So Now You Know
What To Do, What Next?
Knowing where and how to start
Writer's Workshop can be very difficult It is hard to know how to
organize the students if the teacher isn't sure how they want to
Before I ever start teaching
the Writing Process (Brainstorm, Draft, Revise, Edit, Final Draft and
Publish) I spend the first few weeks setting up Writers Workshop routines
in my class. Many of these ideas are the ideas that I learned at my
district's Writing Institute or other fantastic teachers I have worked
with (Emily, that would be you : )!!! ), so I cannot take credit for all these ideas.
These are all my beginning of
the year writing workshop routine lessons in the order I teach them.
After I teach one of these mini lessons students write independently in
their writers notebooks while I conferences with them. Then we share
at the end of class.
I have recently revised these
lessons. If you would like to see how I used to introduce Writers
Workshop in he past, please click
here. The page looks identical, but has different information.
Books Used for Mini Lessons
Starting Writers Workshop Mini
Printable Copy of Mini Lessons
Books Used for Mini Lessons
Portfolio Edition) Posters
Workshop Mini Lessons
Here is a copy of my
beginning of the year mini lessons. Many of these ideas are the
ideas that I learned at my district's Writing Institute, so I cannot
take credit for all / even most of these ideas.
Collecting A Writing Sample
writing sample to stage so you are aware of the needs of your
students. I do assign a prompt for this task. It is easier
for me to compare students if they are all wring on the same
for your sample:
Squiggle line writing (I do this anyway for the beginning of
the year). Read aloud the story It Looked Like Spilt Milk
or Not a Box. Use this time to introduce the word
schema and what it is. Relate how what the narrator saw in the
clouds or the child saw the box as depended on their personal
schema. Show students the squiggle paper. Ask students what
THEY see. Model for students how to add to the
squiggle to turn it into something else. Have students
then draw their own picture from the squiggle and then write
about what it is, where it is and so on. Have them tell
a story about their squiggle.
Here is an example
of what a student did in my second grade classroom
either read The Mystery of Harris Burdick by
Christopher Van Allsburg. It is a WONDERFUL book by an author
I highly recommend. I purchased the poster set for this book.
Then I have students choose one picture to write about and
explain what is happening in the picture. We talk about a
beginning, middle and end. I tell them that it does not
matter how long the story is, just that it has a beginning,
middle and end. I feel that students need to know that the
work is theirs and they "own" it. I also mention that every
story has as problem and a solution. However, these are the
only hints I give.
Another activity is a Dr. Seuss like prompt.
We read the story The Sneeches by Dr Seuss. We discuss
how he gives creatures made up names (like a sneech) and I
tell student they get to create their own creature. They can
decide how it looks, sounds and what its personality is like.
The creature is called a fleezle. Then I get them to
brainstorm what is going to happen in the story. Next I say I
have made up a word. I don't know what it means but I do know
it is something you DO called snoof. We brainstorm things the
creature can do. Finally I give the prompt The Day the
Fleezle Snoofed, This is a hard prompt, I am not sure if I
would do this activity again. Students tend to get stuck. I
DO stress that the story does not have to rhyme like Seuss'
but has a few silly words in it.
is in your heart?
Read aloud the story
My Map Book
by Sara Fanelli. Draw student’s attention to the page
with the heart map on it. Explain to students that today we
are going to make heart maps.
Explain to students that our heart maps will how what is close
to our hearts; people, places events and memories (you may
need to teach this word), objects, etc. Model for students
with a large heart on chart paper. Then gives students their
own heart. You can use a worksheet like the one attached or
cut one out from construction paper. When students are
finished you can either hang to on the wall OR have students
glue it into their writer’s notebooks. The most import thing
is that this is ACCESSIBLE to the students. The heart map has
now become a brainstorm list of what to write about!
