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A Beginner’s Journey to Writer’s Workshop

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If you have heard about writer's workshop and thought “That sounds like a good idea, I just don't know how it would work for me”, then this post is for you. I've been to two Writer's Workshop trainings, one by Melissa Leach and one by Jessica Rogers. I've blogged before about my top three takeaway tips from Jessica Rogers' session. You can read more about it {here}.

I am slowly starting to integrate a few of their ideas into my daily classroom procedures. I wanted to share my struggles and successes with you, my readers, in hopes that it will help you in your classrooms as well!

Week 1: Write What You Want

Starting on day one, I told my students I would never tell them what to write. We read our mentor text (The Teacher from the Black Lagoon), the kids LOVED IT, as always. I told the students “In a few minutes, I'm going to have you go back to your desk and we are going to practice our independent writing time. I am going to set a timer for ten minutes and for that time you can write, you can draw and you can color. During that ten minutes, there is absolutely no talking and no walking, just writing.”

I continued to give the students ideas of what they could write about. Here is just a few:
-write about your feelings on the first day of school
-write about Mrs. Green the Monster
-write about your new teacher
-write about Hubie and his friends
-write about your new friends
-make your own teacher monster

BUT, I also told the students that they could write about ANYTHING that came to mind. If they didn't want to write about their new teacher, they didn't have to because I wanted them to write THE BEST STORY POSSIBLE!

Week 1 Results

Let me just say that it took me a minute to realize that both results need to be equally celebrated. Every teacher hopes for picture #1 that is direct “text to self” connection. It has a full, complete sentence and a detailed and colorful illustration! This kind of picture that makes us feel like we are doing our jobs right (and we do a mental fist pump).

But let's take a minute to talk about picture #2. When you really stop to think about it, this picture is just as much a success story. Did it have anything to do with The Teacher from the Black Lagoon? Absolutely not. BUT, when you stop to think about the fact that  a 6 year old re-created an iconic picture of our first president, George Washington, on the front of a boat crossing the Delaware River, and even tried her best to spell his name at the top, that is PRETTY AMAZING.

It is my goal this year to encourage my students to do more “out of the box” type thinking. I absolutely love seeing picture #1, but now I'm also really looking forward to picture #2.

Another Unexpected Benefit=Flexibility

Another great benefit of letting students choose what they want during independent writing time, is that it provides them with an opportunity to go back and finish something they had previously started and either didn't have time to finish or didn't know how they wanted to finish it yet. I tell my students they can start one “new” page per day. Some students will start on a new page, but other students will start by finishing something they had already started.

The result= independent reading time becomes FLEXIBLE and completely PURPOSEFUL without you having to plan 22 different lessons to meet the needs of 22 different students!

What successes have you had with writer's workshop?

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Kristen Sullins

Kristen Sullins

I am a current first grade teacher, mother of two, follower of Christ and Texas native. In my own classroom, I love to focus on and plan new ideas for my guided reading and guided math stations, warm ups and interventions and all things organization.

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