Register Now

Writer's Workshop

Compiled By: shazam

Here is a collection of ideas for implementing a writer's workshop in your classroom.

writer's workshop
Posted by: Jen

Writer's workshop is simply an organized way of going through the writing process, giving students freedom in deciding what they want to write, and how far they want to take each piece. The steps are: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. You can also talk about sharing and conferencing sort of as steps of the process. In my class, we use a writing folder, made of bristle board and split into three sections: Drafts, To be Published and Other (prewrites, record keeping, topic lists) can organize it though any way you want.

I find it is good at this point to brainstorm a list of types of writing (letters, articles, poems, narrative, expository, etc). This allows the students to draw from a variety of types of writing when they are working individually later.

Then at the beginning of the year, we go through the whole cycle of writer's workshop together, using one type of writing as our model, so we will all, for example maybe write a cinquain. So each student brainstorms a list of topics they might want to write a poem about. They choose one. We look at examples of cinquains, discuss what a cinquain is, I provide a mini lesson about how to compose a cinquain, and then they are given time to draft. Some students may start one piece and then give up, and start another, others may like their initial piece right away. Next, together we move on to revision, and talk about what things we need to accomplish in this step: adding, replacing, moving, changing. You might introduce the idea of student conferences here, allowing them to pair up and make suggestions about eachothers writing. Next, you move to editing, using a checklist is often helpful for this students can check off items once they have finished looking at that element (capitalization, punctuation, spelling). You can have students peer edit as well at this stage. Next you move on to publishing. Discuss your expectations for a published piece of writing (typed? neatly handwritten? single spaced? etc).

Now students have gone through the process together. It is time to begin to let them work on pieces of their own interest and at their own rate. You can introduce mini lessons on all sorts of stuff as the year progresses, and as you see fit. You can always focus the students again, and have them write a specific type of piece, if you feel it is necessary.

Good luck

Writer's Workshop (LONG)
Posted by: StephR

My Writer's Workshop time is actually very simple to implement (although, looking at the size of this email, I am not so sure anymore!) The schedule is as follows:

10 mins Sustained Silent Writing
10 - 20 mins Mini-Lesson
20 - 30 mins Writing Block
5 - 10 mins Author's Chair

Sustained Silent Writing -- The students begin each Workshop day with 10 minutes of uninterrupted writing. Similarly to Sustained Silent Reading, they may do nothing but write. They may either continue a story they are currently working on, begin a brand new story, or write in their journal (I always have some topics posted for those who are stumped) During this time, their pencil MUST be moving....

Mini-Lesson -- During this time, I teach a writing lesson. Any lesson that is appropriate at that time. Craft, grammar, punctuation, or the actual lesson that is in our reading program. (These lessons come from many different sources....writing inservices, grade level meetings focused on writing, various books, etc...) The lesson is no longer than 20 mins.

Writing Block -- Kids have many different options at this point. They can go to one of 4 "zones" set up in the room. In "Silent Zone", they may only work...individually....and without talking. They can be working on their assignment or a different story all together. I always start the work session off with 5 minutes of mandatory "Silent Zone" time. In "Quiet Zone", the students are allowed to talk with each other (using a whisper voice) to gather ideas and discuss their work in progress. They primarily are there to work however. In "Sharing Zone" the students are there to hold a peer conference. I only allow four pairs at a time, and they must be talking about their specific peice of work. They have sticky notes so that they can proofread and correct mistakes. They also are there to edit each other's work. Finally, in "Conference Zone", students can come to talk to me about their work. I usually am in this "zone" for the entirety of the writing session, as kids are eager to talk to me about their work. I usually keep conferences very short (no longer than 2 minutes) so that I am able to get around to as many people as I can.

Author's Chair -- This is the last portion of the Workshop. This is when a designated student (or students) share their work with the class. The class then gives feedback to the student while I write down their comments on a sticky note (that way, they are able to implement those suggestions into their writing for the next Workshop time.) I usually have a predesignated person for this (on a chart) but I also have sign ups for anyone who wishes to read that day as well.

