ICYMI: We ran a back to school blog series devoted to sharpening workshop routines last week. The series culminates tomorrow, Monday, August 11th at 8:30 p.m. EDT when we will host an hour-long Twitter chat about routines and procedures within the context of writing workshop. (Click here for more information about our Twitter chat.) Here’s an excerpt from each co-author’s blog series post:
On Monday, Tara kicked off our blog series with a post about setting up writer’s notebooks for a year of writing.
On average, each student will need two notebooks over the course of the school year. Our very first mini lesson focuses on the purpose of the writer’s notebook: *a place to plant the seeds for future writing *a place to jot down ideas, observations, thoughts, and concerns so that you do not lose them *a place to experiment with new ways of expressing yourself through writing…
On Tuesday, I shared five secrets to great meeting areas. Here’s one of them:
Expect to learn something. — Everyone expects students to listen and be responsive (when appropriate) during a minilesson. As someone who has been into her fair share of classrooms, I can tell you teachers’ expectations vary from classroom to classroom. I’ve been in classrooms where kids were allowed to bring snacks to the minilesson and others where kids were allowed to go to the bathroom during the lesson. As an observer, I found this distracting and wondered how students were able to learn…
On Wednesday, Betsy wrote about the importance of talk within workshop process. She shared how teachers can make sure talking doesn’t take away from the work students need to do.
Model! Practice! Reflect! Retry! Model the talking with another adult about your own writing or model with a student about what his writing will look like. Release the students for independent practice and let them talk while you move around as a listener, not someone that intervenes. Talk and discuss what you saw. What good talking behaviors you noticed. For instance, did you notice students giving each other good eye contact? Did you see back and forth dialogue and questions? Share what you noticed and what you would like to see emulated in all your students.
On Thursday, Beth discussed the use of writing centers as a way to organize materials.
It’s wise to mark everything VERY clearly, since the whole point is for kids to be able to get things from the writing center all by themselves. You can use washi tape to mark off sections to show exactly where each item belongs, and you can label everything with very clear picture clues.
On Friday, Anna wrote about conferring best practices. Here’s a bit of what she said about record-keeping systems:
I don’t have a magic tool for record keeping. As far as I know, there is not yet a system or method that will take notes on its own while teachers confer their hearts out. The hard truth is that we just have to push ourselves to take notes, in whatever system works for us. That isn’t to say our system has to be perfect. It also isn’t to say that we won’t go through three or four or more systems before settling on one that works most of the time. And, of course, it isn’t to say that we won’t skip a day or two here and there. No one is perfect. But what I am hoping readers will do is decide, here and now, that this will be the year they will take notes during and immediately conferences. Here are a few systems that might help…
On Saturday, Dana implored us to make time for students to share daily:
Share time is just as important to writing workshop as the minilesson and independent writing time. Share time is another opportunity to teach and to assess. Also, coming back together as a whole group after writing builds classroom community and provides a sense of closure for the students. In our district, we call this time “reflection” (using Ellin Keene’s literacy studio language.) This subtle change of language helps us remember the true purpose of this 5-10 minute time each day: to reflect on ourselves as writers.
Need more support before you go back to school? Click here to read some of TWT’s previous “back to school” posts.
We hope you’ll join us for tomorrow night’s tomorrow night’s Twitter chat at 8:30 p.m. EDT. This will be an opportunity to exchange ideas that have worked in the past and to create new ones prior to the start of the 2014-15 school year. Please use #TWTBlog when you participate.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).