Writer's Workshop

We will be writing every day in class for a variety of purposes.  Students are encouraged to view themselves not simply as students of writing, but as authors, and are required to write with a purpose.  My writer's workshop is usually organized in the following way:

5-15 minutes:  Mini-lesson.  This is the time spent focusing on some new learning (usually taken from the students' own needs).  This could look like a lesson on punctuation, or how to revise a piece of writing, or how to create a good hook for a short story.  This time, while important, needs to be kept short and sweet so that students get lots of time to practice their new learnings and skills.

30-40 minutes:  Writing/Conferencing.  This is time dedicated to students practicing their craft.  I usually allow about five minutes for students to share ideas and talk about their writing with their peers, and then the rest of the time is silent.  Students become engrossed in their work!  During this time I circulate where needed and conference with a couple of students.

5-10 minutes:  Sharing.  This is a time for students to share what they're working on.  Often this is just a paragraph that they particularly feel is well-written, or an introduction they've worked really hard on.  Their peers may then offer constructive criticism (a "star and a wish") to help the writer grow.  This is usually my favourite time, as students take great pride in their craft and their peers are excellent at both highlighting what is excellent as well as pointing out what may be lacking or confusing.  Any time the students are learning from each other is time well spent, I think!

The writing process progresses in the following way:

  1. The Writer's Notebook.  This is a place where students "play" with their writing.  They might be listing some new ideas for writing, or jotting down observations about the snow falling outside their classroom.  They might start out playing with one idea and move on to a completely different topic if it's not holding their interest.  Students are encouraged to write lots of different things in their notebook, hopefully also trying out some of the ideas from our mini-lessons.
  2. Choosing an idea.  After a week or two or "playing", students are asked to choose an idea from their notebooks to develop into a published piece on Google Docs.
  3. Revising a piece.  Students will need to have peers (and parents!) read their "finished" piece in order to get constructive criticism on how to improve their piece.  Students can also conference with me to get ideas and feedback.
  4. Editing a piece.  Once the writing is just the way the student wants it, s/he is ready to edit it in order to make sure there are no mistakes.  We look at things like spelling, punctuation, paragraphing and other conventions during this time.
  5. Publishing.  Students will publish their finished pieces, adding whatever design elements they choose to polish their publications up with (covers, dedications, illustrations).
  6. Celebration.  Students will take turns sitting in the "Author's Chair", sharing their writing aloud.