I hope that helps you a bit. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. Here is a link to my website that has a few pictures of this process as well.

(also, if you look in the "A Look Around" section, there is a picture of the Writing Center where all of the materials for Writer's Workshop can be found. The red pocket chart usually has information as to what writing peices are in progress, sections where the kids can sign up for a conference and for peer feedback. That is also where I hold the writing conferences)

Writer's Workshop etc.
Posted by: Debbie

Hi Fiona,
I too had difficulty keeping track of what I'd done with whom. I did implement a 'status of the class' form mid year so I'd know where everyone was in the writing process, and help guide (light a fire under) a few of the kids who had a great deal of difficulty staying focused or completing a draft. There was an area on the large scheduling white board to sign up for revision/editing conferences. When we got together, I used a 2 X 4 stickie to record the date, topic, genre and the suggestions of the group for the writer. As I listened to their pieces, some common threads appeared, at which point I did mini-lessons for a small group or the class. But I didn't keep track of these very well. One year, I used a two column list in the back of their writer's notebooks 'I am learning to..., I can...' where I listed the strategy/skill, etc. and dated when I saw evidence of it in their work. Any thoughts???
And you know I have some other suggestions to add to your already growing professional library...I really like Fletcher's stuff, too! He has several books that are written for student writers. They might be written for slightly more mature writers, but I've used quotes and sections in mini lessons. Also, he's a writer of children's books! Do you have The Art of Teaching Writing or The Art of Teaching Reading? Both by L. Calkins and OUTSTANDING. OK>>Keep reading!!! ;-D

Writing Workshop
Posted by: Julie/IN

I love Writing Workshop. I've had so many successes with it this year. The three main components of a good writing workshop are a brief mini lesson, student writing time and finally share chair. I organize my writing workshop with binders. Each child has a binder with their digital picture printed off and slipped into the plastic cover at the front. The binders are divided into 5 sections: narratives, expository, book responses, letters, and poems. They add more pages when they need them. Then I have a list of steps for Publishing:

1. Think of an idea
2. Write your story
3. Read your story
4. Read your story to a partner
5. Revise your story. Add details.
6. Edit your story (They come to a table where we have red pens and they use the editor's checklist. They can circle 5 words that they would like help with.)
7. Ask for a conference (They put a clothespin with their name on a sign requesting a conference.)
8. Publish your story (I have another binder--I love binders!--with stationary with borders around it. They can choose their stationary.

The children can only publish after they've written 5 pieces. And that number starts over each time they publish.

Lucy Calkins is an author who's books you want to get your hands on. I'm reading The Art of Teaching Reading and The Art of Teaching Writing. I just go back and forth between the two. I was really into the Writing book but I'm going to a Guided Reading Workshop on Friday so I thought I should start Calkin's Art of Teaching Reading.

writer's workshop
Posted by: BookMuncher

The more I read, the more I find that as teachers, we expect kids to re-write and edit too often. As long as they understand the process of editing and can do it independently at some level, I think it's only necessary to edit their really good pieces. When I first started teaching, I kind of just followed along with what everyone else was doing. The pattern was brainstorm, graphic organizer, write, revise, edit, publish, repeat. The kids were such robots!

Now, I break down skills that I want my kids to know (ex: things like writing a satisfying ending or grabbing beginning, using appropriate description, or how to use quotations). Then, I spend about a week or so doing short minilessons that include modeling and reading excellent literature that uses that particular element. In the meantime, they just write. Everyone writes about pretty much whatever they want (or sometimes they write within a certain genre-- narrative, informational, persuasive) I find that if I praise the use of the elements I've taught in one or two kids, it almost ALWAYS transfers to everyone else's writing at some time in some form. It's so much better than asking everyone to try something they are not ready for.

