Writers' Workshop

Content

Writers' Workshop is a program that is used to teach the writing process.

Time is scheduled daily for writers’ workshop to provide opportunities for students to pre-write/brainstorm, write drafts, revise, edit and proofread, and publish/perform pieces that they choose to share with an audience (peers, parents, students from other classes, virtually, etc.)
 
An example of how the centres/stations for writers’ workshop can be set-up is below. 

Some students prefer to write independently while others will work with a partner to get feedback.  In writers’ workshop, students may choose to take some pieces through the process to publication, but may not finish each piece.  A student may even be working on more than one piece at a time.  The idea is to get students writing. 

Establishing a writers’ workshop program in the classroom takes a great deal of planning and organizing.  Because each student is working at her/his own pace, students will be at different stages of the writing process during the same class.  One way to track the students’ progress is to use a “Status of the Class Chart” like the one below:

Status of the Class Chart

Name

Nov. 14

Nov. 15

Nov. 16

Nov. 17

Lindsay

5,6

7

7

8

Bashir

3

3,4

3,4

4

Ben

1,2

2

2,4

5,6

Caitlyn

4

4

4,5

5,6

Jamie

8,9

9

1

2

Jeff

7

8

8

9,1

1= invent; 2=draft; 3=confer; 4=proof; 5=peer; 6=revise; 7=edit; 8=print; 9=publish

In addition to monitoring the students’ progress, the teacher is available to conference with individual students and to work with them in developing specific writing skills.  Proficient writers use a variety of strategies as shown in the chart below.

Strategy

 Explanation

 Sample Activities

Tapping prior knowledge

think about what they already know about the topic about which they will write

Brainstorm
Draw Pictures
Talk with Classmates

Organizing Ideas

group and sequence ideas before writing

Cluster ideas
Data Charts
Outline

Visualizing

use description and sensory details to make their writing more vivid

Add sensory words
Write dialogue
Use metaphors and similes

Summarizing

write main ideas or events

Notes, journal entries

Make connections

Recall similar experiences, texts

Brainstorm
Write ‘Pattern’ books

Revising Meaning

Add words/sentences, make substitutions, move text around

Reread, revise
Participate in writing group

Monitoring

Coordinate writing activities, ask questions

Re-read
Ask self-questions

Playing with language

Incorporate figurative and novel uses of language

Metaphors and similes
Idioms
Alliteration

Generalizing

Main ideas and details

Topic sentences
Conclusions

Evaluating

Make judgments about, reflect on and value their writing

Self-assessment
Rubrics
Reflections

 

As teachers monitor their students’ work and conference with them, they determine what skills and understandings need to be developed.  They then plan mini-lessons that serve to introduce new skills, strategies and information that help their students grow as writers.  Mini-lessons typically take approximately 5-10 minutes and provide an opportunity to bring everyone together to focus attention on one specific topic. 

According to Nancie Atwell (1998), “mini-lessons are the ritual that bring us together as a community of writers and readers at the start of each workshop, when we come in from the rest of our lives – from lunch or science or the bus-stop – and put on the cloaks of writers and readers” (p. xxxx).
Mini-lessons generally focus around one of the following:

  • Procedural Issues
  • Literary Craft
  • Conventions
  • Reading

Topics for Mini-lessons

  • Writing Workshop Procedures (writing rough drafts, participating in writing groups, conferencing, parts of a book, using folders, making and binding books, using the dictionary, using word processing programs, making revisions, conventions)
  • Literary Concepts (Beginning-Middle-End, Story mapping, Plot, Characters, Setting, Theme, Point of View, Information about Author & Illustrator, Metaphors and Similes, Personification, Onomatopoeia, Alliteration, Repetition, Wordplay)

Further reading:
http://www.saskschools.ca/curr_content/bestpractice/writer/index.html