Writer’s Workshop is a fantastic structure that you can put in place in your 2nd or 3rd-grade classroom to help you teach writing and to help students learn how to write. While it’s important that your students be taught explicit writing skills in order to move them forward in their writing development, It is equally important to create an environment to help them LOVE writing! Using a step-by-step writing unit will help your students scaffold learning to become confident writers.
Warming Up to Writing
Starting a writer’s workshop without front-loading a bit of curiosity provoking and wonder may interest many of your students, however, it may not grab them all. We have all seen the students that we might refer to as “reluctant writers”. Those students can be tough to read. Why don’t they like writing? Another common sight is the students that plow through their writing and are either very proud of their work or ask you “Is this good enough?” (My most dreaded question.) Sometimes the kids that are proud of their work just need a little support with revision or editing, other times, there is so much writing but not a lot of thought was put into the process.
2nd and 3rd-grade writers need a strong introduction to writing before they can dive deep into the lessons, therefore, the first step in setting up your writer’s workshop lessons should be to finding out who your writers are and what they like or don’t like about writing. I created an entire writing unit curriculum that begins right there.
Skill-based and Joyful
This writing unit curriculum aims to hook your writers from day one. It is aligned to CCSS and the Write Traits. You will find that it aligns with many state and province curricula as well due to the wide range of concepts and skills covered.
In order to help you determine your students’ thoughts and mindset around writing, you can begin with a survey on writing that is included in Unit 1 Beginning a Writing Program unit. This survey and an accompanying writing sample that is included in the set will help you to determine your class of writers and their needs.
Using these mentor texts and the lessons for each book will help your students learn that writing is personal and that everyone can write! Sometimes, writing is all about drawing and sharing the story behind the pictures.
Setting Up Writer’s Workshop
- Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk
- Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon
- The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli
- Chester’s Masterpiece by Melanie Watts
It’s really not as difficult to set up a writer’s workshop as you may think.
I have created a FREE Launching Writer’s Workshop resource to help you do just that! There are teacher notes on the process and a PowerPoint for you to use to introduce Writer’s Workshop to your class and also includes some blackline masters for student use.
Once it is set up and the framework is understood, teaching the lessons that are already written in a step-by-step format in the Writers Workshop Year Long Curriculum is a breeze. Just bring your enthusiasm!
Your second and third graders will learn what a sentence is and how to write a great sentence with the Unit 2 Sentence Building unit. Keep in mind that all units can be used as stand-alone units. If you have already taught sentence writing, you can move on to the next unit in the series. You can also use a unit to enhance what you are already doing or to give your students a boost. If you use the whole set, one unit after the other, the learning is scaffolded in a very organized fashion.
Write Trait focus: IDEAS
For unit 1, you will use the following mentor texts:
- by Tad Hills
- by Roni Schotter
- by Robin Pulver
- by Joan Holub
What Teachers are Saying
The following is just a sample of the feedback that this unit and the other units have received.
This resource promised to engage reluctant writers and it did just that. Also, I LOVE the mentor texts! This bundle is like taking a master class in teaching writing!
This is a really comprehensive product! I love how you added mentor texts, which will help my students make strong connections. Thank you!
My students are loving this unit. I bought this on Sunday and started to teach with it Monday. It is all ready to go. I even found the books at my local library as e-books and am projecting them on the Smartboard for all to see. Great resource!
This was such a great resource! The lessons are engaging and follow a really clear path to a finished product. I love these writing units- they’re age-appropriate and are written in a way where skills are broken down so that kids aren’t overwhelmed. Thank you!!
It’s important to teach your students both fiction and non-fiction writing throughout the year and not as a separate full unit. I used to start with story writing at the beginning of the year thinking it was easier. It was easier for some kids but to others, it wasn’t. Then I decided to switch it up and teach non-fiction first so that I could focus on having students make more real connections to their own lives and also give them choice about what they wanted to write about. Students varied in who found which kind of writing “easier” or more pleasant to write. The real “AH-HA” was when I intertwined the writing and taught fiction and non-fiction together, off and on, throughout the whole year. I was able to interest and engage the whole class in one way or another!
Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, students need to understand how to organize their writing so that it makes sense to the reader. The Unit 3 Research unit helps you to teach for organization. Students will be writing small research reports and also some fiction.
The unit starts with looking at what organization is in the real world: ie. a clean kitchen, a clean room with real photos and then connects this to organization in writing. (We always want real-world connections, don’t we?)
Write Trait focus: Organization
Skill Focus: Elements of Good Writing: Beginning, middle end, Introduction, Body, Conclusion
The mentor texts used in this used are:
- by Nina Laden
- by Elizabeth Carney (National Geographic)
- by Chris Gall
- by Janell Cannon
Students will have fun comparing cats and dogs and looking at fiction and non-fiction on the very same topics. As with many of my other teaching resources, there is always an element of social and emotional learning (SEL) and the reason I choose certain books. Stellaluna and Roberto the Insect Architect were chosen for those reasons.
The Unit 4 topic for writing is narratives. Students will look at memoirs and stories based on personal experiences like Chris Hatfield’s The Darkest Dark and develop their own understanding of writing narratives.
- The following mentor texts are used throughout the unit:
- by Devin Scillion
- by Alan Zweibel
- by Stephanie Innes
- by Chris Hadfield
Write Trait focus: Sentence Fluency
These are perfect books to not only help students understand narratives but also to showcase the power of writing a variety of different kinds of sentences. Sometimes short sentences are impactful. Other times, longer sentences are necessary.
