Traditionally we think about writing workshop procedures at the beginning of the school year. We set the routines, organize the procedures, and launch writing workshop. I’m thinking, though, around this time of year, it might be a good idea to evaluate procedures. By this point in the school year, the writers in our classrooms have grown and their needs are changing. As spring fills the air, it is often necessary to buckle down and be even more tenacious in our work. It’s easy to be distracted with spring break so close and the sun streaming in the windows.

Sometime soon, take a moment to “zoom out” and watch students during work time. Ask yourself:

  • How are students empowered to work as writers?
  • Is the movement productive?
  • Does it sound productive? Why/Why not?
  • Do students have everything they need to work efficiently?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and change ONE thing, what would it be? List the procedures necessary to facilitate this change.

Conferring is the heart of workshop and taking the time to do this kind of observation and formative assessment of your procedures will take time away from conferring. However, in the long run, it will make future conferring time more effective. Without strong procedures and solid routines, workshop is doomed to fail.