One way that I encourage the use of these newly introduced elements, is that each day, one child writes on a large piece of chart paper instead of using regular writing paper. (If they are in the middle of something else, for that day, they start something new for the big writing). We begin the next day looking at that child's writing. Before we meet, I look at it, and try to pick out at least two praises. I highlight them in front of the kids, and talk about what makes them so great. I also try to find at least one "push". The child, or I, edits the writing with the help of the class. Then, we keep the charts handy to refer back to.

I never liked how I taught writing, but now that I've settled into a more responsive way of teaching it, I'm loving it and the kids are soaring.

View Thread
writer's workshop
Posted by: Lise

I think letting the students choose the topic works best, although sometimes I give a topic when we're doing a particular theme or book. I still struggle with writing workshop after 14 years! It's so difficult to get to every student and feel like I'm spending enough time with them. I just started reading a book put out by Scholastic called The Reading-Writing Workshop:Getting Started. I like it so far and plan on reading more of it. Maybe you can give it a try.

writing workshop
Posted by: Debbie

Hi Kat,
I LOVE WRITING WORKSHOP! I make sure that my actual mini-lesson is no longer than 10-15 minutes tops, or you loose them. I select the lesson according to what I see their needs are. In the beginning of launching it, I use large manila folders and have the children illustrate themselves. Then their writing pieces go into that folder. THEN, like at this point of the year, I ask for a 2 pocket horozontal folder. I use labels on each side. GREEN MEANS STOP, don't take my writing piece out, i'm not finished, and RED means OKAY, i'm ready to publish- or, I don't want to revisit this again. The book of all books is written by LUCY CAlKINS- WRiting and reading. She is WOW and I went to a workshop at Teachers College in NYC for a week and I was amazed! Try to get a hold of this book, and it will turn you around!- Depending on what you are teaching, and where your students are will help you decide what kind of mini-lesson you may choose to give. Keep the lesson itself short, have them go back and work with partners, and then come back to meeting area for a 'share'= they love it, they are authors and writers, and this just makes them shine
I hope this is of help- if you live in the area, leave me e-mail, I'd love to share what I do. I love it and do it by the way at least 3 mornings a week.

Writer's Workshop
Posted by: Judy

I am using Writer's Workshop in my classroom modeled after the format I saw Irene Fountas(co author of Guided Reading, Interactive Writing, and others)present at a workshop. There are many parts of it I like, but some aspects I feel need some refining. Maybe you can share some of your experiences with me.

When you have your students write, do you give them a variety of paper from which to choose? Do you use personal journals in your classroom? If so, how and where do they fit it? Are they used at another time of the day, or do the children use them during WW?

What do you do with those students that finish their writing before you are ready to begin Sharing?

Also, as a kindergarten teacher, did you use WW? I would really like to see our K teachers get involved in writing earlier in the year. They usually begin in mid-March to early April.

Thanks for your help.

Writing Workshop
Posted by: Glenda

We have been using AlphSmarts as a writing workshop tool this year in my first grade classroom. The students are able to "journal" without the risk of making a backwards, upside down letter that they can't remember and can write in the floor, upside down etc. With the AlphaSmart, they can find the letter and press it for the sound they need. And the "magic" space bar allows them to space their "words". It makes it easier for them to "read" back what they write. At the beginning of the year I allow them to choose journal buddies to write with. When they have completed their story, we plug it into the computer, they press the send button and we can print our multiple copies for them and me.
We also have writing folders and sometimes we write on lined paper instead of the AlphaSmart . We construct dictionaries at the beginning of the year with reading words. I've found thatthey are more willing to take risks with friends and when they are able to talk with each other as they write. After all Writing is written talk.

Writer's Workshop
Posted by: Carol

Writer's Workshop should be a separate piece from your Reading workshop program. You do a mini -lessons first 5 to 10 minutes, then give them 2 minutes of time to work in their notebooks then regroup for a share time.

