Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beginning of the Year Writer's Workshop

      One day this week about mid-way through our writer's workshop as I sat and watched a table of kids work between writing conferences, it hit me.  Quiet.  Focused.  Everyone was writing.  All I could hear was our quiet work music (classical for kids).  It was blissful.  Finally, the first four weeks of work building routines, stamina, and identities as writers had paid off.

     So I thought now would be a good time to talk about launching a writer's workshop and building a community of writers in your classroom.  Beginning on day one of school, we discuss that every single day we will have a special time in our class called writer's workshop where all of us get to be authors.  I teach them that every day we will start together on the carpet and learn (mini-lesson).  Then they'll go off and be authors on their own.  Finally, we'll come back and share about what we learned as writers.

    Beginning the year with some kind of project instead of jumping right into the first unit of Lucy Calkin's writing curriculum has worked really well for me.  I do this for a couple of reasons.  First, it is a fun and non-threatening way for even the most reluctant writers to jump into writing time.  Second, it gives us something cute to display right off the bat! :)

   This year, I used Steppin into a New Year from The Bubbly Blonde to launch our writer's workshop.  You can see more details about my first week plans for workshop at this post.  However, I set up the activity by reading letters from last year's second graders to my students to give them an idea of what second grade will be like.

      After hearing the letters, we made a list of things that second graders can do.  

        Finally, students wrote about what they wanted to do as they were "Steppin into Second Grade."

"I want to lern about bees.  I want to solve equations in math.  I want to tell time.  I want to plant flowers.
I want to lern about cutture (culture).  I wnat to make patterns.  I want to writ poems."

      I was careful to be sure the craft to go along with the activity was done at a separate time of day so students began to understand that at writer's workshop we write the whole time.

     After students all got to feel successful with a writing activity that I intentionally scaffolded quite a bit ahead of time, they were ready to jump into writer's workshop.  Again, before officially launching the units of writing for the year I spent a day thinking about what writer's workshop looks like/sounds like.  

     Nothing fancy...just functional.  The visual is a great way to help kids know exactly what's expected of them at writer's workshop and is great to revisit each day until it becomes automatic for them.

    Finally, I would just like to share a few quick tips that I have learned about making writer's workshop as successful as possible:

  • Play quiet, instrumental music -  Students love having that one special time during the day when they get to relax and concentrate on their own writing.  I have a few different c.ds that we rotate- classical music for kids, a concentration music c.d. from Target, etc.
  • Celebrate! - The first month of workshop in the primary grades is all about celebrating your students as writers.  Make a huge deal out of kids who get pictures and words on their paper and who write the whole time.  Emphasize the hard work...not the correct conventions.
  • Quiet teacher voice = quiet student voices 
  • Don't hover! - Students learn how to be independent when they are given the chance.  Walking around as students are working just to re-direct or correct makes it harder for students to practice being independent writers.  Resist the urge!  Pull up a chair to a table/group of desks and observe from there for a few minutes before beginning conferring.
  • Let students write on their papers, not you! -  Resist the urge to correct things on students' papers with your pen/pencil.  Carry a white board slate with you for modeling/student practice instead!
  • Watch for positive student behaviors-  By emphasizing the things you see students doing the right way, you will encourage others to join.
    Writer's workshop can truly be a magical time during your school day.  If you haven't started yet or have never tried, it's not too late in the year to start!  Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

    Please leave a comment with how you successfully launch a writer's workshop!

1 comment:

  1. VERY INTERESTING!!!!! Thank you for the reminder about writing on students' papers and/or fixing their work...always so tempting.
    Smiles and stop by anytime!