Is the idea of writing workshop giving you a little anxiety? Are you wondering where to start? Maybe you’re a little confused about what it is? Writing workshop might seem like a big undertaking, but it’s well worth the effort. Over the next several weeks, you will gain a better understanding of how to start a writing workshop in your classroom. These bite-size chunks will give you the information you need to easily begin your workshop. So, let’s get started with Writing Workshop for Beginners!
There was a time when I dreaded teaching writing. I could just hear my students saying, “I don’t know what to write about.” Then this feeling of defeat would just wash over me. I questioned myself as a teacher, and I knew I needed to do something different. Since using writing workshop, I’ve learned so much about being a better writing teacher. I’ve learned the importance of changing my mindset and being my students’ biggest cheerleader. And guess what?
I LOVE teaching writing!
Writing workshop has been the best thing to happen to my classroom’s writing block. My students are excited to write and the growth is astonishing.
Let’s be honest here, if you took a survey of teachers’ favorite subject to teach, writing would not be it. There are some teachers who enjoy it, but many do not. Why? Well, most of us were not taught how to teach writing in our teacher prep programs. Many teachers don’t enjoy writing themselves. Teachers have trouble with students that aren’t engaged. The list goes on. But what if I told you, writing could be fun to teach and engaging for students?
Writing workshop really can bring the fun into writing. But first, let’s take a look at some writing workshop basics.
What is Writing Workshop?
Writing workshop is a framework which incorporates a mini lesson, independent writing, and sharing. It is a 45 to 60 minute block of time dedicated to students writing and discovering how to become better writers. Writing workshop changes throughout the year in that your students will gradually become more engaged and more independent. They will build focus and stamina as well as a genuine excitement for sharing their work and learning from other students.
If the idea of of writing workshop lasting 40 to 55 minutes is making your head spin, let me put you at ease. We know that each classroom is different. Your writing workshop might last 30 minutes from start to finish. It might start off at 20 minutes at the beginning of the school year and progress to 50 minutes by the end of the year. Whatever it is, my belief is something is better than nothing. Anyway, this is writing workshop for beginners. We’re just starting out!
Components of Writing Workshop
Writing workshop consists of 3 parts:
- mini lesson/focus lesson
- independent writing
Writing workshop mini lessons are short 10-15 minute lessons that focus on one thing you’d like to teach your students about writing. It can be a lesson about a specific genre you are working on. The lesson could include using mentor text to teach a craft move. Maybe your lesson focuses on punctuation such as adding commas to a series. You could even integrate a language concept and focus on adjectives. Whatever it is, the idea is to show your students how to incorporate that skill into their writing in small chunks.
OK, I know this part isn’t just as easy as telling your students to write. There’s management and procedural pieces that go into the independent writing part of writing workshop. Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging, but for now, let’s just go over what happens during independent writing.
During independent writing, students write. They write and write. While students are writing independently, you are meeting with small groups, and conferring one on one with students.
So, how do you keep kids writing independently? While there’s various tips and tricks, the main way is to set the foundation at the beginning of the school year. I will go over more of this in a later post. As for now, just familiarize yourself with the framework.
Share lasts between 5 to 10 minutes. This piece is more important than you’d think.
Have you ever said something over and over again to your class, but it feels like they aren’t listening? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Then, someone else says it and it seems like everyone hears it? This is why the share is so important.
During the share, you’ll choose several students to share something you’d like the rest of the class to notice. For example, if you have a student that is adding a lot of detail to their illustrations and you’d like to see this from the rest of your class, have that student show the class her illustrations. If you have a student that’s adding dialogue and you’d like the rest of the class to try, have that student share.
I promise you, your students will inspire each other. I’ve seen it over and over again and it’s the best.
Writing workshop is magical. Was that too much? Well, I don’t care! Writing workshop is amazing and you and your students will love it. Getting started is the first step to embedding this inspiring time into your classroom routines. Now head on over to get some ideas on how to keep your classroom organized in Classroom Organization for a Successful Writing Workshop and continue your journey on writing workshop for first grade and second grade students in this series of Writing Workshop for Beginners.