Whatever the genre is you should spend 3 days reading books in that genre, then 3 days in notebooks, then 2 days dratfing, 3 days revising, a day to recopy and then publish. During revising your mini-lessons can be on grammar.Conferencing can takeplace during their independent time.

writer's workshop
Posted by: Mary Nanninga

Organization is key! Read Nancie Atwell's In the Middle. Her kids are a little older than yours, but the difference is not so great.

You also need to make kids accountable in Reader's Workshop for what they've accomplished every day. They need to write down how many pages they read today, their response to the reading (NOT a summary) and one interesting word they discovered in their reading today. You must either grade these, or let the kids think you'll be grading them.

Yes, you most certainly can do both, it's very doable and it's the very best way to teach language arts.

Good luck! It's the sign of a great teacher to want to stretch and try new things!

writing workshop
Posted by: Karen

I teach in WI. I agree with making writing "special". I made 3 prong folders to store "finished" writings for the year and made labels on my computer with their names and a writing oriented picture. I store them in a basket which the kids have access to. I find they treat/respect the attitude we bring to writing workshop if it's reflected in the materials and set up just like you have. I am combining ideas from In the Middle, Lessons that Change Writers (Atwell), & GRW for writing along with what seems to have worked for me. We have only had 2 days of school so far. I brought in my journal including a small one I keep in my purse for those ideas that hit any time, any place. We had gotten a donation of small pads of paper last year, so I gave each child one encouraging them to keep one as I do for ideas about writing territories. We have 3 subject spirals for language arts which all 5th grades follow, so I am using one section as a writers notebook right now. I am feeling more confident about this writers workshop approach this year, partly because we can get help here!!

writer's workshop
Posted by: Kellie

Hi, to answer your questions, I don't view w.w. so much as an area like a center, but as a time for woking on writing. As long as your students have a place to sit and write or can opt to use clip boards on the floor, you can set up materials in many ways. I usually have one large table in my room that is kidney shaped and seats six students. It doubles as my desk/work space so I have all my supplies and files nearby. Then during reading or writing times, I can easily pull my small groups or individuals for conferences, testing, etc. I kept their writing folders in a tub which they had access to and I could easily check to take notes and individualize my lessons for the next workshop. It is necessary for my class to have lots of print in the room for support (as we learn it) such as a word wall, special words, word family lists, etc. I also kept extra pencils, erasers, hole-punches, tape, yarn, a stapler, glue sticks, scissors, a scrap box, colored paper, stamps, stickers, and markers accessible for publishing or other work. After a few months into the year, I displayed the steps of the writing process which they got very good at following. I hope this helps.

Posted by: Mary

Consider implementing writer's workshop. It's really not hard at all to run, and it gives kids lots of choice. That helps them buy in more. Also, with WW, you are giving specific minilessons, in short conferences. What you teach depends on what the student demonstrates a need for. How to run WW is too involved for this response. Take the Writing Project for your state. They teach teachers how to do workshop by having the teachers participate in one. You get four hours of graduate credit for it, too. Well, you do in Colorado. I don't know about where you live.

A really good way to evaluate student writing is to use a good six-trait rubric. It should be a one-sided rubric, and should list advanced, proficient, partially proficient and unsatisfactory along the edge. Then, for each of the six traits, highlight each descriptor that is true. When you finish, you can see at a glance where a student is, on every single trait (advanced, proficient, etc.). This is also a visual that kids (and their parents) immediately understand. Highlighted areas in the top two (advanced and proficient) are good, and in the last two (partial and unsatisfactory), are not so good.

Next, have each kid set their own writing goal, based on the rubric (which you've explained and modeled). When you hand back the next paper, you can compare this rubric to the one before, and see where improvement has been made, or is still needed. The kids REALLY start to understand it now. Hopefully, they've seen themselves move up the rubric on one or more traits, because now they're setting another writing goal, for the next paper. This is when you'll hear kids say funny things like, "I improved in sentence fluency!"

