Workshop Terminology

FullSizeRender (2)Here is a glossary of common writing workshop terminology we use on this blog.

Bend: Units of study are journeys. As you travel down the highway of that is your unit of study, the journey will shift directions. Perhaps you’ll move from gathering notebook entries to drafting. Perhaps you’ll go from teaching about structure and organization to teaching about detail and voice. You’re not getting off of the highway and ending the unit, but you’re taking a “bend in the road.” In the materials published by Lucy Calkins and the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, parts or sections of a unit of study are referred to as “bends.” A part or section of a specific writing unit that usually consists of five to ten lessons. Typically, each unit of study has three to five bends in the road.

Boxes and Bullets: An outlining method. The main idea goes in a box and the subordinate ideas are bulleted below the central idea.

Conference: A five-to-seven minute period of time where a teacher meets with a student (or a partnership) to teach the child a new strategy to add to his/her writing repertoire. Typically, the conference begins with the teacher researching what the child is working on as a writer. Next, the teacher compliments the student. Finally, the teacher shows the student how to lift the level of his/her writing by teaching a strategy.

Drafting: Moving out of a writer’s notebook and writing a text on paper or on a keyboard.

Editing: Rereading a piece for spelling, punctuation, and sometimes correct word choice.

Flash Drafts: Drafts are written “fast and furious” during one workshop period when writers focus to get all their thoughts down on paper. If a writer needs to research more, they make a note of it as they’re flash drafting. The point is to write without interruption.

Generating: Using a variety of strategies to develop ideas and topics for writing, regardless of genre.

Interactive Writing: During interactive writing, the whole class, or part of the class, decides what to write, and the teacher shares the writing with students. The goal is to create a conventionally-correct text. These pieces are typically short.

Mentor Texts: A familiar picture book or trade book teachers refer to in order to show students examples or strategies they can use in their own writing. Mentor texts can also be articles, essays, letters, or short stories. In addition, not all mentor texts are published. Other examples of mentor texts that can be used to lift the level of students’ writing are written by other students or by the teacher him/herself.

Minilesson: A short (approximately five to ten minutes) lesson in which students learn a strategy they can use in their writing not just on one day, but every day. The minilesson consists of a connection, a teaching point, active engagement, and a link to the work students will be doing.

Mid-Workshop Interruption: A short two to five minute lesson in which students take a break from their writing and the teacher gives an additional teaching point or share they can use in their writing at that moment and in moments going forward.

On-Demand Writing: Works of writing students create over the course of one to two days without input or coaching from teachers. These pieces should reflect what students know and are able to do independently. This assignment can help a teacher determine what and how much students already know about a particular kind of writing (e.g., persuasive writing, memoir).

Process pieces: Works of writing that students write, revising over several days and integrating new lessons, conferences, or strategy sessions

Revising: Rereading and reworking a written piece with questions like the following in mind:

  • What will a reader make of this?
  • Are there sections that are unclear?
  • What doesn’t work here that I can repair or eliminate?
  • What am I trying to say?

Seed Idea: The time students choose an idea for a story they plan to publish. Generally, kids will collect many entries in their writer’s notebooks for several days (or longer), and then at a certain point, they’ll be guided to reread all of their entries to choose just one (or part of one) to become the seed idea for their published piece. (Different than the “seed idea” that appears in “Watermelon Idea and Seed Idea.”)

Share: The time at the end of a workshop when students share what they’ve been working on or the teacher gives a new idea or concept for them to work on in subsequent workshops.

Shared Writing: Students come up with ideas as a whole class or a part of the class, and the teacher does all of the physical writing on the page.

Show, Don’t Tell: Using dialogue, facial expressions, gestures, and internal thinking to show what’s happening in a story.

Small Moment Story: A narrative that takes place over a matter of minutes, rather than across an entire day or week.

Strategy Lesson: Highly-individualized, small-group (3-5 kids) 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.

Watermelon Idea and Seed Idea: In the primary grades, a watermelon idea (or watermelon topic) is an idea for a story that is very big, stretching across quite a bit of time: multiple days, or a week, for example. A seed idea for a story, by comparison, is a small moment, or an event that only took a few minutes, or just a part of one day. Seed ideas are much easier to write about in detail, because the story will be shorter and more focused. Watermelon and seed ideas were included in the original Units of Study for Primary Writing by Lucy Calkins and Colleagues.

Word Wall Words and/or Snap Words: Word wall words are high frequency words that have been introduced. These words are on display so kids can refer to them quickly throughout the day, to double-check their spelling, and to support their reading. Eventually, kids know word wall words “in a snap” meaning they can write those words with automaticity, without thinking much about it, and they can recognize those words by sight.

Writing Center: A central location in the classroom where students have access to a variety of supplies (e.g., paper choices, reference books, writing utensils).

Writing in the Air: Rehearsing what you want to write by writing it aloud. One might pretend to write as they say the words aloud. As a teacher, you might write in the air as a way to demonstrate your own writing quickly (since writing on paper generally takes longer). Sometimes you might teach students to use this as a strategy to help kids plan their writing. As simple as it sounds, many kids need a lot of coaching and practice to learn to do this.