Elisa Golinelli, a teacher in Mirandola, Italy, became a part of our Time to Write Workshop this summer. Despite the language difference, Elisa came to the workshop not only ready to write, but to listen to the other teacher-writers talk about their writing and their writing classrooms.
Elisa shared that in Italy, teaching writing is mostly grammar-focused. She is on a mission to bring the writing workshop not only to her students, but to students throughout Italy. Elisa is the author of a book about writing workshops and she continues to explore the connection between teaching writing and being a teacher-writer.
Enjoy Elisa's story:
I’m an Italian middle school teacher and for the last four years, I've been experimenting using the writing workshop with my students.
In Italian school, the the most common way to teach writing is:
ask to student to "write well"
write all the same writing prompts
usually the topic is assigned by the teacher and not freely chosen by students
Most teachers do this believing that writing is an innate gift and is not something you can learn. Writing is a habit for life, and not only for school to become a lifelong writer.
The writing workshop I introduced in my classroom changed my vision completely: I love to see my students writing together like a community, each on their own piece of writing, with their notebook researching or working on seeds of writing.
I love to do the same with them.
I have discovered that to do this is fundamental to teach writing: How can you teach students to write if you don't write first?
In the writing workshop, the teacher is a writing coach. For me it has become important to write myself in order to understand what happens to my students. This is the only way to experience firsthand the difficulties of writing.
Only by doing so I can be able to help my students to overcome their difficulties.
Now I commit myself to write every day. I experiment with writing strategies so I can teach them to my students, I write and cultivate my notebook to show them what writers do.
This way of teaching writing allows me to:
get to know my students more deeply as writers
identify what my students need so I can teach them to write in a personalized way
focus on the process and not only on the product
there is always a question on my mind: can I do this just in one way?
This way of teaching changes me completely: before I was a teacher, now I’m a teacher-writer in my classroom.
I learn and grow as a writer every day with my students.
Elisa Golinelli is an Italian middle school teacher at F. Montanari in Mirandola, Italy. In recent years she has deepened her training in different areas, obtaining a master in "Didactics e psychopedagogy of specific learning disorders"at the University of Bologna and in “Technologies for Teaching” at the Politecnico in Milan. Since 2016 Elisa has studied and experimented with both the reading and writing workshop in her classroom. She published with Sabina Minuto, "Amano leggere, sanno scrivere" (Pearson 2019).