Monday, April 8, 2013

Writer's Workshop

As I scrolled through my blog reel today I came across Rachelle Smith's blog "What the Teacher Wants". Everyone knows her! She's amazing. I absolutely love her. Her Holidays Around the World is one of my favorite units. Ok, back to the point of this post. She wrote about her writing conferences and I thought, "ya know, I'm going to write about my writer's workshop too!" It's one of my favorite times of the day!

My district has taken on the workshop model for all of our main subjects; reading, writing, and math. The workshop model is divided into 3 parts: mini lesson, independent learning, and sharing. So my writer's workshop is just that. 15 mini lesson, 30 minutes of independent writing, and 5 minutes of sharing. The 5 minutes of sharing normally is tacked onto the last 5 minutes of the 30 minutes of writing. Sometimes there's just not enough time in the day!

Our mini lessons are pulled from my districts scope and sequence and we also pull alot from Lucy Calkins. If you don't know who she is, google her! Her books are amazing. They are completely scripted for you and the kids seem to love those lessons.

After the mini lesson, I dismiss the students back to their desk for independent writing time. It is completely silent during this time. You may ask, "how do you keep them silent the whole time?" My answer is PRACTICE! We had to start with smaller chunks of writing time and more sharing time. It took till probably Christmas before they were ready to go the full 25-30 minutes. I had to introduce what they can write, where to get their supplies, etc. I will save all of that for another blog post.

I meet with 5 students daily at my round table. They know their day and immediately get their supplies and come to my table. I rotate between students helping them with their stories. I use the following recording sheet to keep track of my students progress. Click the link to take you google docs.

For sharing time, I use three questions that the writer says after they share their story to get the students listening involved. This way the "chatter" will stay down because everyone is involved; the reader and listeners. The idea comes for Lucy Calkins.

The questions are:
1. What do you remember about my story?
2. Do you have any questions about my story?
3. Do my story remind you of anything?

These questions open up so much dialogue! The one who is sharing also knows to ask "could you write a story about that?" after the "do you have any connections to my story?" That way the asker now has an idea for a new story. It's some powerful stuff!

Here are the posters in PDF form. They are from the amazing Amy Lemons. Click here to check out her blog post on her writer's workshop.

I hope you enjoyed how writer's workshop works in my room. How do you do writing in your classroom?


  1. Thanks so much for sharing. Our district adopted Lucy Caulkins as our main source of teaching writing. I followed it pretty well the first part of the year, but completly threw it out after that. I struggle with conferencing and this gives me a MUCH better idea of how to go about it. One question: do you pull them back to your table randomly, or are most of them on the same writing "level"?

    For the Love of First Grade

    1. great question! At the beginning of the year when I assigned their writing conference day, I did not ability group them. I don't like pulling all of the same ability group at one time and this is why. If I meet with all of my low babies at one time, my head is going to hurt!! My low ones need me the most during that time. So if I have all 5 low ones, they will all be needing my attention. So by having a mix of high, medium, and low, I can get my high kids started and check back in with them at the end, check in with my medium kids a few times, but be constantly working with my low kids. It has been the best way to do it for me.

      Keep up the good work! It'll get easier, I promise. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to through some of Lucy's books out the window at one time or another :)

  2. I HEART Lucy Calkins! I have taught with her writing workshop units for 3 years. I know the mini-lessons by heart now! HA! As for the posters, check our Amy Lemon's blog. They may be from here. They resemble some of her earlier freebies! Just a thought! I hadn't seen them before. :)

    1. you were right! Thanks! I gave credit to Miss Amy!

  3. I love the three questions for sharing!!!! We just received her grade level units of study (Calkins) and are diving in! So exciting!! Thanks so much for linking up!!

  4. Do you have a year plan outlining your first grade mini lessons? I was just singing Lucy Calkins praises with a colleague, but have been using it for grade 2 and would like to give her something tangible for grade 1.


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