Teaching writers workshop is a beautiful and amazing thing because it allows our own creativity to flow out on to paper for our student’s to see.
I used to be scared to death of teaching writing. So, I didn’t really teach it.
I was caught in a world of prompts, forced topics and “journals”.
At the time I didn’t realize that this wasn’t building writers, I just knew that there was pencil put to paper, so I thought I was fine.
In the past year I was introduced to “crafts”. Oh my gravy, did that open my eyes to my writers workshop instruction. There wasn’t a right or wrong anymore; there was only expression and ideas.
I was in love with writing. Little did I know that this would only be the beginning of a fabulous, thrilling romance with something I once loathed.
Writer’s Workshop now is a joyous and electrifying time in my teaching day. It has become my favorite part of my day because I am free to explore books with my students with no boundaries, rules or fears.
So, where do you begin?
Well, you need to learn the basic outline for Writer’s Workshop. There’s 3 main parts: a teaching mini-lesson, writing and conferencing, and finally sharing.
Let’s go through step by step with one of my favorite books The Very Lazy Ladybug. This book has many “crafts” embedded in it, so it makes for a great introduction to Writers Workshop.
With The Very Lazy Ladybug, a great first lesson is on “word wrapping”.
As you can see from the title of the book, the words “wrap” around the pictures. This craft is used over and over in the story. It is stimulating and whimsical. It makes the reader want to read on.
Now that you’re ready to begin, you have your book and craft picked out, it’s time to start. Ready? OK, here’s how it goes…
PART 1 - Mini-Lesson: 10 – 15 minutes
“Hi boys and girls! Today we are going to use one of my favorite books to talk about ‘word wrapping’. I’m going to read 2-3 pages for you so we can explore ‘word wrapping’.”
Open the book and read 2-3 pages that demonstrate the craft.
“Well, that was fun! Who can tell me where they saw the craft?”
Let one or two children briefly review the craft.
“Now I’m going to work on my story. I wanted to use the ‘word wrapping’ craft, so let me look through my story that I’ve been writing and see if there is someplace it would fit. Hmmmm? Well, I could put it on the page with the turtle… and I could write ‘The turtle moves slowly along the ground.’ around his shell. What do you think?”
Then add to your story while the children are watching you write.
PART 2 – Writing and Conferencing: 30 – 45 minutes
“OK boys and girls. My time is up, so do you know whose turn it is to write? Of course, it’s your turn! Go ahead and get your supplies and get started. I’ll be walking around once you’re settled to see how you’re doing.”
I then go set a timer for 30 – 45 minutes… this way I know I’ll stay on track for time.
My Writing Tools
Paper, books, and boards
This is when the children would get their writing folders, pencils, markers, crayons, flexible cutting boards (to write on), and papers.
You should set writers workshop procedures in place for what to do when they need a writing tool, need more paper, finish a story and get “stuck”.
The most important thing to remember is that the children should be W-R-I-T-I-N-G! Not coloring, or drawing. That’s for a different time.
During this time I also turn off the overhead florescent lights and use natural light and lamps. My kids like my Medusa Double Shade Floor Lamp because I can direct the lights into different directions so they can sit in little groups under it. I have about 5 lamps that only get turned on during writers workshop time. It makes the room have a magical and soothing feeling, which promotes writing!
I let my students find a place to write. Sometimes it’s a desk, sometimes the floor, in a laundry basket, or standing up. I really don’t care where they put themselves as long as they are writing.
I know that some teachers would be uncomfortable about this, but when you think about where you read and write at home, I’d venture to say that not many of you would say, “Sitting at a desk with a chair that’s totally uncomfortable”.
So, with procedures and rules I give my students the choice of location and have found that more often than not they move away from children they chat with and really write.
While the children are writing, I walk around, peeking over shoulders until I find someone who needs to have a conference. During this time the children and I discuss their stories, what crafts they are using, what they still want to add, what should be removed, and many other ideas. It is informal and conversational.
Sometimes my kids just amaze me with their ideas, thoughts and writing goals.
PART 3 – Sharing: 5 - 10 minutes
Once the timer rings, I bring all the children back together and we start sharing. This can be an “author’s chair” type activity, partner sharing, large group, or however you want to share.
This stage is extremely important because young children need to develop the ability to discuss what they create. It also helps build self-esteem and confidence in writing.
That’s writers workshop! You made it through! That wasn’t so hard... Go try it! And just remember, everyday you write with your class helps them become better readers and writers!
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