Sunday, June 17, 2012

Writing Workshop

Towards the end of this week, we started talking about what a writing workshop is and what it should look like in your classroom.  There will be more posts to come about writing workshop, but here are the basics that you need to know to get started:

Writing workshop is:

  • a place in your classroom (or designated time during your day) where/when writers do the work of writing
  • a writing workshop could be compared to a sewing room for a seamstress, a painting studio for an artist, a woodworking shop for a woodworker.  It is a special place to work on your craft.
Writing workshop is not:

  • a thing
  • is not a program
  • is not scripted
Three parts to a writing workshop daily:

  • Focus instruction (bite-sized fun!)
  • Writing time
  • Group share time
Some tools needed for writing workshop:

  • writing notebooks
  • pencils
  • paper
  • Post-It notes
  • highlighters
  • resources:  dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedias, possibly grammar book
  • binding materials
Getting started/Procedures:

  • Plan ample time at the beginning of the year to roll out your writing workshop expectations.  The more time you take walking the students step-by-step through what you expect during writing workshop, the better your workshop will run.
  • Teach students how to use each tool at the beginning of the year.
  • Be very specific.  Share lots of examples and model, model, model!  ex:  I could share my writing notebook (pic at the top of this entry).  I would talk to the students about how I made my notebook my own by decorating it with a comic a friend shared with me that I really liked.  I would also be sure to explain to the students how my notebook works, when I write in it, and what should belong and not belong.
These are some of the procedures that we brainstormed.  You need to think about covering each of these in some way with your kids before they begin their writing.

  • materials to bring to the writing workshop
  • how to use the materials (resources:  dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, grammar book-ask your friendly librarian for help with these lessons :) )
  • how to respond to peer writing
  • using a writer's notebook and making it your own
  • what goes in the writing notebook and what doesn't
  • right to view the notebook:  how to let the teacher know you have a piece you do not want to be read.  ex:  writing from the front-for the teacher, writing from the back-for the student only or fold pages down you do not want to have read
  • how to spend your writing time
  • conference expectations
  • what to do if you're not conferencing with the teacher
  • what students can expect from you during writing time (develop an anchor chart of what students can expect from you and what you can expect of them)
  • vocabulary that will be used in the workshop:  craft, conventions, notebook, genre, revision, publishing, conference, peer, writer's workshop, draft, editing, quick write
  • let students know how their work will be graded
  • where students should meet at each section of the workshop
Sharing writing workshop with your parents:
Make sure that your parents know and understand how writing will look in your classroom.  Explain why they may not see writing come home every week.  Share the writing notebook and your expectations of your students at your meet the teacher night or open house.  Talk to your parents about how you will assess student writing and keep track of their progress.  Some teachers in our group also have students assigned on open house night to share different parts of the writing workshop with the parents.  That way your students are taking ownership of the writing workshop and more parents come to your open house!  I loved this idea!

Breaking down the workshop daily:

Focus Instruction is a time to:

  • give direct instruction for about 10 minutes
  • introduce genres
  • teach craft and conventions
  • explore writing
  • address what the majority of the class is needing
  • Note:  you don't always have to read a book from cover to cover during this time.  You could read an excerpt from a book, share a student's work, share your own writing, read an article, a blog, poetry, a commercial script, an informational piece, etc.  Let your students see as many different types of writing during this time as possible.
Writing time is a time to: (some teachers called this time a "Nudge."  It is a time to tell your students, "We've learned about..., not it's your turn to try it in your writing."

  • you should be very busy during this time
  • keep records about how your students are doing with their writing
  • take over the shoulder notes about your students
  • working with small groups
  • conferencing one on one
  • differentiating student learning
  • touching back on points of skills that may need to be re-taught
  • working with learners in small groups for review
Group share time is a time to:

  • Notice out loud with the group students who have tried new things in their writing.  Ex:  "Heather, I noticed today you tried..."  "Would you share a little bit with the class?"
  • Students underline a sentence that they wrote for the day that they felt was really beautiful and share
  • If you tried_____________ today, will you share an example?
  • All students should know that they will be accountable during group share time so that they will complete their work
  • You could let students know at the end of focus instruction what you will be looking for during share time so they can be prepared when they meet together

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