writing workshop

Rituals and Transitions: Reaching Your Writers

Establishing writing workshop rituals or daily consistent routines help students transition naturally within a writing workshop. When writing workshop rituals become woven into the daily grooves of the writing community, cohesive safe zones develop. The consistency of rituals in a classroom helps students transition within the workshop environment smoothly. Once writing workshop rituals are established, students will be better prepared to move quickly into what comes next. Well-established rituals create the space for students to concern themselves less with movement and more with the work of writing.

Rituals that Help Students Transition Within the Workspace of a Writing Workshop 

Gathering in the Meeting Area – The meeting area helps students understand that we are together in this learning journey. Here, we learn to trust others and ourselves by gathering like a family to learn to communicate, collaborate, and thoughtfully agree or disagree.

Sharing a Read Aloud – In a previous post, Read Alouds for Writers, I explain how read alouds create a human to human connection. Read alouds are “an invaluable opportunity for the practice of metacognition, language, mindfulness, creativity, and authentic responses to books and other humans. These skills are important for both reading AND writing.

Independent Writing – Most of the time spent in a thriving writing workshop is time spent allowing students independent time to write. Students learn best by doing. 

Time for Students to Share Writing – In her post, Thinking About Process Versus Product, Melanie Meehan shares that “reflection is a cornerstone of learning… and it’s so important to build reflective experiences into the learning lives of our students.

Knowing how to transition into and within those crucial pieces of a writing workshop is a matter of establishing daily rituals and purposeful time to model and practice what is expected. 

How do we develop the rituals that help transitions flow well?

When we clearly communicate expectations, model, and practice, we help students develop the self-efficacy needed to try out the strategies we invite them to try in the classroom. However, it is important to remember that the invitation to practice may take time. I have experienced clearly communicating expectations, which were also modeled and practiced, but after 10-12 weeks of school, things were still not quite as I imagined. There is a science behind building new habits.  

New habits take time. In a post I shared earlier this year, The Importance of Starting Practice with Why, I referenced research on creating new habits. The research, according to The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights by Daniel Goleman, “it usually takes three to six months of using all naturally occurring practice opportunities before the new habit comes more naturally than the old.” It is best to give students time and purposeful practice to adjust to new expectations and habits.

  1. Clearly communicate the expectation.

Clarity is important. As we move into the deep intellectual work that is the writing workshop, we must take time to prepare for clarity. It is not a stipulation for striving students, it is good practice for each student we are working to grow as a writer.  

  1. Model it.

It is important that students have visual access to the strategies they are being invited to try. This is especially important for students who are multilingual. When we model for students, we offer students a greater opportunity for successfully using a given strategy. We can model via mentor text, peer work, or even teacher writing as mentor text, but we are also living anchor charts for our students. When we begin to truly understand the magnitude of our facial expressions, tone of voice, and words, we will better understand our impact on our students.

  1. Practice it.

What we do in the classroom is practice. When we make our practice purposeful, the impact in the classroom and on the students will be evident and powerful. According to Ulrich Boser, “The raw amount of time spent practicing often bears little relationship to the actual amount of learning.” Purposeful practice matters.  

  1. Repeat as needed.

Many teachers focus great attention to the launching of the writing workshop routines and structures at the start of the school year. This is good practice. But sometimes, the need to revisit and practice what carries great value in the workshop is a necessary component to keeping the workshop flow thriving and growing.

Just as it is important as it is to greet your students each day and acknowledge their value in your classroom, there is a need to focus our attention often to the other valuable parts of our writing workshop each day. The results of patiently and lovingly revisiting important pieces to the writing workshop practices, routines, and community or classroom culture all year long are invaluable practices.

In Closing

Maintaining a thriving writing environment, where students transition throughout the workspace organically, begins with purposeful daily rituals. There are clear prerequisites to thriving writing environments. Before the nuance, creativity, and deep intellectual work, there must be consistent and purposeful classroom rituals. Creative work requires discipline, preparation, and hard work. No part of it is easy. If we practice consistently to grow the foundations for what is needed before the work can be accomplished, we will have created limitless opportunities for growing learners and writers for life. 

For more on rituals for creativity and building habits for learning and growing, check out the following resources –

  • Rituals by Mason Currey
  • The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights by Daniel Goleman
  • No More Low Expectations for English Learners by Julie Nora and Jana Echevarria
  • Learn Better by Ulrich Boser

Giveaway Information:

·  This giveaway is for a copy of Every Child Can Write by Melanie  Meehan. Thanks to Corwin Publishers for donating a copy of each of these books — one book for a primary educator and one book for a secondary educator. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a print copy of this book.)

·  For a chance to win this copy of  Every Child Can Write, please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, November 17th at 6:00 p.m. EST. Betsy Hubbard will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. Their name will be announced in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, November 20th.

·  Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so Betsy can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, our contact at Stenhouse 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, Betsy will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – EVERY CHILD CAN WRITE  within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

8 thoughts on “Rituals and Transitions: Reaching Your Writers

  1. Anchor charts or charts added Into their writing journals helps to keep the models close for reference at any time. Yes, repeating rituals is important.


  2. Routines and rituals in the workshop classroom are so important. As you say, they help students focus on writing or reading, rather than on trying to figure out what they’re supposed to do. Routines and rituals make the workshop classroom flow and allow for important work to happen.


  3. Routines and rituals are so important in order to have a thriving writer’s workshop. I appreciate the reminder that routines need to be reviewed and practiced throughout the year, not just at the start of the school year.


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