Monday, July 29, 2013

Writer's Workshop...What's Our Structure?

So, you and your kiddos have established the behavioral expectations of Writer's Workshop, you've made your anchor charts that describe what each step of the writing process looks like, and it's time to get in your regular Writer's Workshop routines!  What now?

There are different ways you can structure Writer's Workshop time.  I'll talk about the ways our writing time is structured in our 4th/5th grade classroom!

Writer's Workshop should start with a mini-lesson.   The focus of your mini-lessons will be whatever writing skills are included in your writing curriculum.  It may be about specific writing genres (i.e. how to write a persuasive piece), writing mechanics (i.e. using quotation marks correctly), content of the writing (i.e. using descriptive wording), or any area of writing where your students need support.

Now, our mini-lessons look one of two ways...either whole group or small group.

For a whole-group mini-lesson, we pull the students together, teach a specific skill, and model it through our own writing.  The students typically really enjoy observing as we write our own stories, especially when we personalize them!  

For a small-group mini-lesson, we may pull students who are struggling with the skills we taught whole-group, and use different strategies to reteach it.  This is a great opportunity to obviously differentiate the instruction.  Just as you may reteach during this time, it's also an opportunity to enrich students who are ready to extend their understanding of the skill.  

When we opt for our small-group mini-lessons, we pull the small groups as other students are working on their independent writing. 

After our mini-lessons, we like to do a Status of the Class.  For Status of the Class, we have a binder with a sheet for each child in it.  The sheet has the date, title of story, and what step of the writing process the student is on.  
This writing log can be used by the teacher for Status of the Class and/or by students to track their daily writing.

If we do a whole-group mini-lesson, we say the student's name, she gives us her story title and what step of the writing process she is on, and then she is dismissed to begin working on her writing.  This gives the students a chance to hear each others story ideas, which can help stimulate new ideas!

If we do a small-group mini-lesson, we do the same process as above; however, we just write down the status of the students in the group at that time.  This is a more intimate setting, where kids often ask questions of each other regarding their writing when they hear their story titles!

When the students are doing their independent writing, we pull individual students for conferences, or pull the small groups to do the mini-lessons.  

When students come for their independent conference, we look over their writing piece together, talk about strengths and weaknesses, and set individual goals together for the student to work towards.  This is not just the teacher telling the student the's a collaboration between both student and teacher.  This gives the student more ownership of her goal.  

When the students are doing their independent writing, they are all at various stages of the writing process.  Some students may be publishing on the computer (which they can't do until they have had a peer and teacher revision/editing conference), some may be involved in a peer conference, while others may be planning or writing.  The students are typically very independent at this time!  Because our students enjoy Writer's Workshop so much, they are almost always engaged and on task!

While much of Writer's Workshop time is spent on students' independent stories, we obviously also incorporate writing prompts into their writing time.  This helps us ensure they are working on and demonstrating an understanding of the different writing genres.  Sometimes the prompt is specific, while other times the students have a choice about the specifics they want to write about, but it has to be on the assigned genre.   The prompts are always accompanied by a rubric.  The scored rubric can then become part of the independent writing conferences as a means to discuss areas of weaknesses and strengths.

The students truly love writing time.  If we ever have to cut something out of our day due to things such as assemblies or snow days, the students have an uproar when it's Writer's Workshop that we cut!  Because they get to unleash their creativity and work towards their own published pieces, this is definitely one time of our day where engagement is spiked!  

There is something pretty cool to 10-year olds about being true authors!  :-) 

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