guest blogger · primary grades · writing workshop

What Would They Say?

I had a moment.

It was when my superintendent visited my classroom and asked my first graders, “What is your favorite part of the day?” I waited for the anticipated answers like recess, gym, lunch. Then she called on a student who had a lot of challenges to overcome. As I held my breath she answered, “writing workshop,” with a happy grin on her face.

My heart melted (exhale).

It was in this moment that I knew the constant changes and challenges due to the needs of our students are all worth it in the workshop. I wondered, what does workshop mean to my students? What would they say?

So, I asked. These were some of the answers I received and I gained a lot of information.

  • “I like to write stories.” (T)
  • “I get to make books.” (G)
  • “It’s all about writing and you make your own stories and it’s about true stories and it is about you.” (L)
  • “I like to draw about my sisters and tomorrow. I’m going to write about me and Jack playing. I just love to write. I write at home.” (M)
  • “I get to write pictures. At home I never get to. We don’t have paper.” (J)

That last one really got to me. He doesn’t have paper?

I looped with kindergarten students up to first grade this year but J is new to my class and very bright. He doesn’t “like” much of anything at school. He would rather “play” as most six year-olds would say. But his answer was interesting to me. He said, “I get to” when talking about writing. It helped me to remember that each and every one of my students is coming with various experiences, but in order to find their writing voice they need time to blossom. Just as I have learned about my own writing, I didn’t know I had a writing voice until about three years ago, and I’m thirty years older than J. It was only after putting myself in the position of being a writer that I knew I was, “a writer.”

J will bloom into a writer this year. I will tend to his leaves in my classroom and give him plenty of water, sun and love.

What would your students say about writing workshop? What does it mean to them? You might think about asking to get a peek into the window of their voice. Keep your eyes open wide when you tend those writers in your garden.

Betsy Hubbard is a kindergarten and first grade teacher in the little town of Olivet, Michigan. She hopes all her students can find their voice even as young writers. Betsy is a poetry advocate and the creator of Chalk-A-Bration, a monthly celebration of poetry and poem illustrations using chalk.  She can be found at I Think in Poems, Teaching Young Writers, and on Twitter @BetsyteachK.

8 thoughts on “What Would They Say?

  1. Betsy, you are giving a voice to your young students that will live with them forever. In a way I loop with my students because I teach all the gifted kids at two schools, so they come to me year after year until 6th grade. There is value in the continuity, but sometimes I worry that we fall into comfortable habits. I worry about challenging them to reach new levels. Thanks for sharing your insights.


    1. Thank you Margaret for your insight as well. I will look for those challenges as I make my way through the year. I see the value in the continuity but never thought about those comfortable habits that may develop as time goes on.


  2. Betsy,
    Thanks for sharing some of the responses your students gave when answering this question. I’m sure you’ll see wonderful growth with your kiddos this year. I’m happy to hear your writer’s workshop is off to such a great start!


    1. I am celebrating the start to this school year. It is incredible how first graders embrace the workshop immediately. Very different from starting with kindergarten. So glad I get to experience this growth along side them.


  3. We learn so much when we stop and listen to our students! Even if your Superintendent had heard another response, watching your students enjoying the work of writers SHOULD have melted her heart! So often administrators come in to evaluate teachers on their grid of expected behaviors rather than noticing the work and words of students…..sigh….that;s a post in itself!


    1. Yes it is Anita. A post all its own.
      I think I actually put my hand to my heart when those words came out of her mouth. She touched my soul a bit when she so happily responded, “Writing workshop, ” so frankly.


  4. I love the parallel between children and a plant. It’s so true that we tend to their leaves to help them grow and our reward is getting to watch them bloom. I look forward to asking my students about writers workshop…just as soon as my kinders are writing/drawing! Great thoughts today Betsy!


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