tcrwp · units of study · writing workshop

A Quick Guide Workshop Lingo, Part II

Definition from
Definition from

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.

5 thoughts on “A Quick Guide Workshop Lingo, Part II

    1. I think we also have to remember we want our students to know what these things mean. For instance, I’ve had fourth graders tell me, “I’m doing show, not tell,” but they don’t know what it means (i.e., they’re elaborating in a way that uses a variety of sensory details).


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