Dreaming Big for This Year’s Writing Workshop Blog Series · toolkits

This is the Year I’m Going to Make Writing Toolkits


Renters with homeowner mentalities (a must when living in NYC), Brett and I enjoy filling our Sundays with projects.

Our projects vary, as do the tools Brett needs. Last Sunday, we installed a new hook for a hanging plant that was too close to the window in the living room, attached brackets to the wall of the office for a writing desk, and added a shelf to the linen closet.

For each project, Brett made trips back and forth to get another tool. Sometimes, he stopped, mid-project, to go to Home Depot for something new or a tool he could not find.

You can imagine all of the time wasted and the headaches that ensued after sifting through the toolboxes to find each tool.

Brett knew he needed a better system.img_2457

My dad, our organizational guru, sent Brett a tool bag. Most of the time, this bag is a home for the essentials, the most frequented tools. Other times, it gets filled up for special projects. This little bag has made Brett’s work a lot easier.

Much like the way Brett tends to our apartment, bringing his tool bag from room to room, we tend to our writers during writing workshop. Each day, we gather or create tools for strategy groups, minilessons, and conferences. I often find myself, like Brett, running back and forth to find, recreate, or make new tools. Brett’s tool bag inspired me to make a writing toolkit. A home for writing workshop essentials, saving me time and stress, allowing me to maximize time with writers.

Like any organizational makeover, creating a toolkit might feel daunting. But setting aside a few hours will save countless more on daily preparation. If making a toolkit has been an item on your to-do list, or if your toolkit needs some revamping, let’s get started (video tutorials and tool downloads below)!

What Is A Toolkit and Why Should I Have One?

Some people have toolkits specifically for conferring. Others make toolkits solely to house demonstration texts and exemplars, or even as a catalogue of charts. I’m the kind of person who needs everything in one place, so I have started making toolkits for teaching specific genres. This coming school year will be the year I make a toolkit for every genre. Whatever intention you set for your toolkit, it is meant to make your life more efficient and more organized and help you stay prepared for any teachable moment

If You’re Thinking, I’ve Wanted To Make a Toolkit For (insert time), But I Keep Putting it Off 

What feels tricky? Let’s make it easier!
It takes a lot of time to make. Find a colleague, or better yet, your whole grade team. Toolkits make for a super-productive professional meeting time or a fun summer afternoon project with a buddy.
I am not organized. Toolkits will be your organizational lifesaver!
I’m not sure what to include. Read on…

This Will Be The Year

Start with the next unit of study you will teach. You can make additional toolkits throughout the year, ideally, one for each genre. After you make the first one, making the rest will be easier, as you can reuse many of the same categories and tools. 

How To Make a Toolkit in 5 Steps: Video Tutorial with Narration

How To Make a Toolkit in 5 Steps: Condensed Video Version

Like Writers, Toolkits Grow and Change

In our home, new projects come up that require new tools. Brett’s tool collection keeps growing, and with it, his tool bag grows and changes.

If you’re making a toolkit in summer, you’ll be anticipating the kinds of tools you’ll need to support yourself with teaching a group of writers you haven’t met yet. If you continue to make a new toolkit prior to teaching each genre, as I do this year, you’ll also be anticipating the bumps and hurdles your writers will reach along the way. Continue to grow your toolkit while you are teaching a unit, and revise it after. What tools didn’t you use? Could some tools be filed somewhere else? Pro Tip: Keep digital copies or photos in Google Drive folders of items in your toolkit for when things get lost or written on.

A Final Mantra

Tools don’t teach. Whether it is a tool for yourself or a tool for writers, the power is not in the tool, rather it is in how it is used. Brett’s tools aren’t magic. They don’t build our projects. Rather, they make the steps easier. They make the projects last. So will the tools in your toolkit. 

  • Using tools will lift the level of your teaching, providing visuals and models for strategies.
  • Kids use tools as scaffolds and reminders to help teaching stick.
  • Keeping tools organized for planning and record-keeping will allow you to make more purposeful and responsive teaching decisions.
  • Having charts and tools for writers on-hand will help allow you to maximize teaching time during independent writing.

Put these tools together, and you’ve got yourself one powerful toolkit to make for a more efficient, more organized, and more prepared year of writing workshop.

Many thank you’s to Gina Neumann and Shanna Schwartz, who taught me everything I know about making toolkits.

Articles, Downloads, and More Goodies

Toolkit Shopping List

Tools for Planning:

Tools for Teaching:

Tools for Gathering and Recording Data:

More on Toolkits:

Giveaway Information: 

Leave a comment on the bottom of this blog post for a chance to win a copy of this book. (Be sure to read the giveaway information before you leave a comment. Thanks!)
  • This giveaway is for a copy of Kids 1st from Day 1: A Teacher’s Guide to Today’s Classroom (Link to https://www.heinemann.com/products/e09250.aspx). Thanks to Heinemann (Link to: https://www.heinemann.com) for donating a copy for one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a copy of this book.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of Kids 1st from Day 1: A Teacher’s Guide to Today’s Classroom,  please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, August 12th at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Melanie Meehan will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. His/her name will be announced in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, August 13th.
  • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so Melanie can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, our contact at Heinemann will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, Melanie will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – KIDS 1ST. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.


30 thoughts on “This is the Year I’m Going to Make Writing Toolkits

  1. WOW! What an amazing toolkit! Mine is a mess, but I wasn’t quite sure how to organize it. Now, I do! And, thank you so much for including a materials list, too! You are very generous with your time to share the informative video with all of us!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know how much time and thought you put into this post, Kelsey. I’m seriously envious of your toolkit after watching the video. It is amazing! Waaaaay better than any toolkit I ever created when I was in the classroom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure! I started with a reading one, many years ago. I only have one reading toolkit, and it has stayed mostly the same. It looks pretty similar (plans, notes, conferring guides, demo texts, copies of shared reading, tools). So helpful and it makes you look super on top of things when someone comes in!


  3. Thank you so much for all of the info and awesome resources in this post. I have been wanting to make my own toolkit for “way too long”! I feel ready now!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not really sure why I never thought of this for writing. I do it for math, but this would be a great addition to our Writer’s Workshop – helping the students think about what they need and building independence. On it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your toolkit! I have one for reading and one for writing when I’m coaching in different classrooms. My goal this year is to create more grade level team toolkits for both classrooms and the PD work I do. I’m hoping using the “toolkit” mentality for PD will help me have everything I need for each grade level team.


  6. Thank you for the inspiration! I have a “Writing Binder” that has grown over the years. It’s time to sift through what is needed and update some pieces. Going to change the name to a tool kit, also!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kelsey, this post is just outstanding! I finished watching all the videos and they are so incredibly helpful. I especially liked your videos of the grade level text, above and below. I’m going to work on my toolkit today, inspired by you! I know this post was a lot of time, energy and hard work and I love all you did here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am in the middle of making my demonstration notebook and this gave me the extra jolt I needed to finish it! Would love a copy of Kids 1st! Love Kristi and Christine! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Writing tool kits are so helpful when a teacher is working with a classroom filled with students with different needs. It’s a lot of work to prepare, but so worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. interesting ideas! i am always looking for ways to teach writing in a better way than the year before….even though my kids are a big older, so much of this can apply to them (even without modification!)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is so clear. I’ve been reading a lot of buzz about toolkits and what going’s in them. The video guide through a toolkit was a great idea. I also have started to separate tools by genre and it’s been life changing! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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