Launching Writing Workshop

Saturday, August 24, 2013

     We have been preparing ourselves for Reading Workshop for the past few years at Hiawatha.  With the use of Guided Reading and the Daily 5, we have set ourselves up for an easier transition to Reading Workshop.  When it comes to writing, we are not as close, but there are some things that will help us tremendously.

1.  Use what we know about reading stamina! 
Before you launch into Writing Workshop, do the same things to prepare that we used in reading.  Create an I Chart with the kids so that they know exactly what they are supposed to do during writing, and what you are eventually going to be doing as well.  Then, build stamina.  Time them.  With my second graders, I always started with 7 minutes, because they are mostly 7 years old.  Challenge them to write independently for 7 minutes, and then every day add another minute to the challenge.  Prove to them that they can write by themselves.  If you don't, you will never have uninterrupted groups or conferences.  While they are writing, write yourself. Show them that you are a writer, too.

2. When stamina is low, teach mini lessons that will be useful all year long.
At the beginning of the year, we teach reading strategies that will anchor our block for the year.  Why not for writing, too?  Teach them how to choose their own topics, what to do when they need help, what to do if they think they are done, how to re-read their papers, and how to begin to edit. Christina Betz shared some resources (on Hiawatha Literacy google site) that will certainly help with these things.  Mini lessons on getting ideas are critical.  Have students create an expert list, a ME chart, a know/care/feel chart, a heart map- whatever it takes to help them generate topics that are interesting to them.

3.  Consider using the 6 Traits
When their stamina is low, and you have trouble filling the hour long workshop, doing mini lessons on the 6 Traits might be a very nice use of time.  Not only will it help them see the components of good writing, but it will give your future editing and revising lessons some help.  Plus, it might help you give structure to your individual conferences with kids, and help their future goal setting.  You don't need to follow the entire 6 Traits program to teach the terms Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions and Presentation, nor do you need to teach them all the first week.  But, using them will enhance your Writing Workshop.  

4.  Learn about your Students
While they are building stamina for writing, use their samples to start seeing them as writers.  What do they do well?  What do they struggle with?  What might help them move to the next level?  Use everything they write to help you start to understand what they need as writers.  Their samples give so much information if we look at them a little closely.  

5.  Calkins Units
When your students are able to write independently for a chunk of time, and they are able to come up with their own ideas to write about, then they are probably ready to start the official Calkins units.  Before you start the units, doing some On Demand samples to gather information might be a good idea.      She has an On Demand prompt for each of her units, so don't forget to do that as a pre-assessment when you are ready to begin.

Have fun, and write on!

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