Staple all of a kid's rubrics together at the end of the year and give them to the next grade. THAT'S some valuable information, and they really appreciate it, too.

The six-trait rubric is like a made-in-heaven complement to and tool for writer's workshop.

My last suggestion is to have the kids peer-revise. Just have them write what was good, and what needed work. Provide the form. It's two questions with lines for them to write on. Model, model, model how to do this, and grade them on the feedback they give a peer. They learn in a hurry that if they say everything was great, no suggestions, that they get a zero. Then they'll begin to actually read each other's work and help each other.

Well, you're probably about ready for me to stop now. :-) You asked for it.

Writer's Workshop
Posted by: Debbie

Hi all,
There have been many outstanding books published about writer's workshop...see the following authors for possibilities: Lucy McCormick Calkins, Nancie Atwell, Donald Murray, Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard, Jerome Harste, Regie Routmann, Fountas and Pinnell, among others...If you'd like specifics in set up and organization, try Guiding Readers and Writers GL 3-6, by Fountas and Pinnell.
Our Writer's Workshop begins with a minilesson..a read aloud, a modeled writing, a procedural lesson or whatever is needed by the majority of the group...This lasts for maybe 15 minutes, then the children move to quiet writing. While they write, I work with individuals or small groups to extend and support them as writers. Each child has a writer's notebook, in which the 'seeds' of writing (ideas, thoughts, etc.) are planted. They use their writer's notebook to select topics for writing. The entire writer's workshop usually lasts about an hour with minilesson, writing and a reflection time at the end. They aren't given prompts, but there are many minilessons on using their notebooks as 'lifebooks'. I do focus lessons on writing in different genre, and expect them to complete a piece or two (near or to publication) in that genre by quarter end, so they're exposed to different writing styles and possibilities. If you'd like specific titles, please post again or email. ;-D And no, many pieces are just drafts, so they never get to the editing stage.

intro to workshop
Posted by: Mary

Well, I'd take it in small minilessons. If you introduce everything at once (how to workshop, how to revise, how to share with a peer, how to edit, how to publish, how to choose a topic, how to narrow a topic), well, you can see how that is overwhelming both for you and the kids. My first minilessons would involve how to set up writer's notebook, then how to use a writer's notebook, then brainstorm all the genres in which kids can write, and put some fun stuff in there like menus (get examples from local restaurants--this is a great tool for word choice), then how to choose a topic, then I would model how to write a rough draft (both the writing of it, and the behavior that needs to be displayed--until we're peer revising, we work quietly and independently at our seat--this one is important--enforce it or they will drive you nuts), how to ask a partner for help with our piece, MODEL, MODEL, MODEL how to peer revise (and keep the form they use very simple). What you need to do, most especially with small kids, is take each part of the writing process and break it down into small, manageable minilessons in your planbook. Don't hurry through this, or they will not perform the way you are wanting them to. I personally think that you should build share time into almost every day. They can share with a partner, you can mix the partners up, and you could use an author's chair, in which they can share what they're doing with the whole class. Do not ever make anyone sit in the author's chair; in my opinion, that should be voluntary.

Good luck; writer's workshop is a lot of fun if you have the kids on-task. Mostly, you will learn as you go.

Writer's Workshop
Posted by: Laura H.

My writer's workshop consists of editing of:
1. small desktop 3 drawer organizer with one drawer full of green pens, one of red and one of black.
**All students revise in green (Ask for keep on going). Edit in red (poster on wall about center has editing marks and they use the editing checklist to go through their parnters for stop and fix) and Black pen for first drafts... this way they can't erase or important step to the writing process..

2. Each student has a yellow legal pad that is housed in a side-open poly-folder that ties shut. All of this was bought at Big Lots for about .47 a student!!!! ALL drafting, revising, editing and final drafts go in the legal pad (we use front/back). Notes are also taken about the particular genre we are writing about. So like for poetry, we take a page of notes on the different types of poems and then they write their poems on the next few pages. These folders are kept in a crate in the writing center.

