Mellon Middle School Writing Lab
Mrs. Eve Kollar, Writing Lab Clinician
The Lab hours are as follows:
- Early Morning in the Library 7:15—HR Students must have a teacher-signed pass obtained the day before to enter.
- Morning Lab 7:40—HR No pass needed, sign-in only
- After School Lab Until 3:45 M—TH, no pass needed, sign-in only. (Lab is closed on days when Mrs. Kollar is attending meetings or is absent.)
The Writing Lab is a complex of three computer labs where all students work on their writing for any subject. Staffed by a Writing Clinician and located on the third floor, the Writing Lab is used to facilitate the curricular emphasis on writing and the writing process in the English department, as well as writing-across-the-curriculum initiatives in all disciplines. In addition to curricular writing, students are always welcome to pursue their own creative and personal writing. The Writing Lab is also used for a variety of other learning activities such as researching, exploring subject-specific software and websites, creating content in a variety of platforms, completing online assessments, and more. Many teachers sign up to bring their classes, but students may come on their own from individual classes and team time. Furthermore, students have opportunities to use the Lab beyond the school day.
The Writing Clinician is an English teacher who works with students and teachers to foster the development of confident, competent writers who are capable of writing for a variety of purposes and audiences. She helps students learn and apply strategies for effective writing at all stages of the writing process by conducting conferences with students, teaching mini-lessons, facilitating assessments, and collaborating with teachers to develop materials and lessons. Furthermore, the Writing Clinician teaches each quarter as a part of the sixth and seventh grade Unified Arts rotation.
In addition to overseeing, scheduling and maintain the three labs and mobile cart, the Writing Clinician coordinates a number of programs: the Parent Volunteer Program, which trains volunteers to conduct focused writing conferences with students about their writing assignments; The Outlook, the school’s literary magazine; Promising Young Writers, a program sponsored by NCTE to reward excellence among eighth grade writers; and Guest Writers, which includes Poet-in-Person and other writers’ visits.
Students attend an orientation at the beginning of each school year to review the procedures and expectations of the lab. The Network/Internet Use policy is now part of the Student Handbook, and can be found in the front of the student agenda. The Writing Lab Expectations can be found by clicking here.
While students and teachers make use of the Google Drive for much of their learning activities, the middle school writing program is structured around the use of the W Drive, a closed drive accessible only from school, for its core process pieces written at each grade level. Students are expected to do all the typing for process pieces at school. Typically students are permitted to complete parts of the assignment at home, or take hard copies of their work home where they are encouraged to have revision and editing conferences with an adult. The rationale for use of the W Drive includes the following reasons:
- More important than focusing on the product, students are focusing on practicing the writing process. As a result, teachers want to observe the process and offer strategies along the way.
- A child learns from being physically involved with word processing text. More revision takes place if a child can word process, conference, revise, conference again, and edit as a recursive, on-going process, a possibility if he is word processing in school and saving on the network.
- If a child works at home, he may possess an “I-am-finished” attitude that undercuts a desire for deep revision, one of the most important goals. If the child does not work at school, moreover, the student is unable to participate in the strategies and resources offered for revision and editing.
- Practicing the process in school offers students the opportunity to learn to be a part of a writing community, to collaborate, to conference, to suggest—qualities employed in real world writing.
- Writing assignments are specifically targeted to teach particular skills which are outlined on a rubric and reinforced by the teacher and the writing clinician during the class and lab time.
- Completing projects in school teaches valuable time management skills to middle level students.
- Offering the children time to complete the writing in school avoids conflicts with the family computer and crises with the “untimely death” of the toner cartridge.
Students in all grades use the Writing Tip Book as a writing resource. Designed by our own middle level teachers, the WTB’s 150 pages provide information on plagiarism and academic integrity, the PSSA scoring guidelines, the writing process, formatting, research and much more. Every sixth grader at MMS receives a copy of the WTB, which should be kept at home where he or she completes his work and studies. In addition, every station in the three labs contains a copy, and teachers have copies available in their classrooms for student use in school. Students are expected to keep the Writing Tip Book for all three years of middle school; teachers expect them to use it for English and literature classes
Revision is a key part of the writing process at the middle school. For many years, the middle school writing program has relied on volunteers who assist with the revision step in the writing process. Volunteers sit with individual students, listen to them read drafts, and, using teacher-prepared frameworks, engage them in discussions about their writing pieces. Typically, students leave a conference with feedback that helps them understand what works well in the piece and what needs work.
If you are interested in joining our volunteer program, please click here and complete this form.
The Outlook, Mellon Middle School’s literary magazine, offers all students an opportunity to have their original writing published. Student writers from all grades are invited to submit their writing pieces, whether written as class assignments or created independently, for consideration by Lit Mag’s selection staff. Furthermore, in keeping with The Outlook’s motto, “For the students and by the students,” all students may contribute as typists, illustrators, worker bees, or as members of the public relations or selection staffs. Meeting weekly on Tuesdays, from 3:00 to 3:45 p.m., the staff works all year to create a magazine, which is published in June. It is never too late to join the LitMag staff. See Mrs. Kollar for details.