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Success In Writer's Workshop

Have you been wondering how to be successful in Writer's Workshop? Or what should YOU as a teacher be doing to help your writers be successful and grow as writers? Today I am starting a Mini Series of Posts to Help YOU get started and feel successful in Writer's Workshop. Teaching writing to elementary students is one of my favorite subjects. Through my years of working with students in grades 2-5 in Gifted and Talented, SPED, ESL, and being a Dyslexia Specialist I have gathered and created tools that have helped me become a better writing teacher...and today I want to share some tips with you!
Before you even teach writing you need to create a plan for what your ultimate goal is. Are you wanting your students to learn how to write: Narrative, Expository, Opinion Writing, etc... You also need to prepare all your materials prior to starting Writer's Workshop. I am going to walk you through a few of the things I do and then we will review.

Students will set up writing notebook [my Writing Interactive Notebook has exactly what I use]
I want my students to be able to create a bank of ideas in their writing notebook. [we use our heart map and other organizers to create this]
Students need to understand the different writing genres [narrative, expository, creative writing...]
I want my students to be able to write strong introduction paragraphs, and focus on a SMALL MOMENT Idea! I will get to that soon in this series. 
Set up Writer's Workshop Anchor Charts [I create mine ahead of time and allow students to help me complete them as we meet in our large groups and mini groups]
Set up my Writers Notebook to have an example to show students as we begin. [I set up cover, title pages, heart map, and a few organizers]. I MODEL in my notebook as we work on different elements of the writing workshop---- I will get to this...
Gather Mentor Texts to use to demonstrate different elements example: Introductions: Owl Moon by: Jane Yolan is one of my favorites. Also, Brave Margaret by: Robert De San Souci
In the perfect ideal world I would have 2 hours a day to teach writing, however realistically I was given 55 minutes each day for writing. So this is how my time went. Of course you would modify your schedule and time to meet your time frame and students needs.
Time Frame:
5 minutes: Read paragraph- a few pages from Mentor Text(s) to introduce skill focus.
15-20 minutes: MODEL, discuss, and MODEL what you are wanting students to learn in large group setting
2-3 minutes: questions and review to dismiss to groups to begin practicing skill.
30 minutes: students begin working on concept, teacher monitoring pulling groups needing extra support. At the beginning students will need lots of support of how to manage their writing. Teacher needs to be constantly monitoring in order to assist students. I usually carry my monitoring notebook to jot notes on where students are needing more support. This monitoring helps me in grouping students later on for guided writing groups.
Of course, this is a model I follow in starting Writing Instruction that has worked for me! It may not work for you and your students. My goal is to give you tips you may be able to use and modify to work for your students. 
⚫I always begin my Writing Instruction/ Writer's Workshop with reading a mentor text that I feel is strong in the area we are focusing on. I have created many mentor lessons that help me create this. I share them with you to use. My favorites are picture books that are quick and easy to pop open and use. However, I have used many novels to demonstrate strong writing skills to my students. This should be purposeful and short. You should be able to demonstrate the objective beforehand and then afterwords you have a TURN and TALK to monitor whether they understand. Teacher monitors discussions.
⚫Teacher then begins modeling what she is looking for students to learn. I typically use anchor charts to model. So today we will focus on choosing small moment idea and sketching out. I give students the prompt we are focusing on. I model how I would JOT LIST and choose my idea to focus on through my choices. When modeling I show them how to timeline ideas on my anchor chart. I also circle the most important idea- Main Idea or HEART of story. This is what helps the students understand what their story will focus around. 

⚫Students then return to seat and begin jot listing several ideas they could use to write on the prompt given. After they choose one, they begin time lining their ideas on the timeline and circling their Main Idea of their timeline. I create this template for students to use in their writing notebooks. It is part of my Writing Interactive Notebook that I use throughout the year with my students.
⚫I am constantly monitoring and discussing with students what they are jot listing and timelining, helping students needing that extra support.
⚫Next, I bring students down and demonstrate how to sketch out their planning before we are to move onto the introductions and drafts of our story. Sketching, is where students will visually draw out their scenes to their story using their timelines. This is important because it allows students to think through their Small Moment Story and the details they want to include in their writing. After I create this on the anchor chart I will allow students to go back to their seats to create their sketches for their First Scene or their Introduction to their story.
⚫While students work on their Scene 1 sketch I will monitor and assist students.

At this point we are usually out of writing instruction time. I bring students down to turn and talk about something they noticed, learned, or were confused about in today's lesson. Tomorrow, we will TALK OUT our scene and begin our next scenes. I will also get to Drafting our First Paragraph which is our Hook/ Strong Leads. So stay tuned to Part 2 of Success in Writer's Workshop!

Here is a preview of my complete Interactive Writing Notebook.


  1. Thanks for doing this!!! Writers Workshop is new at my school, and we need all the help we can get!!!

  2. Thanks so much Cassi! I am hoping this helps many teachers, blessings!


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