When you build a classroom community that embraces uniqueness, writers workshop will become a time when writers can express themselves freely.
Young learners must know how to naturally communicate in writing and find their interest in what and how to write.
WHAT WRITER’S WORKSHOP IS NOT
We can’t give young writers a formula and expect their writing to be full of voice and emotion and engage our every thought!
When writers are given a formula to follow when they write, their creativity and expression will be imprisoned and stifled!
Writers should creatively express and communicate their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
When writers are expected to write within a formula or a template, the writer is being told HOW to express, HOW to feel or HOW to give their opinion.
All choice is gone.
Formulas work in math and science but not in writing.
Language is meant to be creative and expressive—a formula just won’t help students build and develop their creativity and expression in writing.
WHAT WRITER’S WORKSHOP IS
I have a dream of writing a wonderful children’s book someday! If you know me and my dreams, it takes me a good long while to move forward in hopes of pursuing my dream, but when I do, I dive in headfirst and just go! As teachers, we must have that same attitude about our young writers.
Writers should be given space to write and express in their own way with guidance and support, of course!
That’s what Writer’s Workshop is all about!
The workshop model provides a safe space for young writers to express their thoughts and work on the craft of writing without “the red pen” bleeding all over their work.
Writers are more likely to take risks and experiment with their writing when they are given a safe place to share their work and receive constructive feedback that will help develop their writing craft!
All students are not going to become well-known published authors, but they do need to be able to naturally communicate using the written word.
When young learners are taught to hone their writing craft, think about how articulate they will become as speakers.
A challenge for all writing teachers...
Give students a choice to express themselves in writing
Get to know your learners as creative and expressive writers
Help young learners become more expressive and creative when sharing their thoughts in writing.
THE STRUCTURE OF WRITER’S WORKSHOP
Writers' workshop encompasses your minilesson, your independent writing and guided writing instruction. It’s just what it’s called…a workshop of budding writers working on improving their writing craft.
Just like readers' workshop, writing is typically a 60-minute block of time: 10-14 minutes for minilesson, 40-45 minutes of conferring with readers during independent writing and guided writing groups, and a 5-minute share time at the end.
I've also seen classrooms that run writing workshop in a 45-minute time block where the independent writing and small group time is shortened to about 30 minutes.
Both situations were highly successful. Anything less than that time is going to be difficult for students to have a minilesson and practice the work in their notebooks.
HOW TO LAUNCH WRITING WORKSHOP THAT INSPIRES YOUNG WRITERS
Building a Community of Writers
Just as we build a community of readers in reading, we must do the same in Writing. We must share the kind of writer we are so students will feel comfortable sharing about their writing lives.
Every teacher should keep their own writer’s notebook. When you share your personal work (and struggles) in writing, your little (or big) writers will be more willing to take risks!
They will see you as a writer and know they are not alone in the journey of improving their writing craft.
I have heard many times from teachers that they do not feel their own writing is good enough to share with their students.
Don't be afraid to share your own writing. Trust me...they will love it and learn from it! And a bonus is you will learn some amazing new things about yourself as a writer too!
Launching Writer's Workshop
Launching Writers Workshop starts with lots of storytelling and idea generating. Students need to know and understand that they have great stories to tell and write. We start by talking about how focusing on writing about tiny, ordinary moments can make fantastic stories.
Students need to know that they don't have to have big moments like exotic vacations or the birth of a baby brother or sister to write about. They can write about any ordinary, everyday thing and it can be crafted into an exciting story.
Different strategies to try out are Ralph Fletcher's Map the Neighborhood or Lucy Calkin's, list making of 3 tiny moments spent with a person in your life or a special place of yours. When you map your neighborhood, you will be reminded of moments you shared with others or had in some of the places on your map.
When you make of a person list, you must think of small moments you shared with that person.
Another strategy is creating a heart map; drawing or writing short snippets about all the things that you love. See the examples from my notebook that I've shared with my students
It's important that writers are taken through the writing process during the first few weeks of school. Writers must understand the process of writing and how a piece will develop over time.
As writers write through the first couple of weeks of school, they will be discovering themselves as writers within their notebooks.
You will see their writer's notebook become a valued treasure throughout the school year as they grow and evolve as writers and the classroom community building into something wonderful!
KEY TEACHING POINTS FOR LAUNCHING WRITERS' WORKSHOP
Take time in the first weeks of school to take your writers through the entire writing process.
Their first piece will not be their finest, but it will provide the young writers the opportunity to see how the writing process works before diving into the fine craft of writing.
Which brings us to some teaching points for that first series of writing lessons when launching writers’ workshop.
1 Discovering our writing identities ~ Take your writers through a few introduction lessons about what writing is and what it is not. Let writers discover the kinds of writing they already use in their own lives. Guide them to create a personalized writer’s notebook.
Who are we as writers?
What is a Writer’s Notebook?
Personalize our writing notebooks
2 Living the Writer Life ~ Begin to guide your writers through the idea of reading to learn and discover how an author crafts writing together. Start the year with reading aloud some mentor texts that the students can enjoy first as readers before diving into the craft of writing. Reading like a writer is an ongoing lesson throughout the year.
Reading like a writer
3 Generating ideas for writing ~ Writers need to know how and where to find ideas to write about. Guide and teach your writers different strategies for finding writing ideas, such as...
Mapping the neighborhood
People and Place and Emotion lists
4 Prewriting and developing writing ideas ~ Writers need strategies for taking an idea they have already generated and begin fleshing it out within their notebooks. Writers need to begin to examine how an author develops an idea into a published piece of writing.
Storytelling with exaggeration
Collecting Entries in my writer’s notebook
Creating a volume of entries
Watermelon vs. Seed Ideas
Choosing a Seed Idea & Narrowing the Time Frame
5 Building Stories Step by Step ~ Writers need to know how to create a concise piece of writing
6 Drafting ~ Writers need strategies and guidance through taking all of the prewriting and writing development to create a concise piece of writing from beginning to end.
7 Revising ~ Writers need to understand that once a piece is written, it can and probably should be changed and revised. Writers need to understand what an author does during revision.
8 Editing ~ Writers need to learn strategies and skills for polishing a piece of writing for publication and public sharing.
9 Publishing ~ Writers need to see the last part of the writing process is preparing the writing to be shared with the public.
10 Celebration ~ Give writers their voice and opportunity to share their writing with others. Take time to celebrate the ‘wins’—big and small—from the first round through the writing process.
11 Expectations of Writers Workshop ~ Take time to revisit the expectations of workshop that were developed throughout the first trip through the writing process. You may want to take some time to revise and reteach a few of the expectations. Talk about the ‘what-ifs’ and develop a plan, such as supply needs, asking for help from peers and the teacher, requesting a conference, etc.
Until next time...
Check out the this product that will help launch Writer's Workshop. Minilessons and printable resources included follow the guidelines and teaching points shared in the article. Click on the image below to see the product at Teachers Pay Teachers.