Setting up your Writer’s Workshop for the first time takes plenty of patience and reflection, don’t you think? Some of you have taught using Writer’s Workshop for years and I’d love for you to share your most important tip. Others are just getting going and trying to set up and teach Writer’s Workshop because you heard it was a great and effective way to teach writing. Either way, welcome to my 2nd in a series of Writer’s Workshop posts designed to be a step-by-step guide to helping you to run a Writer’s Workshop in your classroom. Today we are going to talk about 3 important things you need to consider as you set up your Writer’s Workshop.
There are some important things to consider when setting up your Writer’s Workshop.
(While I usually don’t write about political things here, I must say that our teachers in BC are currently on strike so I am having to share pictures again from my last year’s Writing center. Fingers are crossed we will be back in the classroom soon so my apologies to those of you that have seen these pictures before.)
I like to have a big space for my writing center as I want kids to see it as a hub of activity. In my classroom, after I have established routines and expectations for the first month of school, students may choose to write in other places in the room other than their tables. Here is a shot of my writing center at the very beginning of the year when I hadn’t put my word wall up fully yet.
ROUTINES AND EXPECTATIONS
As you may have seen last week, my writing instruction schedule allows me to teach writing in a variety of different ways and using a variety of different materials, processes and strategies. I try to gage my teaching based on the needs of my classroom. Of course at this time of year, I must outline my routines and expectations with my students first. Over the years, I realized that students can be focussed and engaged even while laying around the room with a partner doing some writing as long as expectations are CLEARLY set out at the beginning of the year. Do you allow your students to write in other areas of the classroom and not necessarily in their desks?
I always start the year with the expectation that students write in their own desks. I always give lots of opportunity to talk out the writing assignment or ideas first with the person beside them or even as part of a partner walk and talk. Once we have brainstormed and/or discussed the lesson fully, I expect students to be writing on their own. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t talk! I want them to be able to continue to discuss spelling, ideas etc. I just don’t want them to see writing time as a time to sit around and chat. After our lesson or mini lesson and discussions, I usually say something like: “Okay, you’ve had your chance to talk and share ideas, now it’s time to start your writing.”
If you know me by now, you know that I spend a great deal of time teaching mindfulness and self awareness. I do this for many reasons (class management, social skills to name a couple) but I also love the “spill over” effect during writing time. Students begin to assess themselves as their awareness of their learning grows. They know whether they need peace and quiet or a little chatter and the ability to bounce ideas off of one another. That is why I tell my students early on that if they need some “privacy” they can either get themselves a “privacy folder” or they may move to another part of the room like the writing center to write. Keep in mind that I usually say this on the down low so that only students that need to go there. Then, when I am ready to open up and let students choose places to write around the room and partners they can work with, they already know that you go there to work quietly. When I say quietly, I mean a nice writing mumble is going on through the room.
What am I doing while students are writing? I am facilitating the process, spending time with individual students in an impromptu conference so that I can get to know students and assess where they need to go next in their writing development. That will be the topic of my blog post next Sunday: What is the teacher doing while the students are writing?
I hope to see you next week!