Bring students to the carpet. Model share time. Explain to
student s where they need to sit (mine sit in a circle around
the carpet so we can see well). Papers/ notebooks are in the
floor, not in hands. Hands are in your lap. Good listens
turn their bodies and look at the speaker. Only about 3-4
kids share each time. Mrs. Gregory keeps a list of how ha
shared to keep it fair. Sometimes I will ask kids to share
because they did a good job practicing the mini lesson, other
times it is simply their turn to share. Model for students
how I want them to start,”This is my heart map. The two best
things on my map are...” Pick a few children to share. If
time they can all then turn pair share.
Finding a Story
students find it very hard to know what to write about in
their Writer's notebooks. To help solve this problem we
brainstorm all the things you can write about and where to get
ideas on "finding" a story.
students if they have eve had a hard time knowing what to
write about. Ask students what we already have created that
can give us story ideas. Lead students to realize that the
heart map is also a brainstorm map. Then read aloud the book
Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk. Just like Sam, we are
all authors and we all have something important to say.
Discuss how Sam wrote about what he knew; so we should
write about what we know. Brainstorm as a whole class WHAT
topics students can write about. If needed go back to the
story and see if some of the pictures give ideas (writing an
ABC book, a letter to someone, write all about myself, my
laminate and post this list all year long for those who get
stuck. However, most students will not use it after the first
month or so. I explain to the class the purpose for the list
and refer to it A LOT the first few weeks.
Here is a picture of the list we created this school year
Building a Community of Writers
Discuss what Writers Workshop looks like and what it is. Have
students help create lists of what it should look like/ sound
like. Use this to establish the norms of the workshop. Keep
Here are some examples:
Why We have Writer’s Workshop
other authors we learn to write better and get information
Writing is thinking
Writing is reading
can expand our writing by reading other writer’s work
can become better writers
titles from our work come from many ideas
quietly while writing so others can think
Sound out words
your best writing skills
quietly so not to disturb others and don’t forget what you
Here is a poster of the Expectations we created this year
(2009-2010 school year):
Notebook/ Planting Seeds and Watching Them Grow
is a day I REALLY try to build up to. I don't just want to
hand students their writer’s notebooks and tell them to give
it a go. I want to inspire them to write and to use the
notebook. This is easier said than done. One of the things I
do is share my own writer’s notebook. I have created
overheads of some of my own pages and have why I choose to
write about these snippets. I share the artifacts I have
included (I don't have many, this is an area I am working on)
and the word lists I have created. I also make clear it is
NOT a diary to write down what happens every day, but it is ok
sometimes to do this.
is a list of things Ralph Fletcher recommended when I saw him
at a conference: What moves you? What
do you wonder/What is bothering you? What do you notice or see
when you are about and about? Memories, Beautiful words,
sentences and phrases (even from other authors), Fears, dreams
Artifacts like feathers, baseball cards, lists of favorite
words, dialogue other people say, pictures, magazine articles,
newspaper articles, comic strips, etc.
Then I let students go and have some time to write. You will
get a lot of questions "Is it ok if I write about..." Make
sure they know it is their special, magical spot. If kids get
stuck, refer them to the list the class created and/or their
gather them back together at the end and we share what we
wrote about. Then I tell each student since the book is
theirs I want them to decorate it in some way because it is
their special book. I have never done this as an in class
activity, although you certainly could. I had my students do
it for homework and gave them a few nights to compete it. The
only rule was that it had to come to school everyday while
they were working on it since they would be using it!!! I
have had kids use stickers, Yu-Gi-Oh (sp?) cards, magazine
pictures, puff balls, photographs, leaves (they didn't last
too long!) fabric. Whatever. They just need to make it
the Writer's Notebook
I start by having child bring their writer's notebooks to the
circle and share how they chose to decorate their books and
Read aloud the story Ish by Peter H Reynolds.
Then talk about how some drawings aren’t perfect. Instead
they are “ish-like.” Tell students we are going to use ish
drawings to help us with our stories. Model a think aloud in
choosing a story topic. Choose something that isn’t boring
and too specific (like flowers) because they can draw it
really well. Instead model showing an event. For example I
might use when we found my cat, Daisy.
Model for students how to sketch in the tiny blank white space
at the top of the notebook paper. The drawings don’t need to
be perfect- remember they are “ish-like.” Spending 25
minutes on the drawing is NOT ok. Then show students how to
draw from the picture they wrote on the notebook paper below.
