Writers on Writer's Workshop

Clare Hardiman October 19: the first quarter is finally over. Hopefully, after a long week of testing, sports games, and extracurriculars, everyone is somewhat stress-relieved. But that’s not the case for seniors. October 19 serves as an ominous reminder that college applications are due. Students prepare themselves for sleepless nights, exhausting days, and perhaps worst of all, finishing and perfecting the college essay— the drafting, editing, revising, and erasing, all in attempt to produce the most spectacular piece of writing. Fortunately enough for us, Latin offers Writer’s Workshop, a class where students “workshop tactfully and resourcefully to edit each other’s college essays,” according to one of the class’s teachers Mr. Marshall. Although Writer’s Workshop is one of Latin’s most popular English classes, many students aren’t educated on the concept of the unique class. Why is the course centered around student’s editing each other’s essays, and why might peer feedback, rather than teacher feedback, be beneficial for students? Although Writer’s Workshop also focuses on improving students’ writing abilities by creating lyrical essays and mimicking authors’ styles, one of the most important skills taught is how to give constructive criticism. Some people perceive student feedback to be less helpful than teacher feedback, but most students actually find peer feedback eye-opening. According to Mr. Marshall, “feedback is feedback, whether is comes from a teacher or a peer; we all give feedback from our own angle.” Perhaps whether a teacher or a student reads the college essay doesn’t matter, but what does matter is understanding that the purpose of feedback “is to see your work as someone else might see it,” explains Mr. Marshall. He adds that “there is a beauty in talking about college essays because you’re really writing for a purpose – not just an assignment.” With a college essay, students have creative freedom, whereas in school students are often not given the choice of what to write about. Mr. Marshall believes the “lessons you gain from writing a personal essay should be universal” and that there “is a real luxury in focusing on writing,” rather than spending a majority of the class reading a text and then writing an essay.   Senior Anika Jagasia reflects on her experience in the class thus far, stating that the class “strengthened my essay and my peers’ comments shaped it into a more clear, concise, and personal essay.” Students sometimes become so attached to their work that they can’t actually imagine what it’s like reading the piece for the first time—Writer’s Workshop gives students a chance to step away from their work and look at it from a different perspective. However, if students prefer not to share their personal essay for whatever reason, the Writers Workshop teachers are certainly willing to accommodate students. For example, senior Liza Kaniewski remarks that “the reason [she] decided not to [share her] personal essay was that [she] had worked on it before the class and just wanted to be able to work on another portion of [her] application.” Instead of sharing the college essay with her peers, Liza— like some other students—shared her supplements. Liza also explains that “peer feedback really helps. It has helped me figure out what was missing and how to connect everything together and know what is working and what isn’t.” As Mr. Marshall says, Writer’s Workshop is “refreshing.” The unique concept and creative dynamic of the class allows students to view their work from a completely different angle. Not only does the class improve students’ college essays, but learning how to constructively criticize other students’ work and explain how to fix mistakes is an important skill to learn early on in life. ]]>