Organization should be a course we take in college. I’m an organized person. . . now. . . but it’s only because a teacher took me under her wing and showed me how. And when I say teacher, I mean a colleague. In other words, as an adult, I didn’t know where to start when it came to organization, so I’m thinking we can’t be too hard on kids that don’t know what to do or get started. That’s why it’s a good idea to teach kids how to keep their writing materials organized in this unorganized world. But it’s also important for us teachers to be role models and to have some classroom organization for kids to find supplies and become more independent.
After a ton of trial and error, I’ve come up with some ideas for bringing some classroom organization into your writing workshop. Here are some ideas to get you started.
The meeting area should always be in the same place and procedures should be set. Students should know where to sit and what the expectations are for the area. This gives you the opportunity to get started with your mini lesson quickly and efficiently. Things to consider:
- Is there assigned seating?
- Will they sit with a writing partner?
- Should they bring their writing with them to the meeting area?
- Will they need any other writing materials?
During your mini lesson, you will want all of your materials ready to go. If it’s all in the right spot, you’re good to go! And trust me, you don’t want to have to stop a lesson because you can’t find your marker. I know this all too well. Here are some of the materials you’ll find useful:
- chart paper–to model writing
- writing paper–to model writing
- writing folder–to store your writing
- poster markers (here’s my favorite)
- sentence strips
- word wall
- alphabet/blends chart
Writing folders are a must-have for writing workshop. This is where the student organization comes in. I’ve seen so many messy, unorganized folders and it drives me nuts. Showing students how to put their writing away might seem like overkill, but it’s not. They need to see it over and over and over again. Otherwise, their folders will become a huge mess. I shudder thinking about it.
For writing folders, you’ll want to add stickers to the pockets. One which reads “still working” and one that reads “complete” or “done,” whatever floats your boat. The idea is that students put the writing they’re still working on in one pocket and the writing they are finished with in the other pocket.
Writing folders are also a great place to keep resources, such as alphabet charts, word walls, transition words. . . They’re easily accessible and students find them helpful. This also allows you to give the students some of the responsibility of caring for these items rather than having to find a place for them in the classroom.
Help your students stay organized! Download these writing resources for your students’ writing workshop folders.
Student Writing Materials
Writing materials are a big part of what makes writing workshop fun. How much more do you love writing when you have a pretty notebook and some colorful pens? Exactly! It’s no different for our students. Having various writing materials available to our students gives them the choice kids crave and helps to keep them engaged. Of course classroom organization is a must here in order to keep those materials in order.
When introducing the materials, discuss how they’re taken care of and when to use them. For example, if students are going to use pens, teach them to put the cap on the end to keep from losing it. If you have colored pens for revising, remind students that they’re for revising and not writing our entire books.
To keep kids from becoming overwhelmed with the various materials, put out a couple at a time. As the kids become familiar with when and how to use them, put out more.
- various kinds of paper–large picture box with 1-3 lines, medium picture box with 5-6 lines, lines only, blank paper only
- black pens–to use instead of pencils
- 2 colors of pens–for revising and editing
- tape–to add sentence strips to pages for added writing ideas
- crayons–for illustrating
- colored pencils–for illustrating
- sheets of paper cut into strips–to add detail to writing
- sticky notes–to add detail to writing
- pencils–for writing
- erasers–to correct mistakes
- markers–for illustrating
- staplers–to add pages
- sticks for spacing–to add spaces between words
- whiteboards–for spelling or sketching practice
- whiteboard markers–for whiteboards
- glue sticks–to add sentence strips to pages for added writing ideas
- highlighters–to highlight important information
It is completely up to you which materials you use, but this list is available for you to get some ideas flowing.
Mentor texts are one of the best ways to teach students to use various writing craft in their own writing. Once you start, it’s hard to stop pointing out the craft writers’ use in their writing and all books become mentor text.
While you’ll want to use specific books in your writing workshop, it’s also fun to use read alouds as a place to find ideas you can share with your students. For example, you might be using the book The King of Kindergarten as one of your back to school books. You’ll notice how beautiful and detailed the illustrations are, and you can point that out to students. You can add a sticky note to the cover noting what you and the students observed and keep it in a “mentor texts” tub for you and students to refer to throughout the year.
Anchor charts are useful if your students use them. And chances are your students will use them if you refer to them and they’re always located in the same area.
Students love choosing where they can sit and giving them this choice during writing workshop is the best time to let them choose. Some kids want to find a quiet corner. Some will want to lay on the floor. Others want to sit by a friend. Whatever the choices, there needs to be classroom organization of supplies. Here are some of the options I provide in my classroom:
- lap desks
- small rugs
- tables low to the ground
- area rug
Keeping your writing workshop organized teaches kids the routines of writing and it keep the materials and resources in predictable spots, which means kids will use them. Classroom organization is a must for a successful writing workshop. If you’re new to writing workshop and want some more support, check out Writing Workshop for Beginners to get you started. Oh, and don’t forget to download your writing resources for your students’ writing workshop folders.