Remind students what to do if they get stuck. Remind them to
use the resources in our room (heart maps and class brainstorm
list) to help them. Then I send them off for time to write. I
do not conference yet, but I do walk around and check up on
kids, especially ones who are stuck and try to help them find
an idea. We meet together at the end to share some of our
do I do when I am done?
an anchor chart “When You Are Finished Writing.” Ask students
if anyone finished what they were writing yesterday. Explain
to students that the best part of writers workshop is that
there really is no such thing as “I’m done!” There is always
so much more we can do to our writing. We can add to the
picture we started the day before- but this isn’t something to
do for the entire writing period, but if it helps you ideas go
for it. You can add more to the story you wrote earlier. You
can reread stories that you wrote to help you get ideas for a
new story. Or you can make a new “ish” drawing and start a
new story! Add all of these to the anchor chart.
for students rereading yesterday’s story. Tell students that
they need to always reread the story before making any
decisions! It is hard to decide what you want to do if you
can’t remember the story from before!!! Then model out loud
the decision to either add to yesterday’s picture or words.
Then briefly do so.
Storing Materials in the Classroom
activity is more a management lesson. I explain to students
how I want their writing folders to look. I want the writers
notebook stuck in the right pocket. I want any drafts of
pieces going through the writing process in the left pocket.
In the brads we put in the example of writers workshop norms
and I explain any handouts go here. For this mini lesson I
show students where the dictionaries are, the thesauruses, the
spellex's and how the writing center is organized. I share
how we use paper in the classroom (for drafts and final
drafts) and when you can use the materials in the writing
end of this mini lesson I students have time to work in their
Conferences Look Like
Explain to students that so far we have started the structure
of writers workshop, but we haven’t quite done ALL of it. So
far we have started off each day with a mini lesson and then
we had time to write and we shared. We are missing the
conferences part. Explain that this is a one of one meeting
with the teacher. It is only a few minutes, so we need to
make the most of the time we have. It is NOT ok to interrupt
the teacher when she is conferring- remember there is only a
short time and that student deserves all of the teacher
Explain that in a conference we will go over the students
writing. Sometimes we will read the whole things, others I
may only ask the student to read a part. It depends on the
length of the story and how much time we have. Then I will
compliment you on what looks good. But they are not off the
hook yet! Then I will ask them to work on something in the
story. It could be what they are stuck on and know they need
help with. Or it may be something I think will make them a
With students watch a conferring video from Jennifer Myers
website and talk about what you noticed.
Writing conferences are on the bottom of the page. Begin
conferencing with students today.
to Do When the Teacher is Conferencing
yesterday I am sure that some students got stuck and needed
help during conferences. It is bound to happen! This is how I
teach it. You may have a different approach. Some people like
an “I need help” board for student to leave post its on. I
would forget and never look at it so this is out for me!!
Either way, students need to know what to do when you are
conferring and they need help. This is how I choose to
Explain to students that today we are going to discuss what
happens when you get stuck during writer’s workshop. Thank
students for being so respectful off each other and not
interrupting conferences. Play this up as a big deal. It will
pay off late in the year.
Then I explain my rule. First students must ask three before
me. They need to ask three classmates for help first. If
they try this and no one knows, then they may raise their
hand. Then they sit and wait silently. No yelling, grunting,
shouting my name. I will ignore them if they do this.
Between conferences I scan for kids with their hands up and
try to douse any fires.
This is a great time to explain your procedures on which
student the teacher will be conferencing with. Many may have
their hands up simply because they want to conference with the
teacher! I have a list on the board. The students know if
their name is up there, then it is their turn. If for some
reason I do not get to them that day, they are first on the
list the next day.
of Writing/ Anchor Papers
think it is important for students to see grade level
expectations of writing. The district I used to work in had
published anchor paper and descriptions of each stage. We go
over each paper and talk about what makes it good or not so
good and make our own kids friendly list. Show students where
they SHOULD be in their writing.
Printable Copy of Mini Lessons
All Graphics are From