Have you ever wondered, “How do I implement Writer’s Workshop in my classroom?”.
Would it really work for my class?
I have done Writer’s Workshop successfully in grades 1-4 and it is my favorite time of the day, well most of the time.
But the process needs to be taught and routines put in place. It will not look picture perfect without some training on the teacher’s end.
Writer’s Workshop works whether you have 15 minutes to write that day or an entire hour. I would not recommend an hour block of writing unless it is split up with grammar, reading a story or a mini lesson.
The Goal of Writer’s Workshop is for students to be able to independently work at their own pace. It creates writers who can work on their own, because they know the routine and what to expect. It also works well for differentiation, which most classes need.
I will share how it looks in my class. At the end I will give some tips on building stamina and how to work up to this level.
Here is How it Works
It starts with….
When I introduce the genre, I use an “attention-getter” lesson to get the students excited about this new genre. There are several lessons that are focused on this idea of the new concept. During this time I am teaching, modeling and it is very interactive.
I do – You Do Lessons
I then move into doing the writing genre as “I do-You do” lessons. This means we work through the entire process from start to finish together. We do the brainstorming, story mapping or using graphic organizers, the rough draft, editing, then the final draft. I do it, they copy. Modeling the process this way gives students your exact expectation of the writing process.
Start a new topic
Once the model lesson is completed, you will choose a topic within the genre to do.
Depending on the levels of the class you may want to model another that is similar to the student’s topic but different enough that they can’t copy. When you model, do it up on a smart board or an anchor chart. The advantage of the anchor chart is that it can be up for students to reference. I just show them how to do the story map or graphic organizer and then how to put that information into a rough draft. Some students just need extra guidance.
Here are examples of Model Topics to do for Opinion Writing
Teacher Topic: Do you like pizza or cookies?
Student’s Topic: Do you like cats or dogs better?
Students Work Independently
Throughout the process, each student works at a pace that works for them.
Setting Goals for SLOWER WORKERS
For those who are SLOWER workers, encourage them by setting goals.
A few example goals I have used before are:
(1) By the end of our writing time I would like for you to be done writing 2 sentences.
(2) Your rough draft needs to be completed by the end of the week or it will be homework. I did have a student who would purposely not do the work because they wanted to take it home to have mom do it, so be careful how this one is used.
(3) Your welcome to work on your picture after you have written 3 sentences.
Setting Goals for FASTER WORKERS
For those that are FASTER workers (this doesn’t always mean that they are a higher level), encourage them to be adding details and using full sentences in their story.
A goal for them might be:
(1) In your story, I want to see 5 sentences.
(2) I like your story so far, but I am confused on a few things. Adding more details will help me to understand it better.
(3) Your handwriting is hard for me to read. Please write it again so that it is easier for someone to read.
(4) You need to have at least 5 adjectives in your story.
Make sure that the goals meet the child’s skills. This is not a “one goal fits all” program.
Having Mini Teacher-Student Conferences
As students are working on their story maps, rough drafts, etc, the teacher travels through the room and has mini conferences with students (30 sec to 3 minutes long).
I always have a list of students pre-picked whom I plan to meet with during our writing block.
How to choose which students to meet with?
Some students will need more assistance and others much less. Some you will need to check in with everyday because if you don’t they will do absolutely nothing.
Choose the students based on looking at their writing from the day before. At the end of writing time or the end of the day, I glance through student’s papers with a stack of Post Its next to me. I jot down what I quickly noticed on a Post It. Each child is on a different Post It.
I might write: “Aaron needs to add periods and capitals”, “Samantha needs to add adjectives”, “Joseph needs neater handwriting”.
Management Tip: I pass out Skittles to students working quietly
Then I put these Post-Its on my writing block lesson plans for the next day, this way I am ready to go for the next writing block. One option is that you can leave the Post It with the child, they can stick it to their paper as a reminder of what they are working on. When they are done, it goes in the trash. This will also help you as the teacher see their Post it and know that this child is still working on making the changes.
If you get through all your planned students, then start taking questions. If students have a question, encourage them to ask a neighbor quietly. This does take practice. I usually will take a question in between conferences as long as it is not a long one. Also, as you travel to the next student, tap various students to keep on task.
Too Many Questions!
On the board I put a box that has a “?” above it. If a student has quietly asked a neighbor and still has a question, they put their name on the board under the question mark. If their question has been answered, or they figure it out, then they will erase it. This will give you a quick glance of who needs help and will keep them from sitting the entire time with their hand up.
As I stop by to help these students, I ask them to erase their name.
How do I pair students up to edit?
Once students are done with their rough draft, they will find a student to edit their story, I edit student’s work as I conference with them as well.
At the start of the writing block, I write “Editing”, on the board next to the “?” box. In the editing box, students will write their name if they are on the final draft of the writing process. This shows the class who they can ask to edit. The reason these student’s names are on the board, is that they are the ones who are furthest along the writing process.
Once they are chosen to edit, they will erase their name. I do this so that the student is not chosen again during that block.
Next they move onto the Final Draft
Once students have completed their final draft and illustrated, they will start a new story in the same genre as before or you can have them type it. I have pre-written ideas that I will give them. It needs to be the same genre and the same similar style that we are currently working on. A lot of time, I I give them a lot of free choice since they have finished early.
What is the time line for a Writing Assignment?
My ideal time line from start to finish for a writing prompt is 2 weeks. This is if we have had our normal writing blocks without too many interruptions.
Special Writer’s Workshop Paper?
I use this type of Primary Writing Paper for my students during writing. Why use this rough draft paper? Students are constantly getting confused on which paper to use and when. This takes out part of that confusion. Also, you as a teacher know which stage of writing your students are on by a quick glance.
At the bottom of the paper are editing reminders for them to check off after they have looked for those types of punctuation. There are a variety of different paper styles for all different kinds of writers. These papers are included in each of our writing products.
Building up stamina for Writer’s Workshop is very important. When you first introduce Writer’s Workshop to your students, you will need to walk through each step and lay out the procedures.
Practice, Practice and Practice more.
Start each session with a description on each part of the writing process. Remind students what the ? box and editing boxes are on the board, remind them where they find various materials and what they do if they are stuck. Refer to your writing process sheets and remind students of the steps. Get them familiar with the terminology and recognizing each step of the process.
Start with your independent work times with about 5 minutes. It really isn’t very much time to get anything done, but the students get the practice of how to work quietly and on their own. The next work session can be 6 or 7 minutes. It is fun to track the class progress. “We can work independently for ….. minutes”.
How does this work with Daily 5 or a Writing Center?
I personally prefer to keep the writing block separate and have the writing center be the skills that students can practice to help their writing improve. However, if you are pushed for time, or writing got cut short that week, then students can work on their writing independently during this center, but the teacher wouldn’t be available for conferences.
Another idea is to have it be “the teacher center”, so that the teacher is able to conference with the small group easier.
A few ideas of what the “Work on Writing” Center can be:
- Grammar Work pages
- Adding Adjectives to nouns
- Adding Adjectives to Sentences
- Making Sentences with given words Check out our Sentence Building Unit!
- Adding details to sentences
- Adding details to characters
- Describing words
Special Treat Friday has several writing units available to purchase, click on the links below of the ones you are interested in. Most are available in a bundle: