Workshop Routines: Sometimes It’s Time For The Reset Button

Sixth graders have short-term memories.  Just when I’d thought  that I’d nailed down efficient routines, and I was sure that my writing workshop was going to run smoothly for the rest of the year… my kids returned from Thanksgiving Break and appeared to have forgotten everything about those routines.

Every. Single. Thing.

Monday’s writing workshop was, in a word, chaotic.  So much so that my student teacher and I were left shaking our heads and wondering: what went wrong? what can we do to get back to normal…soon?!

What we noticed:

  1. Writers wasting time getting back to their seats from the meeting area to write.  Students seemed to be sauntering back to their desks, often pausing too long to sharpen and re-sharpen their pencils or have a conversation about lunch/recess/after school going’s on.
  2. Once they were at their desks, many of my kids seemed to have forgotten the purpose of their editing sheets.  My students  use these to make notes at the end of each writing workshop, which I review and respond to before we meet again.  This way, each student has a game plan for writing workshop – they know what they need to attend to while I am making my conference rounds:
  3. Speaking of conferences, my kids also seemed to have forgotten the etiquette that makes for effective and productive conference time: wait your turn, work until it’s your turn, do not interrupt another conference. So, we needed a quick reminder about what conference time should look like, sound like.
  4. Conference time is precious.  It’s my job to be be able to help my kids identify specific issues and areas of improvement, but it’s also my kids’ job to be able to name a writing issue they are struggling with when they request a conference.  On Monday, it seemed as though my kids were requesting conferences just to chat.  I love chatting with my kids…but not during writing conferences. During writing conferences, I want to chat about a specific piece of writing right there on the desk in front of us.

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So, Tuesday’s memoir mini lesson gave way to time for this:

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And, by Tuesday, we were back to “normal” .  Until the day after Winter Break, of course, when it will be time, once again, for this:

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