The Unit 5 unit is all about procedural writing. Students will learn to write “how-to” pieces. While this seems like an easy thing to do, it really needs to be modelled and broken down into steps. The lessons in this unit show you how to do this quite easily.
Write Trait focus: Organization
Skill Focus: paragraph writing
You will be using the following mentor texts:
- by Mary Jane and Herm Auch
- by Jules Feiffer
- by Devin Scillion
- by Lori Evert
These books go deeper into different writing styles and strategies as well as choosing different words for effect. Students are taken step by step into a simple paragraph writing lesson. Second grade can be young for paragraph writing but in my experience, many are beginning to learn this as they get more and more experience with daily writing through the use of this curriculum. By 3rd grade, students are feeling much more comfortable with learning to develop a paragraph. Part of the reason why is due to the incremental focus on skills from the beginning of the year onwards.
Any good writing program must include the use of quality children’s literature (mentor texts). This is how children learn about what it is about writing or a book or text that they find interesting. There are many different kinds of texts that students should be reading and writing but for this unit, let us just look at the power of Author Studies. That is the topic of the unit 6 set of this writing unit.
You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned grammar skills or conventions. These are very important aspects of learning to write, however, it is much more effective to include these things as part of your teaching rather than as isolated lessons. Jeff Anderson (the original mentor sentences author) has stated that teaching students grammar starts with these mentor texts. Let’s have students look at the positive aspects of writing and then emulate them in their own writing.
- by Robert Munsch
- by Melanie Watt
- by Kevin Henkes
- by Cynthia Rylant
This is where author studies come in. This unit focuses on 4 authors and looks at their biography and their books. Students get to learn about who the authors are and what stands out in their writing. Students can identify what trait they think each author is strong in.
Write Trait focus: Word Choice (Students are also introduced to “voice” in writing and what it is.)
Narrative Writing: The Writing Process
Unit 7 is all about the writing process! Students will be putting everything they know about story elements, word choice, writing sentences and paragraphs to practice. Students will learn to write great hooks, rich middles and powerful endings. They will put it all together and then take a look at their writing with a revising eye.
It is my belief that students need not all be in the same place of the writing cycle at the same time. Some students may still be writing while others are editing with a peer. The whole point is that it is a process and the focus is on that: process. Throughout most of the year, the final product is not the destination.
You will need:
- I by Jo Witek
- by Mo Willems
- by Matthew McElligott
- by Rachel McBright
You will love these books! The Story of Diva and Flea is priceless. It is a short novel perfect for 2nd and 3rd graders.
Write trait focus: Voice (Students will use what they learned to add voice to their work. If you don’t have the previous unit, this one will fill in the gaps by using voice.)
In Unit 8, (or any other time you need this), students will learn about opinion writing. It will be important to practice voice as that is what comes out when you are sharing your opinion. Students can learn that voice in opinion doesn’t mean raising their voice (!) but that how they choose words and expressions to write influences the reader or listener more than a raise in actual voice.
You will need:
- by Phillip Hoose
- by Margie Pilantini
- by the Fan Brothers
- by Pamela Zagarenski
Write Trait focus: conventions, editing and revising
Students will engage with the books (that also have an SEL theme) and practice different opinion writing tasks. Students will give their opinion on the Perfect Pet and then conduct surveys throughout the class.
These writers’ workshop units are active. Students are encouraged to talk, move around and engage with the teacher and others in order to learn and grow their ideas and their own writing skills. Books are purposely chosen based on the time of year and/or the link to the focus skills.
While this poetry unit is part of Unit 9 of the writer’s workshop due to Poetry Month, it is my firm belief that poetry should happen all year long. Not only is poetry a powerful tool in learning to read, but kids also LOVE IT!
I am also a big believer in learning about and protecting the environment all year. April just also happens to be the month we find Earth Day. In order to be able to have a rich learning experience, I often integrate subjects. This month, students will be learning about poetry writing and the overriding theme of the unit is the environment. How great that students can be putting their heart, soul and passion into writing and learning poetry through the thoughtful lens of protecting the Earth. Talk about working smarter not harder and having a big impact!
You will need access to these fantastic books:
- by Alison Inches
- by Linda Glaser
- by Helen Kirk (National Geographic)
- by Mary McKenna Siddals
Write Trait focus: Sentence Fluency
Skill focus: oral language
Your students will enjoy learning all about different kinds of poetry. They will also follow the journey of the plastic bottle as it gets recycled. A human footprint is an important concept in the environment and students will learn what it is and write about their own footprint as it relates to the environment. As students learn about composting through the poetic verse of Mary McKenna Siddals, they will also write Haiku poems about worms!
Publishing and Presentation In Writer’s Workshop
Probably one of the most underrated aspects of learning to write is the celebrated world of presentation and publishing. You might not realize that you need this unit but wow what an impact this has on my little writers!
Whether you have used any other units in this Writing Unit set or not, you can use this unit to amplify your little writers’ voices.
We learn to write so we can communicate, express ourselves, and create. Therefore, this unit will explore all of these aspects as a way to celebrate writing. Students will learn all about different kinds of communication. They will use a maker space to create and generate writing ideas and they will write and present their final product.
Pre and post-assessments done by the student, their peers and the teacher are included.
All Students Can Learn to Write
No matter what the challenges are, all students can learn to write. Remember, “writing” does not always involve a pencil. Adaptations can be made for students that experience the physical difficulty of writing or those that struggle with coming up with ideas or any other challenge. With the right mindset, everyone can be successful. I’ve written about this before here. If you have any questions or comments, please ask them in the comments section or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find the year-long writer’s workshop and writing curriculum by clicking on this image.