending in your piece!"
A suggestion for improvement might look like this:
"Maybe next time you could have an ending that wraps up your story?"
Students initially have a hard time making suggestions that follow the guidelines, but with modeling and practice they will be proficient in no time. The final writing piece is now ready to go into their portfolio. The portfolio is shared during conference times with family.
The Author's Chair is an effective avenue for students to share their work and to know it has value. The other added benefit is for the rest of the class who get to share in hearing what others are writing, practicing active listening, sharing comments and questions that are appropriate, not hurtful, and to gather ideas for other writing pieces and skills. You get the opportunity to possibly teach on the spot lessons and skills, and then evaluate student writing skills.
So, taking 10-15 minutes a couple of times each week or a larger chunk of time once a week will enable you and your students to share positive outcomes, some laughs, maybe some tears, and many impromptu mini-lessons that will shape your writer's workshop forever! Oh, don't forget the chair!