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Writer's

Workshop

  • Writer's Workshop is a writing technique which can build students' fluency in writing through continuous, repeated exposure to the process of writing.

  • It is a teaching technique that invites students to write by making the process a meaningful part of the classroom curriculum.

  • Writer's Workshop exposes students to the organization and thought required to create a story or write about a favorite topic.

  • Students choose their own topics to write about.

  • There is a direct connection between the reading and writing processes.

  • First Graders enjoy the independence of early independent writing, the power of their words to express thoughts, and the opportunity to describe experiences.

Materials:

Writing Folders - Each child has a writing folder which holds all of their writing materials.  These are kept in baskets in the classroom so that they may get to them easily throughout the day.

Writing Journals - Each child has a writing journal where their planning and writing occurs.  It will have several pieces of writing that cover various topics that are chosen and written by the child.  It is from these pieces that we will choose one each week to publish into a "Writing Scrapbook".

Purple Dictionary - Each child is given a "purple" dictionary to be kept in the writing folder which writers may refer to for help with spelling various words if necessary.

Writer's Assessment Notebook - The teacher will confer with students each week about how they are progressing as writers.  During these conferences the teacher keeps anecdotal notes in a notebook tracking the writer's strengths, weaknesses, and goals. 

Writing Scrapbook - Each week as the teacher conferences with the students individually, a piece of writing is chosen from the student's writing journal to be published by the teacher.  This published piece is placed in the scrapbook and is illustrated by the student author.  By the end of the year, students have a personal collection of their own writing and are able to see how they have progressed as a writer.

 

Mini-Lesson:

A Mini- Lesson is usually a 5-10 minute whole class or small group activity.  During the mini-lesson, we teach children a strategy they can use often as they write.  These strategies are multilevel, pertaining to all writers, and are ones that can be used again and again during the writing workshop and during children's lives as writers.  (Lucy Calkins - The Nuts and Bolts of Teaching Writing, 2003)  Some possible lessons taught could be:

  • strategies writers and spellers use

  • characteristics of a genre

  • qualities of good writing

  • how the writing workshop process works

 

Authors as Mentors/Mentor Text:

A mentor text is one that is written by a famous author and is shared with the class so that we can study that author's "craft", or style of writing.  Many times an "author as mentor" is introduced by the teacher during the mini-lesson.  The students in our classroom often will model their writing after one of these mentors.  Some authors we study in first grade are:

  • Jan Brett

  • Jill Eggleton

  • Eric Carle

  • Cynthia Rylant

  • Eve Bunting

Many, Many, More.....

 

Writing and Conferencing:

The Writing and Conferencing Time is ideally a 20 - 40 minute session. In the beginning of the year these sessions are shorter, but as writers become more comfortable with the process the time is lengthened.  Once the mini-lesson is over, students quickly make their way back to their desks, get their writing materials organized, and begin writing right away.  This is a very precious time of our day so the children are taught not to waste even one second.  This is a "quiet work time".  Usually we have classical music playing softly in the background.  Students are allowed to choose their own topics. 

In the early stages we are not concerned with conventional spelling.  When we focus too intently on conventional spelling the fluency that we want our writers to develop is interrupted.  Students may use "inventive spelling" for those unknown words.  As students are exposed to a growing high frequency collection and more and more strategies are learned in reading, writing, and word work, a natural progression in spelling begins to evolve.

As the students settle into their writing routine the teacher will meet either individually with students for conferences or with a small group of writers for a guided writing lesson.  I try to meet with a new "guided writing" group each day.  These are writer's with similar needs and abilities.  I meet individually with each writer, and also am able to teach quick mini-lessons in areas of need to the small group.  During a conference with an individual writer my goal is to understand what the child is already doing, is trying to do, and what he/she can almost but not quite do so that I may choose the most important lesson for this child on this day. 

Sharing - "Author's Chair":

Writer's Workshop ends with sharing in the "Author's Chair".  This usually takes about 5 minutes and can be done either by having the students or teacher read to the class a "published piece" or by children sharing their work in pairs.  Students do not meet in pairs until I have taught the process known as "Peer Conferencing".  During a peer conference student writers take turns sharing what is called "TAG":  TAG stands for - Tell one thing you liked about the story, Ask one question, and Give one suggestion.

 

 

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