Why Writer’s Workshop?
Creating a Classroom Full of Authors
Teaching writing to a bunch of young writers is challenging. We have all been there. You planned the writing lesson, anticipating all of the needs of the students and the lesson was going to rock, but then it flops. It is a classic moment for all educators. Don’t worry though, the solution is simple, start a writing workshop in your classroom! The nuts and bolts of writing workshops are pretty simple. Students become authors. Students have tons of time to just WRITE and finally, you, the teacher, have time to talk to your scholars about their writing! The truth is writing workshops are an exciting opportunity for tremendous growth for students and teachers and a must in all classrooms!
Writer’s workshop encompasses the idea that every student becomes an author. The basic structure of a writer’s workshop can vary, but most include the following parts:
* Mini lesson- This is typically a 5-10 minute writing lesson that reviews a part of craft, organization, or even grammar to help guide the students within their writing.
* Status of the class- This simple step is so easy, yet so powerful. This is simply finding the pulse of the class. Which students are drafting, editing, or sharing? There are tons of ways to keep track like pocket charts or digitally with Google Classroom.
* Independent writing/Conferencing- Teacher conferencing is so powerful. In this part, students are just given the TIME to write. We’re talking 20-30 minutes depending on what is age appropriate for your group of scholars. While the teacher reteaches, reinforces, teaches, and guides each writer individually or in small groups.
* Sharing- Every great writer shares their work, gets feedback and makes improvements! In the workshop, this is no different. Students share in groups, partners or as a whole class.
Students are given plenty of opportunities to write about anything and everything, which is what gives our little loves the ownership they need to feel empowered through their writing. Our young writers can gather “seeds” from their own lives, observations, brainstorming through lists, or quick writes and ultimately get the chance to make their own choices about what they are writing about! Imagine your thirtyish authors writing all about different events, but in the same genre. There is so much power in choice. Choice leads to ownership and ownership leads to some dynamic writing.
Another one of the main components of a writer’s workshop model is time. Teaching is a non-stop, live minute by minute, decision making adventure, but what happens when we slow down and let the students lead? That’s right, better writing. Take advantage of the workshop to have everyone, including you, slow down and just write. Get this, one of the options in the workshop is the teacher sitting down to write along with the students! Modeling writing is huge in shaping young minds to believe in the power of words! Now once, you have the students hooked and the time set, just let them go. The time to sit and grow ideas, just write about anything starts building that very valuable, ownership. When students feel they are in charge, their writing shows their confidence. This time also encourages writing fluency and stamina. In a world of timed and standardized tests, writing workshops allow students to build the much needed confidence, fluency and stamina to blow those test scores right out of the water. Of course, more importantly, the workshop also just encourages better writing.
The most valuable tool available to you is you! You know your students the best, the ins and outs of their writing, what strategies and ideas would push them in the best direction and they may vary for each individual budding writer in your room, which is typically the case! But, no worries, here is your opportunity for individual or small group teaching. Keep a log with notes of which students you speak with, what your goals were and when you conferenced with them to keep building up their writing each and every week! The best part, the meetings are quick! These check-ins can be hyper focused on a skill or student led and very much conversational. The scholars won’t even know they are learning something new! They will just be excited to be getting that one-on-one teacher attention! Now that is a teaching win!
WIthin this workshop model, sharing is the last component, but also a huge component! Sharing could be done as a whole group with different students sharing at the end of each workshop. Keep track so you know who has and hasn’t shared. The partner share is amazing for both students involved. Think about how much students learn from each other and a critique from a peer is sometimes more beneficial than the teacher! Gallery walks and peer editing are also totally ways to share writing!
Writer’s workshop sounds so daunting, but in reality, it makes a teachers’ life simpler. The workshop encourages beautiful writing and young writers are born. If you haven’t tried implementing a writers workshop into your classroom, try it out in your next writing unit! Let me know how it goes!