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A View From The Classroom: Month One.

October is here! We’ve been in school for just about a month now, and our writing workshop has moved from its early stages of uncertainty and experimentation to let’s-get-down-to-it writing routines.   When I look back at our first month of writing workshop, I see the foundation for the year ahead, I see that we have:

Learned and internalized workshop routines: the meeting area,community, our daily agenda.

Some time ago, Beth wrote a wonderful piece about the importance of meeting areas , in which she said,  “a comfortable meeting area fosters a supportive community in your classroom.” Learning to transition to and from the meeting idea takes time, patience, and more than a little bit of being flexible about the use of space in our classroom and a willingness to move desks out of the way when needed.  It took a LOT of practice before my sixth graders learned not to stampede over each other to grab the best spot in the meeting area; now, we move smoothly and settle in with purpose.  Yesterday, I took a moment to enjoy our writing circles in which we gather to share our work, and celebrated how we’ve come together as a supportive writing community already.  Writers help each other grow and thrive.


But, the heart of our writing workshop remains the external structure of it, the predictable routines we follow day in and day out, each of us knowing exactly how we begin and what comes next.  Anna’s post about this is like teacher’s gold;  “One of the many beautiful aspects of writing workshops is just that,” she wrote, “its predictable structure. Each day, the same thing happens.”  This chart hangs on our wall for reference, but I love the fact that my kids don’t need it at all, they live it already.

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Learned the purpose and pleasure of our  writer’s notebooks:

We’ve spent this month sowing the seeds for future writing, and learning to use our notebooks to write about what’s in our hearts and minds.  We’ve sketched , listed, and written, and we’ve learned how to think of  our notebooks as a writing toolbox filled with ideas and strategies.  Our notebooks look pretty on the outside, but we’ve learned to treasure, use, and nurture what’s inside, too.


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Learned that writers need to work smart and be organized so that we make the most of our writing time.

As we began drafting our first “going to be published” piece, we organized our writing folders so that it made “writing sense” – a place for everything:

A place for everything.
We begin our writing pieces with a purpose statement to anchor our thinking.
Tagging our thinking - where do we want to go when we return to writing tomorrow?
Tagging our thinking – where do we want to go when we return to writing tomorrow?

Learned how to notice and name writing moves:

With each mentor text and mini lesson, we’ve learned how to dig into beautiful writing and analyze the author’s careful intentionality.  More than that, we are learning how to refer to these mentor texts as we write – to experiment with, practice, and learn how to make these moves ourselves.  Our mentor texts sit side by side with our writing pads, leading us to beautiful writing.


September has been a busy month, our writing workshop is finally under way!

Tara Smith View All

I teach Writing Workshop, Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders at a middle school in suburban New Jersey. This blog is my attempt to capture all the "stuff" that goes into my teaching life - the planning, the dreaming, the reading, the preparing, the hoping and (above all) the kids.
Please note that the content of this blog is my own. It does not reflect the opinions of my employer.

6 thoughts on “A View From The Classroom: Month One. Leave a comment

  1. Great peek inside your classroom Tara! Love all the visuals. The purpose statement is really interesting. I’m wondering how my third graders would do with that. Sometimes I feel like their writing lacks a purpose or a clear message they want their reader to know. But as a writer, I don’t know if I could always myself begin with a purpose statement as writing is so often how I discover what I wanted to say. Do you ever have students draft before coming up with their purpose statement?


  2. This is lovely! Your visuals are fabulous. I love the pie chart explaining what happens in a workshop. Such a clear reminder that most of the writing time is spent on writing. And the student’s post-it reminder of where to go next, wonderful!


  3. What do you think of sharing this with teachers in grades 3-5 before I give them the narrative unit on the 19th?

    Sent from my iPhone Leanne


  4. I love this post, because it honors the important work of the first month…both your work and your writers’ work. It makes me wish I could grab my notebook and pull in close to your kids and be a writer in your room.


  5. Tara,
    Love how you’ve noticed and named the four big learnings in writers workshop in the first month of school. The pictures are so helpful, but this sentence is sticking with me, “Our notebooks look pretty on the outside, but we’ve learned to treasure, use, and nurture what’s inside, too.”

    It’s not just the “decorated, personalized notebook” but what students know about how to use the notebook! Beautiful work that your writers are doing based on your own writing work!!!


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