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Writer's Workshop

As with Reading Workshop, Writer's Workshop follows a similar format in order to allow students to experiment with different writing styles and techniques, and to hear about different authors' crafts.


We begin our lesson by coming together in the meeting area. It is here that reading and writing really blend together as we learn the essential grammar conventions, form, and content through the best mentors possible- real writers/authors. What is the author doing? Why are they doing it? Can we try it in our own writing? This is a basic format that we will continue to use throughout the year. It really allows us to read the richest, most beautiful literature available. I heavily endorse craft study to tie in real-life application.

Lessons last 10-15 minutes, where we address state standards and objectives through the use of rich literature. How do I plan what to teach during these mini-lessons? Through my daily conferences it is obvious what I will need to plan for. The students help drive instruction. The bottom line is that I have to ask myself if this is something a writer would find useful. Is this going to help my students become life-long writers? I cannot get this from writing prompts.

Independent Writing/Individual Conferences

We first learn about self-selection of writer's notebooks, because, frankly, those composition books shouldn't be one size fits all!

This block of time ranges from 30-45 minutes of independent writing. The premise is that to get better at writing, we need time to write daily. A well-known professional writing guru, Donald Graves, said he was teaching a conference when a teacher asked, "I understand the importance of allowing students to write daily, but my schedule is very busy. What would you suggest for me if my students are writing once a week?" His response- "Don't bother." This may sound harsh, but he has a point. If you compare writing to learning how to play baseball, could you imagine getting better with one day of practice a week? Also, would you want your child to spend a bulk of their time learning the rules of baseball or playing baseball itself? If we are spending a bulk of time getting out their to play, I believe my role is to then help each player refine their skill one-on-one. And that is exactly what I plan to do each and every day!

A recording of our meetings is placed in a conference notebook. I follow the two stars and one wish format in an informal way. My prior conference notes is where I pick up (e.g. "Hey, last time you said you were struggling with...how's that going?"). I have also learned to let the student lead the conversation and to allow awkward pauses. And time, time, time. Don't forget how important it is to allow children to experiment before developing a skill! If just one "skill" is learned a week, think about how much progress is being made. I like to think I am doing that with each and every conference. Those five minutes are very important.

Share Time

Take this out of the schedule-just 10 minutes- and watch the writing wilt. Writing was meant to be shared, and we celebrate it daily! As each student shares a piece of writing this creates another great opportunity to teach, since I am able to point out literary techniques that we come across in stories we read everyday.

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