A Closer Look at Writer’s Workshop

It has been my goal for the past two years to develop a system in my classroom for quality writing to happen.  My first goal was for my students to be excited about writing and to actually produce writing.  My second goal was for the students to enjoy sharing their writing and to be respectful and give feedback to fellow classroom writers.  To achieve these two goals, I’ve been researching what writer’s workshop looks like in other classrooms and trying out many suggestions from my readings.            .

Here is a copy of my “list” of what Writer’s Workshop Is… (to me) and what Writer’s Workshop Is not… (to me).

  • First, in writer’s workshop students get to choose what they want to write about.  Sometimes they have to write about a particular genre we are studying but they have choice about the subject.   Writer’s workshop is not writing to a prompt.
  • Second, writer’s workshop should happen daily.  When we provide children with the opportunity to write, they are practicing phonemic awareness, phonics, concept of print and many other thought processes.  We don’t want to “just fit” in writing time.  We want it to be an important part of our instructional day.
  • Third, students learn to write by writing and seeing writing.  They need to see modeled writing by the teacher, peer writing, and shared writing.  Writer’s workshop should not be just predictable sentences or fill in the blanks.  Even very young children can create authentic writing.
  • Fourth, writer’s workshop is a daily writing time.  This time increases as students build stamina.  Students are encouraged to be actively engaged the whole time.  They are expected to work to their best ability even though everyone will be at different stages of writing.  Handwriting is a fine motor skill that is very important but is taught at a different time than writer’s workshop.  I will expect that some children will be writing only letters or pictures and others will be writing sentences or whole stories.

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This list “in my head” has helped me to get to where I am with my students.  They love to write and usually are engaged the whole time.  They love to share, are respectful and are learning to give good feedback.

This leads me to a new goal that I have for myself as an educator.  That goal is to give “quality, meaningful” feedback to my students about their writing.  I think that this is where the true “teaching” occurs.  The writer’s workshop setting gives you the means to confer with students and give feedback.  Before you have a system in place for students to create real writing where there are high expectations, you will not be able to spent time with students conferring.

Since reading the book One to One, The Art of Conferring with Young Writer’s by Lucy Calkins and Amanda Hartman, I’ve learned strategies for discussing writing with children.  The first step for me was creating a conferring schedule.  This is helping me keep track of students that I have talked to individually during the week.

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I am just beginning my journey toward my new goal.  This is a picture of the front of my conferring notebook and a copy of a writing conference schedule sheet that was shared with me by a colleague. This past week was my first week of systematic conferencing.  I focused on some “Fix it up” strategies.  Did the sentences have capital letters at the beginning and punctuation at the end?  Were there spaces between words?  Did the sentences contain mostly lowercase letters?

I added to my vocabulary this week questions or comments to say to the children as we conferred.  I might say, “Tell me about what you are working on,” or “How is this piece of writing going?”

Next Week I want to go deeper.  

I want to add, “One of the things good writer’s do is……” and offer a strategy to help my young writers.  I am looking for a visual rubric or check sheet for the students to help them self-check.

I hope you will stay tuned next week to see how my conferring journey is progressing.  Please comment if you have resources, ideas, or suggestions!!!

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Let’s keep working together as educators because the children are worth it

 

 

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4 thoughts on “A Closer Look at Writer’s Workshop

  1. bethdaltonblog says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I feel that we are on the same page and trying out the same things. We have similar beliefs and we are both ready to make writing an every day thing and not just something that “fits” or “doesn’t fit” into our schedule.

    I think we focus so much on writing to the test that we forget all the other important and great things that we can do with writing.

    I think everyone is starting to realize just how important writing is We need to take our knowledge back and spread the great ideas and “whys!”

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  2. Susan Davis says:

    I will be back to school this week from maternity leave and I plan on starting a Writing Workshop, and making writing more of a priority when I return. We share the same view on how a writer’s workshop should work. I agree that it should not be just squeezed in. I have learned through our classes. I have learned that writing is not about writing to a prompt, as you stated. I think that I have used too many prompts. I also like you writing conference pages, I would love to find something similar. I used to do a lot of conferencing, but have tended to run out if time or have other priorities. Conferencing is something that I really need to make a priority as well.

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  3. edwardsroxanne says:

    Michelle, you are absolutely right when you say you want your students to “be excited about writing and to actually produce writing.” I think this is the penultimate goal of all teachers. I too am struggling to find a normal “work-a-day” rubric that will guide my students without making them feel overwhelmed. I will have to add quite a few “objectives” to my rubric, but will have to include basic skills since I still see sixth graders who do not use capital letters at the beginning of a sentence. Fragments and run-on sentences are still common as are incomplete thoughts. My students have good thoughts, but they struggle to get them all on paper without leaving important thoughts in their heads.

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  4. bethabuchholz says:

    This is such smart insight: “Before you have a system in place for students to create real writing where there are high expectations, you will not be able to spent time with students conferring.” Yes, yes, and yes! Unless children are invested in their writing and the writing process itself, then they are not going to be engaged in revision and editing conferences.

    In your posts each week, you are modeling a powerful realistic picture of a teacher reflectively working to to change her classroom practice one small step at a time. I also notice an emphasis on teacher and student language. What we say and how we say it matters! I look forward to seeing how adding “One good thing writers do that may help you…” to your writing conferences. This will move you (and your students) from a focus on mechanics to more craft oriented strategies. Wonderful work, Michelle!

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