Stephanie Suter Transformed Her Writer’s Workshop With Buncee

The following is a guest post by buncee ambassador Stephanie Suter, a third grade teacher in the Southold School District dedicated to expanding her students’ minds. Find her on twitter: @ssuter4

Each year, I approach Writer’s Workshop with the same zest and enthusiasm. Carefully, I plan  thoughtful lessons for each unit of study- providing the students with time to practice and perfect their craft and conventions. We conference side-by-side and in small groups. The students take their seeds and develop them into rich stories through small revision and editing, until they are finally ready to publish.

They have gone back to their stories, obediently and courageously implementing many of the ideas suggested during each writing mini-lesson. When it comes time to meet for a final draft conference, it can be quite overwhelming to the student and teacher both.

What does the writing look like? A MESS! And it’s supposed to!

These final drafts are full of love, sweat, and tears (well, hopefully not); with lots of revision marks corrected. They reach a point in the writing process, when they do not even want to look at their first, second, or third rough draft. I don’t want my students to lose steam after all their hard work! I want to keep the motivation as high as it was on the first day! But it’s difficult for the teacher to edit these drafts, as well; it can be one of the most daunting parts of the writing process.

Buncee has changed all of that! Here’s how:

Knowing that I wanted to publish our class’s most recent Personal Narratives on Buncee, my co-teacher and I signed up for extra time in the Tech Lab. We began to publish the memoirs that were ripe for publication. Before heading to the lab, we modeled “chunking” our text, so that it would read more like one of the picture books we’ve been using throughout the writing process. After that was finished, we figured there was no time like the present- so we held our conferences. Instead of holding students back to conference individually over their hard copy, we let them fly and begin to publish and work through what they had “left” as they went.

What happened next felt like magic.

First of all, you could feel the excitement in the room. Each student was at a different point in publishing their story. They set to work; adding backgrounds, words, pictures, titles….there was not a question or concern to be found. As they came to a question, we watched them work through it.

As they rewrote their text into the Buncee, we witnessed them revising how they had written something, and noticing pieces that may have been missing, without a teacher’s suggestion! On the paper, even though they knew what they were looking for, it was hard to see what they needed or didn’t need. In Buncee, they were able to see it all. I was blown away by the level of independence and motivation I saw. 

This freed us to meet with the students who did need more support, and help them to navigate their text. My co-teacher and I were inspired as our most reluctant writers added text and pictures. When it came time for some students to “be finished”, we were able to go back to their stories as they shared them with us and notice what may have been missing. The suggestions were very digestible to them. For example, “I noticed that there wasn’t any dialogue. Could you go back and see where it might work in your story?”

After that small prompt, the student seamlessly went back and found the perfect spot for it!

What was most impressive to me in this journey was working with one of our students (we’ll call him Bob for this post). He is a very reluctant writer who believes he has nothing to say. Through this process, he was the first done-which he often is- but what he had completed was amazing! Not only did he match the words to the backgrounds, his well-thought-out words flowed from one page to the next. He took feedback and went back to make his writing better. Suggestions for revision often frustrate him. There was no frustration this time; he was eager to take the advice and apply it. 

Together, we figured out how to add his voice to the text. I watched him shine as he was able to figure it out, then add it independently. Bob’s stamina, pride, enthusiasm swelled as he worked. Another student was having difficulty and he asked if he could help. And he did!

Our next step was to have him teach the whole class how to add audio to their finished Buncees.

We are not finished with our stories yet, but I cannot wait to see the finished products. To celebrate our writing, we are going to invite our parents in, as so many classrooms do. However, this celebration is going to look a little different. The students are going to write “About the Author” pages. These will be shared, but that is the only piece that will be read aloud. The way they will share their narratives is by taking their family to their printed title pages, where they have included a QR code. They will use iPads to “teach” their family and friends how to listen and see the Buncees they have created using these digital devices.

I am very eager to see the reactions to these finished projects and share their work along the way. I look forward to watching what our class does next!

Thank you to Buncee, for changing my Writer’s Workshop and providing us with another meaningful way to foster young writers….priceless!


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