Saturday, July 13, 2013

Writer's Workshop...Getting Started!

So, it's August, and it's time to start Writer's Workshop!  Is it just a free-for-all, where students write whatever they want, play on the computers, draw whatever pictures they want, while the teachers kick back and watch the students enjoy themselves?  Hardly!  

It is a very structured part of our day, with specific protocols and behavioral expectations, just like all parts of our day!  (Don't still get to watch the kids enjoy just can't do it while kicked back!)

So, because writing time has its own set of protocols and expectations, that's actually where we start.   Anchor charts!  Anchor charts!  Anchor charts!
We are fortunate in our multiage classroom that half of the students experienced Writer's Workshop in our classroom the year before.  However, even our younger students coming in have experienced Writer's Workshop!   Fortunately, it is a staple in our school across all the grade levels.  

So, we first start out with an anchor chart that focuses on what Writer's Workshop should look and sound like.  The students give us their ideas, and we all come to consensus if the ideas truly reflect how writing time should sound and look.  

Even if your students have never had a Writer's Workshop time before, I still feel strongly they could be part of creating this anchor chart!  You could explain to them what they will be doing during writing time, and I bet they can figure out what it needs to look and sound like in order to be a productive environment.  You could even give them prompting questions, such as:  
  • "If people are busy writing down their great ideas, what do you think it will (should) sound like in here?"
  • "What kind of movement do you think we would see around the room?"
  • "Why might people be talking during Writer's Workshop?"
  • "How would we know if somebody is really thoughtfully writing?"
As with the majority of anchor charts, I would focus on what the students should be doing, not what they should not be doing!

Once we establish what our classroom should look and sound like during writing time, we jump into the good stuff...the stuff that will help them start their writing journeys!  The good ol' writing process!

Of course, we start with Prewriting.  Again, we begin creating another fabulous anchor chart, where students tell us everything that can go on during the Prewriting phase of the writing process.  We record the students' responses (once we all agree their ideas truly are part of this step) and hang up our Prewriting anchor chart.  

We (teachers) then model what Prewriting looks like during a mini-lesson by starting our own story.  The students typically being their journey of planning their first writing piece after we complete our mini-lessons that focus on this stage of the writing process. 

We repeat that same process with each of the other steps of the writing process - Writing, Revising, Editing, Publishing - where the students brainstorm ideas to start an anchor chart, and we model what each step looks like.  

Now, the anchor charts are never set in stone!  If the students think of something that should be added to an anchor chart after we created it, we can certainly add it if there is consensus in the room (which includes all of our opinions) that it does belong there.   

Just a side the students begin taking part in each stage of the writing process, they are not all going to be on the same step, and we have to be okay with that!  Just like they don't all read at the same level/rate, they are not going to write at the same level/rate! 

However, while you are getting through these initial mini-lessons, you will also start having individual and/or small group conferences with students where you can work with students at their independent writing levels.  

So, this is how we start our year with Writer's Workshop!  I'll write more about how our actual Writer's Workshop time is structured in my next post!  Hang tight!  :-)

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