Unit Three: Writing Workshop




Students will be able to reflect on their own writing experiences.

Students will be able to understand the basic steps of developing their own Writer's Workshop in their classroom

Students will be able to understand why Writer's Workshop constitutes as authentic assessment.

Students will be able to create a mini-lesson to begin Writer's Workshop in his/her classroom.

Students will be able to use the process of Writer's Workshop in relation to the state assessment.

Record your thoughts regarding the writing experiences you had in elementary, middle, and high school. What was your favorite writing experience? Your most hated writing experience? What are the feelings that you have attached to your writing experiences? What do you believe this is attributed to? How does this affect you in regards to your life today?

Grey arrow.gif One of the most important life skills is the ability to write. Unfortunately, because of the focus on standardized testing in math, reading, and formulaic writing, many students have been turned off to these important real world skills. By introducing strategies into the classroom that not only teach students, but also encourage and intrigue them, we can have more successful classrooms. One such strategy is the Writer's Workshop.

Grey arrow.gif What is Writer's Workshop? In Writer’s Workshop classrooms, full class lessons are short and tightly focused on practical real-world issues. As in professional writing workshops, emphasis is placed on sharing work with the class, on peer conferencing and editing, and on the collection of a wide variety of work in a writing folder, and eventually in a portfolio.

Grey arrow.gifBuilding a Writer's Workshop in the classroom takes time. Students shouldn't spend most of their time learning to write, but they should be actively writing most of the time.

1. Mini-Lessons:

As stated previously, students shouldn't be spending most of their time learning to write, but there does need to be some instruction. This could be where an issue in writing can be explored, the teacher can voice a concern he/she has noticed, show the students a technique, or reinforce a strategy already covered. Mini-lessons should not last any longer than 10 minutes.

"When the mini-lesson is about something every writer needs to do often, such as rereading one's work or keeping an image of one's topic in mind the mini-lesson may end with the teacher suggesting that each writer spend some time that day doing a particular thing. Often, the teacher introduces a strategy that may go onto a class chart or into student notebooks for future reference" (Calkins, 1994, p. 189).

Some mini-lessons might include, but are certainly not limited to:

Star.gif Great beginnings

Star.gif "Wow" endings

Star.gif Adding details/development

Star.gif Word choice/descriptive language

Star.gif Finding your voice

Star.gif Proof-reading and editing

Star.gif Developing a plan for writing

Star.gif Fragment/run-on sentences

Star.gif Appropriate grammar

2. Independent writing time:

Encourage students to keep a Writer's Notebook. A Writer's Notebook gives the student an easy, informal, no-pressure way to start thinking about a topic. This might range from their own poetry to poems they enjoy written by someone else, a likes/dislikes chart, works in progress, song lyrics, dreams, feelings and emotions, events, memories, quotes from TV, books and movies, news stories, family stories, things we wonder about, or celebrations. The possibilities are endless.

Writing should last for a total of 35-40 minutes

All entries do not become published pieces of writing

Published writing will be added to the student's Writing Portfolio

3. Conferencing:

Often times, during the independent writing time, the teacher will conference with the students. Conferencing is very important for the teacher to do because it shows the progress the student's are making and also helps to plan future mini-lessons.

Some benefits of conferencing:

Star.gif Teacher can help students decide what they want to say

Star.gif Provide feedback

Star.gif Re-teach skills taught during mini lessons

Star.gif Teach new skills

Star.gif Reinforce strengths

Star.gif Show new ways of thinking

Star.gif Encourage students to go back, revisit, and revise.

Star.gif Question the direction of writing.

Peer conferencing is also very beneficial. Gathering students in small groups of four or five students, allows for a different type of sounding board. In these small groups, the students may discuss what they wrote about, read relevant parts aloud, and answers questions the group members might have. (Calkins, 1994, p. 190)

Questions for feedback:

Star.gif What problems have you encountered while writing this?

Star.gif When you read over your text, how do you feel about it?

Star.gif What are you planning to do next?

Star.gifWhat kind of writing are you trying to do?

4. Sharing:

Being able to share a piece of writing allows a student to celebrate the fact they are writers! This process should only be about 5-10 minutes and it is a time for reflection. Feedback is welcome during this time from both the teacher and the student. It is not necessary for each student to share every day, but if a particular skill was taught that day, students should be encouraged to share a small part of their entry that exemplifies this new skill.


1. Explain how Writer's Workshop sets up the idea of authentic assessment. What is the difference between teaching students to write through Writer's Workshop and the way you learned to write? What advantages does Writer's Workshop provide? Record your thoughts.

2. Design a mini-lesson for a Writer's Workshop in your classroom. Remember this should only be 5-10 minutes. What do you want your students to learn? Record your thoughts.

3. Reflect on how Writer's Workshop might support your quest to achieve success with your students on the state assessment.

On to the next unit: Unit Four

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