3. I have about 7 dictionaries, 4 thesauruses (sp?), a rhyming dictionary and a few atlases.

4. small crate of perm. markers for labeling lost folders or legal pads

5. Small business card holder full of journal prompts for journal writing. I bought a cute notepad at Michael's. It is Mary Engelbrite (sp?) and it says "Once Upon a Time" on the top. Then I found journal prompt ideas online and glued them on the paper. Finally laminated them and house them in the business card holder.

6. I let my kids draw in their journals after they write, so I keep a large supply of markers, colored pencils, construction paper, glue, glitter, scissors, scrapbooking scissors, erasers, sharpeners, tape and typing paper. We do community supplies so each bin has an equal amount of supplies and they take the bin to their table. I keep the bins and paper on a small 3 shelf case I bought at Big Lots for $19.99! The dictionaries and stuff are on top of this shelf.

Ok so now that this is turning out to be a really long post...I think I will stop. If you have any questions, feel free to email


Writer's Workshop
Posted by: Jayne

I have been using Steve Dunn's Writer's Workshop in my classroom for three years. It is very successful. You begin by teaching children how to get ideas. You share stories from your childhood with them and have them share with each other. Have them list the topics they brainstorm. Show them how to use books and pictures to get good ideas. Teach them to share story ideas with each other and how they can check and make sure their story has all the important elements before they write it. This should take a week and children should have a topics list of at least ten stories at the end. Then train them how to do a storyboard. Take a week and start each session by modeling your own storyboard for them. Start with 3 or 4 squares depending on your grade level. Show students how you think through the story while you are drawing. The next week's training is on how to draft- have them skip lines when writing and circle any words they don't think look right or sound write to check later. Model using one of your own storyboards. The next week go over editing- red-green light ( circle capital at beginning of sentence in green and punctuation at end in red), rereading, checking for indentations etc. Lastly teach revision. Use your own stories as a model. This has been wonderfully successful for my students regardless of their ability level. Once the training is over you simply do a 15 minute focus lesson ( grammar) and then have them check in with you about where they are. Then they are on their own working at their own speed for 20 minutes during silent sustained writing. The next 20 minutes they may continue to work alone or collaborate with a friend. Use this time to work with small groups needing extra support. End the workshop with a sharing time.

Writer's Workshop (long)
Posted by: Mrs. L

It's my first year teaching, but I have been fortunate to have come to a school where they have just adopted a writing program. For the beginning of their writing, don't edit at all! Instead (now these are just suggestions), be their writing coach! Walk around with a clip board everyday (writing down what you dicussed)and get to as many kids as you can discussing their story and helping them to become better writers by telling them a good thing about their story, then instead of editing, talk to them about what else they could add (more detail in their picture, left out a word, add a describing word or two). After about 2 months of writing (maybe one), then start editing. But be in a different place (maybe call them back to a table). This way they know you are being the editor and not their coach. Editing kids writing all the time is more discouraging to kids than encouraging. Begin each writing period with a minilesson (10-15 min. MAX.) You're really telling them what they are going to be trying today. Look up sample minilessons online (puncuation, adding details, etc.) We've done this every morning of every school day since Sept. They love it! We do the finished side of their folders too. Just let them put as many over there for a while as they "finish". Every month or so, meet with them and have them pick out two of their favorites for their portfolio (to show parents either at conferences or for the end of the year) then you pick our your favorite too! Then, about once a month kids will pick a story they want to edit and publish on the computer (we have a storybook program). Look around for expired wallpaper books (Home Depot, or any home furnishing store) for the covers. Have parents take books home and cut out the size you want. Then have them bound with that spiral binding that you like (that's what I do too). It's fun!! The main goal is that they are enjoying thier writing and trying new things everyday.