Feature: Writer’s Workshop

No matter what skill we are trying to build, how do we improve? We practice, right? WRITE! The skill of writing is no different. Writer’s Workshop was added to the St. Gabriel curriculum this year with the goal of improving each student’s fluency in writing through daily exposure to the writing process. The most important part of Writer’s Workshop is that the students are engaged in the process of writing on a daily basis. Through the use of “mini-lessons” students learn grammar, mechanics, and the craft of writing. Instead of assigning topics, students are able to choose writing topics that interest them. Writer’s Workshop is taking place every day in the classroom, but once a week, I am in each first through fifth grade homeroom to facilitate Writer’s Workshop with the teacher. Having two teachers in the room allows us to meet the needs of more students and individualize the writing instruction to meet each student where they are.

A typical day in Writer’s Workshop may look like this:

15 minutes is spent on a mini-lesson. This could be a lesson on using commas, writing a good lead, or or using a variety of sentences.  No matter what the lesson is, students will be able to apply that concept to their own writing.

20-30 minutes is spent in one of the stages of the writing process. Many students may be drafting, some may be revising or editing, and other’s may be typing up a piece they wish to publish. Students in Writer’s Workshop won’t all be doing the same thing at the same time, but all students will repeatedly work their way through all the stages of the writing process. During this time period, the teacher(s) is able to have one-on-one conferences with students. These conferences give the student authors a chance to share something in which they are working, and ask questions about a part where they may need more assistance. The teacher uses this conference time to notice what the writer is doing well, to observe whether or not the student is applying the concepts of the mini lessons, and then send the writer on his or her way with one  focus that will improve his or her writing. This individualizes instruction for each student and helps him or her to grow as a writer one step at a time.

5-10 minutes is spent on sharing. Sharing the work of student authors is a main component of Writer’s Workshop. Students read aloud a piece and gain fluency in reading. The audience is able to ask questions which can assist the student author in improving his or her piece. Sharing can be done in small groups or as a whole class.

If you are looking for ways to assist this type of learning at home, anything you do to encourage writing will help. Have plenty of types of paper and writing utensils in easily accessible places. Give them “writing” time on the computer–no games, just writing! Show your children the types of writing that you do, anything from grocery lists to work memos, to things you write in their “baby books.” Ask  your child to share what he/she writes with you, and ask questions about what he/she has written. Encourage your child to think like an author and see ideas all around them. These ideas can be kept in a small notebook, on a dry erase board at home, or on a list hanging on your refrigerator, so the next time your child says, “I’m bored,”  he/she has a list of ideas at their fingertips that can be turned into writing that will last forever.