Writing at GMS: Practice, Process, and Portfolios

Writing at GMS: Practice, Process, and Portfolios

What's it like to be a writer at GMS? 

Step into a 6th grade Humanities classroom this week, and you might hear the girls sharing their recently written “GMS Folktales,” stories that explain the mysteries of GMS, like “how the uniforms got their colors,” or “how the librarian got his roar.”

In 7th grade, the girls are deep into the process of writing their first major analytical essay; they’re working hard to make a persuasive argument about how humans should treat the environment and using a diverse set of texts that we’ve read to support their claims: John Locke, Joni Mitchell, Dr. Seuss, Henry David Thoreau. Now more than three weeks into the process, you’ll find them sprawled throughout the room, at tables and under them, passing laptops to each other to get feedback about their third or fourth draft of a thesis statement.

In 8th grade Humanities, you might find the girls meeting with their writing groups to workshop a creative piece that they’ll add to the portfolio that they build throughout the year, or sharing a write-up of a current event that they’ve read in the news this week.

At every grade level, the girls write frequently and in multiple forms, with an emphasis on writing as a process, rather than a product. Not a week goes by without getting our thoughts down in writing.

Where does writing happen at GMS?

Everywhere! Although writing is a focal point of the Humanities curriculum, we believe that writing is important in every subject area. 7th grade Humanities teacher, Amoy Walker, notes, “It’s great to see that we’re sending a clear message to the girls—writing doesn’t only happen in Humanities!” We emphasize the fact that the skills learned in Humanities are transferrable to writing done in any subject. Students write in Science, Math, Entrepreneurial class, Spanish, and Social & Emotional Learning (SEL), not to mention various writing-centered electives, like the yearbook or the newspaper. In 7th grade, the girls take a special course called “Writer’s Workshop,” an interdisciplinary space devoted to drafting, revision, and editing of writing that the girls are working on in any class. And once every six days, the Humanities department opens up the Writing Center, where girls can bring any writing they’re working on to get feedback or just have a quiet place to write.

What does GMS believe about writing?

Whether the girls are writing a lab report, short story, business plan, or analytical paragraph, the Humanities department holds the following beliefs to be true:

•    Writing is a process. We spend time brainstorming, drafting, sharing, revising, and proofreading. 

•    All writers benefit from response. The girls receive regular feedback from their teachers and their peers and incorporate that feedback into their revisions.

•    Fluid writing comes from frequent writing. We write a lot! Practice, practice, practice makes the writing process a more comfortable and less intimidating experience.

•    Exploring and practicing multiple forms of writing encourages critical thinking. Journaling, fiction-writing, poetry, summary, analysis, persuasion—practicing many forms of writing creates writers who are aware of their audience and purpose. 

•    Familiarity with mechanics promotes clear and effective expression. At all grade levels, the girls work on vocabulary and grammar in conjunction with their own writing.

•    Flexible classroom spaces and activities provide differentiated opportunities to interact with writing. We write in a variety of ways, in groups and as individuals, working on our personal goals, as well as larger classroom objectives.

Writing at GMS is a part of daily life. By the end of their time here, we hope we’re sending the girls off to high school as confident and competent writers!