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 organized!! 

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, 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.

Click Here for a Printable Copy of These Mini Lessons

Collecting A Writing Sample

Finding A Story

Building A Community of Writers

The Notebook/ Planting Seeds and Watching Them Grow

Using the Writer's Notebook

Storing Materials in the Classroom

What Conferences Look Like

What to Do When You Get Stuck

What to Do When the Teacher is Conferencing

Stages of Writing/ Anchor Papers

Collecting A Writing Sample

Day One ( I usually do this on the third or fourth day of school)

Take a 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 topic.

I do one of two prompts.  I 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. Click here if you would like to read about 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 story does not have to rhyme like Seuss' but has a few silly words in it.

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Finding a Story

Some 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.

I read aloud the book Albert's Story by Claudia long.  Click here to read about this book.  We discuss how the little boy found his story and added more and more to it. Then we brainstorm as a whole class WHAT topics students can write about.  I 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 chart we created this school year:

I have had several people email and let me know they have had difficulty finding this book.  Apparently it is selling for over $100 now!!!  You can use several other books for this same lesson.  The first one that jumps out at me is Author Writes a Story by Marc Brown.

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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 these posted. 

Here are some examples:

Why We have Writerís Workshop

  1. From other authors we learn to write better and get information
  2. Writing is thinking
  3. Writing is reading
  4. We can expand our writing by reading other writerís work
  5. We can become better writers
  6. Good titles from our work come from many ideas

 Our Norms

  1. Work quietly while writing so others can think
  2. Sound out words
  3. To help spell
  4. Have original ideas
  5. Try your best writing skills
  6. Work quietly so not to disturb others and donít forget what you are thinking
  7. Always listen.

Here is what the poster looked like this year:

 

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The Notebook/ Planting Seeds and Watching Them Grow

This is a day I REALLY try to build up to.  I don't just want to hand students their writers 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 writers 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.

Here 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 and anxieties

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.  Yu 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.

I gather them back together at the end and we share what we wrote about.  Then I tell each student since the book is their's I want them to decorate it in some way because it is their special book.  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 "theirs."  Here is a wonderful link from Ms. Newingham about how students personalize writers notebooks.

Here is an awesome link from Ralph Fletcher.

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Using the Writer's Notebook

This day is just that, time to use the writers notebook!  First I start by having child bring their writer's notebooks to the circle and share how they chose to decorate their books and way. 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 ideas.

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Storing Materials in the Classroom

This activity is more a management lesson.  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 center.

At the end of this mini lesson I students have time to work in their writer's notebooks.

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What Conferences Look Like

coming soon!

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What to Do When You Get Stuck

      For this mini lesson I pull all my kids to the carpet.  And we open up the floor for discussion.  We discussion things to do if you get stuck and brainstorm ideas.  I might guide kids to go to the class library and look at books and see if any of the books spark an idea, we brainstorm lists that we could create (I wonder questions, my favorites, cool words and phrases, what if questions), looking at the classroom chart we created on day two (finding a story).  Then we talk about how just sitting there is not a good idea.  This year my students brainstormed "Using your time to write!" as one of our norms/ expectations for writer's workshop.

     An activity I did before we ever started Writer's Workshop was to give each student a large piece of white paper.  They were able to draw and label a favorite memory or dream or experience.  If kids get stuck they can always refer to this for ideas.

      I have never done this before and I am really debating including this idea.  I am really hesitant to include any prompts because I don't care for prompt writing (unless I am teaching it as a skill because this is how testing works) I would love to hear your ideas!  Anyways, I have been saving interesting magazine pictures and calendar pictures for the last few years.  I cut them out, glued them on construction paper and laminated them   I was thinking of making the pictures available as a source of ideas.  I can't decide!

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What to Do When the Teacher is Conferencing

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Stages of Writing/ Anchor Papers

 

Here are some examples of students writing from every grade level.  This is from the excellent site www.ttms.org.

 

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