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Writer’s Workshop


 


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


 


Writer’s Workshop is an approach to writing in which students take on the role of working authors and spend most of their time engaged in the act of writing. They write as often as possible for real purposes about things that matter to them. Teachers from grade 1 through 11 who use a writing workshop model in their classrooms realize its potential to both motivate young 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 non-fiction 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.


 

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 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 to their writing. 


 


Publishing


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.



See also Using Classroom Publishing to Teach Outside the Box.


 

Additional Resources


Kindergarten and Cycle One teachers will enjoy reading this informative and very practical website by Kindergarten teacher, Melanie Henderson. There are endless opportunities for authentic writing, even with the youngest students. Melanie also talks about conferencing with her young writers.


Write in the Middle : A Workshop for Middle School Teachers is a series of 8 video programs designed to help teachers learn effective practices and strategies to use with secondary students in writing workshops. The 8 videos can be viewed free of charge on your computer.


Download Welcome to Writer’s Workshop by Steve Peha. You will find a wealth of information in there for all teachers.


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