If you know, you know. Writing can be a struggle in many classrooms, which is why setting the stage for writing in an intentional way can make writing workshop a wonderful time of day. Building a community of writers empowers students to write, interact, and share with a purpose. It gives students the tools they need to make decisions during writing workshop to help them become stronger writers.
During the first few weeks of school, we spend time adjusting to life back at school. We show students how we enter and exit the classroom; how to work in a group; how to choose a book from the classroom library. It only makes sense to spend time on writing workshop routines.
I’m sure I don’t speak for just myself when I say: I want my students to enjoy writing. We also want them to make good use of their time. So starting the year off by building a community within your classroom, which supports writers, will benefit you and your students for the long run.
Keep reading to find more about the 5 phases for building a community of writers. Each point can be used as a mini lesson, but you’re not limited to these ideas. Here is a mini lesson template and a sample mini lesson to get you started.
Phase 1: The First 5 Days of Writing Workshop
Time: 5 days
The first five days of writing workshop sets the foundation. During these days you will:
- make the connection between authors/illustrators and your students
- have students share their writing process
- encourage students to spell independently
- use writing resources
- have students celebrate their writing
By the end of the first five days, your students will see themselves as authors and illustrators that are capable of making their own books. Read more about The First 5 Days of Writing here.
Phase 2: Writers Make Choices
Time: 4-5 days
The second part of this unit is to teach students that writers make choices that will benefit them and their classmates during writing workshop. They make choices about:
- what they will write
- how they will behave during writing workshop
- what materials they will use
- which writing resources they will use
- where they will work
- how they will treat materials
- what they will do if they need help
- how they will respond to others’ writing
- which books they will use as mentor texts
You’ll want your students to think about their choices and how those choices make them stronger writers in their classroom. Have a class discussion where kids talk about what they plan on doing during writing workshop or what’s working for them.
Phase 3: Writers Build Writing Routines
Time: 4-5 days
The routines of writing workshop are used all year long, so we know we want students to have these down. One thing to think about is: what drives me nuts? Whatever that is, you’ll probably want to spend time working on that. For example, it drives me nuts when students are obviously not paying attention to their partner during a share. Therefore, I need to have a mini lesson about how to share with a partner. Some routines to work on include:
- planning what will be written
- working with a partner
- sharing with a partner
- organizing a writing folder
- writing independently
- conferring with the teacher
- working in small groups
- build writing stamina
If you’d like more ideas for building routines and procedures, check out this article.
Phase 4: Writers Revise and Edit Their Writing
Time: 2-3 days
Students need to build an understanding of what it means to revise and edit. They will:
- use a revision checklist
- add and take away from writing
- make decisions about their books
- use an editing checklist
- use conventions correctly
To make your own checklists, simply begin listing things you have discussed in class. For example, capitalize the first word of a sentence, use spaces, and include punctuation. Then you’ll show students how to check their work using a checklist.
Phase 5: Writers Celebrate and Reflect
Time: 2 days
The celebration is the best part of writing workshop; kids love it. Students have no problem with celebrating their finished writing, but they must also be prepared to reflect on their writing. Students will:
- publish their books
- discuss their process
- reflect on what they did well
- reflect on what they need to work on
Creating a safe writing environment begins with building a community of writers that value their work and the work of others. Classrooms that focus on building a writing community see students that respect the time, space, and resources provides to them as they become stronger writers. A writing community is all about teaching students what is expected of them, that any amount of growth is celebrated, and that their classroom is a safe place to make mistakes and make improvements.