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