I see students writing, sharing, bringing their notebooks outside with them, coming to class with ideas to write about. I see students who truly believe they are authors who have something to share with the published authors they read. When you walk into a classroom where this is going on you can see the WOW!
Marelina Colacci, Resource Teacher
The writer’s workshop is an approach in which students take on the role of writers/producers and spend most of their time engaged in the act of writing or producing a text. They write for real purposes about things that matter to them. Through writing workshop the classroom becomes a community of writers where students share and read each other’s work and offer suggestions and support. Teachers who use a writer’s workshop model in their classrooms realize its potential to both motivate writers and develop competency.
When students are being asked to take on the role of real writers, they need to understand the the importance of the reading/writing connection. The reading/writing connection is the fundamental core of writer’s workshop. In order to write, you have to read. When students are engaged in writing their own texts, they begin to read as writers looking to discover how other authors craft their texts. How can I make my reader care? What literary techniques will make my writing more interesting? How can I show rather than tell? What makes a piece of nonfiction come alive? When young writers think about ways to improve their own writing as they are reading published authors, they are learning to become better writers.
Through exposure to a wide variety of texts and well-planned mini-lessons, students explore the ways writers craft their texts. Students read like writers and write like readers.
Immersion into text is the foundation of the production process by providing students with opportunities to explore and analyze a variety of text types, genres and purposes for writing in addition to the investigation of the styles and techniques of favourite authors that allows students to experiment with these in their own writing.
Along with immersion into test, the writer’s workshop has a specific framework that allows time for teacher mini-lessons and modeling of process, as well as independent writing time and time for conferencing, feedback and sharing.
FRAMEWORK FOR WRITER'S WORKSHOP
Writer’s workshop usually follows a predictable framework which includes the following components.
Mini lessons are short (5-10 minutes) teaching times that take place at the start of writer’s workshop. The mini lesson usually deals with a specific aspect of writing or writer’s workshop related to the needs of the students. Mini lessons usually fall into the following categories:
procedures for writer’s workshop
qualities of good writing, e.g. vivid mental images, voice, focus
strategies and processes that writers need to develop a piece of writing through all stages of the writing process.
structures and features of texts
Read more about mini lessons here.
Independent writing follows the mini lesson and provides an extended period of time for students to write.
Students are encouraged to choose their own topics and text types for a variety of authentic purposes.
Students use the writing process, moving back and forth through different stages of the process at their own pace. It is not unusual to find some students drafting ideas in a writer’s notebook while others are publishing a finished piece.
Conferencing is done during independent writing.
Students seek feedback from peers. It is important to teach students how to peer conference so that it will be a positive and effective part of writer’s workshop.
Teachers find ways to conference with individual students or small groups. Sometimes this takes the form of a quick mini-conference as teachers move around the room. Other times the conference is a more in-depth look at a piece of writing.
Read more about conferencing here.
Sharing often takes place during the last 5 or 10 minutes of the workshop.
It is an essential part of writer’s workshop.
The act of sharing adds encouragement and motivation to keep writing.
Students have opportunities to share a piece of writing, talk about strategies they found helpful, or read an idea for writing from their writer’s notebook
During sharing the students help each other make their writing better. They get feedback that provides ideas for revision and begin to understand the importance of considering their reader or audience.
We want students to see themselves as writers. And writers want to be published. Therefore it is important to find ways to publish student writing. Whether student’s are creating their own hand-written books, or using technology to create more sophisticated texts, the publishing process is a powerful motivator.