A Quick Guide Workshop Lingo, Part II

I recently led a staff development session with second – sixth grade teachers who are in their first year of implementing the TCRWP’s Units of the Study.  They had some questions about a variety of terms they’re encountering while teaching the units.  In an effort to add on to Beth’s Quick Guide to Workshop Lingo, I created a list of words that might require some additional defining.

DISCLAIMER: They’re not official definitions.  They are the way I define some commonly used writing workshop terms when I’m consulting with teachers.

Bend in the Road: The skills you plan to teach students during a unit of study.

  • A change in direction within a unit of study.
  • Units of study often have 3-5 bends in the road.
    • Example:
      • Bend in the road: Writers create characters that seem like real people.
        • One teaching point for this bend in the road might be: Writers craft dialogue to move their story forward.
      • Link them together with the word by: Writers create characters that seem like real people by crafting dialogue to move their story forward.

 (Ayres & Shubitz, 2010, 55-56)

Boxes and Bullets: An outlining method.  The main idea goes in a box, and the subordinate ideas get bulleted below the central idea.

Flash Drafting: Drafts were written “fast and furious” during one workshop period.

  • Writers work to get all of their thoughts down on paper. If they need to research more, they can make themselves a note, but they keep writing.
  • Kids use what they know about the genre when they are flash-drafting.

Mentor Texts:  Books teachers use to teach strategies to one or more students to lift the level of their writing.

  • Can also be:
    • articles, letters, essays, short stories
    • other students writing, or teacher writing

On Demand Writing:  A writing assessment given to students prior to the start of a unit of study. This assignment assesses what and how much students already know about a particular kind of writing (e.g., information-based essay, memoir).

Portable Word Wall: A list of the same high-frequency words are posted in a common area of the classroom. Students keep a portable word wall in their writing folder, which also contains personal words they commonly misspell.

Show, Don’t Tell: Using dialogue, facial expressions, gestures, internal thinking to show what’s happening in a story.

  • Example:
    • Telling: I was sad.
    • Showing: I took a deep breath and wiped the tears from my eyes.

Small Moment Story: A narrative taking place over a matter of minutes, rather than across an entire day or week.

Strategy Lesson: Highly individualized small group instruction that consists of mostly teacher-talk, with a long active engagement for the students.

  • Research and decision happen before the strategy lesson.
  • Teaching and a link happen during a strategy lesson.
    • There might be a compliment for the group.

Touchstone Texts: Familiar texts students know well; often referred to often during reading instruction, or during a unit of study in reading

  • Examples: Because of Winn Dixie or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing are referred to as examples throughout a unit of study on character; Becoming Naomi Leon or Wonder are referred to again and again during a social issues book club unit of study.



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Are there other terms you’re wondering about that Beth and I didn’t define in our posts? Please leave a comment and we’ll answer your question.