Writer's Workshop is a term that is blowing up teachers' Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram feeds right now and for good reason. From the beginning to the end of the year, you will continue to have writers on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Writer's Workshop allows teachers the flexibility to work with each student on their level and the specific skills that they need.
But you already know all of this. You don't need another textbook like post about the amazing benefits and perfect schedule of a Writer's Workshop. I'm here to give you the “Real Life, Mistakes I've Made, It's Not Always Pretty” version of what you really need to know.
Before school even starts, here are a few decisions you need to make about how you want to spend your writing time with your students. Your answers to these questions will help shape your entire Writer's Workshop structure.
- How long will your writing block be?
- How are you going to divide it up?
- Will you call groups back or will you walk around the room?
- How will students organize their writing?
- Where will students keep their writing?
- What are procedures for starting a new story?
- Where do they get new writing paper?
- When can students work on their writing? (writing time only, writing stations, free time, etc.)
- What kind of writing templates are you going to use?
- How do students need to “title” their writing (name, date, story title)?
- How will you organize your conference notes?
- How many times a week do you want to see each student?
- How will you track which students you have seen/need to see?
When thinking about these questions, consider the mistakes I've made and AVOID them!
How It Works for Me
My Writing Block
Here's my typical schedule. Please keep in mind that this is AFTER students have already built up stamina to be able to write for longer periods of time.
5 min- Whole Group Mini-Lesson using a mentor text
5 min- Model Writing using trade craft from mentor text
1-2 min- Pre-writing/Brainstorming ideas
30 min- Students are writing at their desk and Teacher is conducting conferences
5 min- Share Writing
Call groups back or walk around the room?
I honestly really like to call groups back to my teacher table AND walk around the room. It's a strategy I learned in my first year of teaching called Roam, Sit, Dip. Basically you get students working independently at their desk while you ROAM the room and make sure all students are on task. Then, you SIT with a group and DIP into their knowledge of what they are supposed to be doing. I let them practice for 5-10 minutes at my table then I send them back to their desk. Then, I get up and roam again and sit down again with a new group. This method seems to work really well to minimize behavior problems and keep students focused during writing time because they know I could be getting up at any second to roam around the room again.
I use this form for helping me create/organize small groups for my writing time. It allows me to get a good snapshot picture of my class and who is working on similar skills. I like to use sticky notes to list students' names so I'm not constantly re-printing the page.
At the beginning of each year, I give each student a semi-heavy duty laminated blue folder that is forever known as their “writing folder”, clever name, huh? It has the two pockets inside and brads in the middle. I really like this kind of folder because we punch holes in all of our writing. When a writing sample is complete, I put it in the bradded part of the folder so we can easily go back and see all of the students' writing samples for that unit. Keeping students' finished products also allows you a lot of opportunity to go back and edit/revise.
Here's a look at the process we used in our room: