Friday, September 20, 2013

Writing Workshop Fitness

Lucy Calkins, Matt Glover, Smekens, Common Core …ah!  So many good ideas, I’m feeling overwhelmed.  Where do I begin? 

Does this sound familiar?  We often feel the same way, so we decided to take some time to think through the components of Writer’s Workshop and how that looks for you in your individual classrooms.   To begin, let’s look closely at the components of Writer’s Workshop.

Essential components of Writer’s Workshop includes: 
Writing Mini-Lesson (10ish min.)
Student Writing (at least 20min.)
Reflection & Closure (5ish min.)

What could be going on during these times?

Writing Mini-Lesson
Teacher:  modeling writing, reading mentor texts, thinking aloud, introducing anchor charts, embedding writing, grammar, and spelling into lesson

Student:  receiving whole group instruction

Remember:  This is a “one size fits all” lesson.  Keep it short and specific.  You can differentiate and individualize instruction during conferences. 

Student Writing Time
Teacher:  meeting with individual students or groups to discuss specific skills or to set goals for their writing, referring to anchor charts and mentor texts as needed and supporting students’ needs

Student:  writing individually or conferring with their teacher individually or  in a small group  

Remember:  The longer this time, the better!  This is your opportunity to differentiate and help students grow as writers.  They will also build an excellent writing stamina.   

Reflection & Closure
Teacher:  refocusing students back or selecting exemplary examples to share with the group

Students:  celebrating accomplishments, reflecting and making connections

So what is next?
The next step is to think about your students’ needs, teaching style, and curricular needs.  Try asking yourself these questions to help you plan:
·        How much time do I have in my schedule to teach writing?
·        Which genres of writing do I feel most comfortable teaching?
·  What writing genres do I want my students to walk away feeling comfortable writing?
·         What “Units of Study” would be most appropriate for this school year?
·       What grammar or other skills do I need to embed into my mini lessons and student conferences?
·        In which order should I teach these units?
·        What mentor texts can I use to support my writing instruction?
·        What do I know about my students as writers?

Lucy Calkins reminds us to “teach the writer, not the writing”. So allow yourself some time to reflect on the questions above to help you plan out your year.  Once you decide on the genres, skills and units your students need, begin mapping out your year accordingly.  (Ex/ Launching the workshop (procedures), Narrative Writing, Illustration studies). 

Take it one day at time. Find a teaching buddy to plan, reflect and celebrate with as you go.  Have fun and get ready to be amazed by what your students can accomplish.

Launching the workshop can be intimidating and a bit overwhelming.  We encourage you to take the risk and share your trials and tribulations as well as your celebrations with us.  We look forward to hearing from you!

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” Jane Yolen  

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