balanced literacy · conferring · minilesson · partnerships

Shake Up the Structure of Workshop

Ahhhh… January. That time of year when here-and-there moments (and end-of-the-day exhaustion) make me wonder why I feel like I’m reliving the first few weeks of school! January often takes me by surprise, sneaking in and leaving me longing for the invigorating spirit and productive buzz that was securely in place just a few weeks ago. 

While January is notorious for the need to reboot all kinds of classroom routines, these blips can happen at any point in the year. If you have also experienced “workshop clunkiness,” take heart. Remember that writing workshop is not about playing someone else’s setlist. Workshop is a flexible set of practices that are meant to be improvised. Because of this, there are opportunities within each challenge. In fact, the structure of workshop is one more way teachers can customize learning for those currently in the room. You already actively differentiate many aspects of writing (paper choice, goals, strategies, tools, etc). You can also make intentional decisions about how to use the building blocks of workshop. Stack (and re-stack) them in a way that honors where students currently are and prepares learners for confident risk-taking and continuous growth. 

Take a peek at a few possibilities for rebuilding workshop – with students in mind.

Click to access a larger version of this chart and listen to short recordings that explain the “why and when” behind choosing these intentionally jumbled workshop structures.

If I were to name an aligned process for this kind of reimagining, it might sound a little like this:

Workshop is inherently flexible. Remember that the true heart of writing workshop is the extended time and space students have to make choices, plan, create, reread, and revise- and the more responsive, individualized instruction the teacher provides while students are actively pursuing their personal writing goals. Each of the above options protects that time, but in ways that feel right for class members. Articulating a clear “why” and then making intentional, student-centered decisions that enact that vision is one more way we commit to providing asset-based, responsive writing instruction. What other kinds of structures have you tried or might you consider with this pursuit in mind?

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