In terms of both support and resources, writing seems to take a back seat to reading in many districts. Some teachers are given curriculum that’s either overwhelming, not developmentally appropriate or nothing at all. So, today I want to go through each component of the Writing Workshop in detail to help you implement it in your classroom. There are many benefits to incorporating Writing Workshop into your classroom, especially in Kindergarten and First Grade!
If you are not familiar with this model, Writing Workshop is a method of teaching writing that consists of four main components; a mini-lesson, independent writing time, and sharing, as well as conferring with students about their writing. Its goal is to expose children to different genres, and teach them how to compose a writing piece in each genre, while learning about the writing process.
It’s a very flexible system that you can use with the resources you have. This post will be geared towards those who may be new to teaching or new to this way of teaching writing.
Each writing workshop begins with a mini-lesson. The purpose of the mini-lesson is to focus only on one topic, skill, or strategy at a time. The lessons should only take between 5 to 15 minutes.
Typically, mentor texts are used to provide students with concrete examples of what they are being asked to produce. It also allows them to see what strategies their favorite authors are using in their books.
Student writing is powerful as mentor texts as well! I love using student examples so kids can see realistic, tangible versions of what they should produce when writing.
Your mini-lessons allow you to scaffold the writing process for your students. The process of writing becomes less daunting when it’s broken down into small manageable steps. The mini-lesson are also the time where you will want to model what your students will work on and what the expectations are.
Some Mini-Lesson Ideas to Launch a Genre:
- What is _____? (personal narrative, how-to, informational)
- Brainstorm topic ideas
- Oral storytelling – practice telling a partner your story before writing/drawing.
- Sketch it
- Write the Words – this can include labels and sentences
Revision Mini-Lesson Ideas:
- Adding details
- Show, not tell
- Word Choice
- Using comparisons
After the mini-lesson, you’ll ask students to use the strategy in their own writing. Often, before sending them off to work on their own pieces, I give them a quick task to try the strategy out.
For example, in first grade, if we are learning to show a character’s feeling rather than tell it, I give students a slip of paper with the sentence: He was mad. They convert it into a showing sentence, ex: He stomped his feet and slammed the door.
In kindergarten, if we are learning to add expressions to the people in our pictures, we practice drawing some faces showing different expressions.
These quick tasks ensure students are working on the mini-lesson strategy. After these quick tasks, they continue to work independently on their own writing pieces.
The most beneficial aspect of the Writing Workshop is students getting the opportunity to write about a topic of their choice (within a set genre) for extended periods of time.
The goal is for students to be able to write independently for about 15-30 minutes, depending on grade level. Note that is the GOAL time and you will have to slowly build up to that. I recommend starting with just five minutes of independent writing and gradually adding a minute daily. You can make it a fun challenge to beat their previous time!
If you would like to use goal tracking sheets I’ll have a FREE set at the end of this blog post. You can use them whole group or for individual students who may struggle more than others. I find using goal trackers to be extremely helpful for my students. I have a Goal Trackers System that also has certificates you can give to students once they reach their goal.
For Writing Workshop, each student should have a writing folder that will hold all of their writing pieces. Some students may work on multiple pieces during a session while others may only have one. This time is open to differentiation and is quite flexible for students.
Now, when you are first beginning Writing Workshop with your students, you will want to use this time to observe students working. You can get an idea of which individual students may need more support and also any changes in terms of classroom supplies and expectations.
After students have had time to practice writing on their own, dedicate a mini-lesson to what challenges they ran into and what they can do next time. I have a blog post dedicated to helping your students work more independently during this time.
Once students have settled into their routine you can use this independent work time to confer with students. The main goal for this time is to have students share what they are working on and guide them toward using ONE strategy to improve their writing.
This is a great time to have students set a writing goal. Again this time is flexible. You may want to meet with students in small groups or individually. I will have a more in-depth blog post dedicated to this time in the near future!
A quick share may also take place during your writing workshop. While students are working independently, you’ll want to quickly share a sample of student writing that incorporates the focus of the mini-lesson. This serves as a great reminder to students on what they should specifically be working on.
Allowing students time to share their work is the last component of the writing workshop. Usually, this component takes about 5 minutes, but at first, will take longer. You will want to practice with students how to share their work with the class. This is great public speaking practice for younger students.
If you have more time, you can pick a set number of students to share each day. I would keep a running list of who has shared to make sure each student gets a turn. You could allow students to give feedback and ask questions. If you are short on time, you could have students turn and share their work with a partner.
If you’re not sure how to get started, I have an entire writing unit for kindergarten. It has 22 lessons, teacher notes, student material, pacing calendars, conference forms, rubric, and more.
- Don’t be afraid to incorporate different types of writing activities throughout the week outside of the writing workshop. Shared and interactive writing are great opportunities for modeling writing and providing practice.
- Introduce and model inventive spelling and spelling strategies to help students work independently.
- Host a writing celebration once you finish a unit with your students!
I hope you have found this post helpful. If you need more support or advice covering specific writing units I have blog posts on Personal Narratives and How-to Books. Also please feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments below.
Don’t forget your FREE Writing Stamina Goal Trackers!