I’m a huge believer in the Writing Workshop model and one main reason is because it focuses on getting kids to write. Gone are the days of every word needs to be spelled correctly. Gone are the days that kids are scrutinized for missing a comma. Now, these things are important. These things are also a part of writing. But, they are not the end all be all. When I was a kid, I don’t remember writing much until middle school. I know I did, but it doesn’t stand out to me. I think part of it is because we weren’t allowed to just write. Everything was so focused on the sentence structure being perfect and each punctuation mark being just so that it didn’t feel like writing. It felt like a lot of work.
Again, let me reiterate. I’m not saying grammar and spelling aren’t important. Neither are Lucy Calkins, Katie Wood Ray, or Lisa Cleaveland. I’m just saying we need to give kids a chance to just focus on writing. Since I’ve been using this model I have seen so much growth in my student’s writing. Even those reluctant writers who you are lucky to get a few lines from – I’ve seen growth. Writing Workshop is about allowing kids to write and be at the level they’re at. If kids are so stressed about how to spell the word “Florida” then their story stops. If kids spell it the best they can and keep going, then we’ll see more actual content. Which is the whole goal of writing to me. Content not perfection. Especially in the early elementary grades.
- Differentiation – Writing Workshop allows kids to work at their own pace. Johnny may have edited and published five stories and be beginning number six. Susie on the other hand might be a slower writing and working on publishing her first piece. With Writing Workshop kids don’t have to be on the same page or even the same piece. They’re able to work at their own speed and you as the teacher are able to tailor personal goals to what each student needs during conferencing.
- Content – Writing Workshop focuses on content not perfection. I also like that Writing Workshop allows kids to just write about what they want. There are no prompts in Writing Workshop. While prompts have their time and place, and students need to be able to write to a prompt, during Writing Workshop, kids write about what they know and have experienced. They can write about learning to ride a bike, their trip to the beach, going to Disneyland, losing a tooth, a class field trip, etc. They have choice in their content, which makes writing more enjoyable and you will see them more engaged during the writing time.
- Modeling – Another huge focus in Writing Workshop is modeling. Kids need to see how writer’s write. They need to see how they can come up with ideas. They need to see how to edit. And the best way to do this is through modeling. Often it’s the teacher modeling with his or her own writing. It also is bringing up other students to model skills taught during Mini Lessons during sharing time. Modeling is a very important step in Writing Workshop.
- Mini-Lessons are Tailored to Standards – Whether you are using the actual Lucy Calkin’s Writing Workshop resource or you’re doing this on your own (I’ve done both), you can tailor Writing Workshop to your standards. When I was creating lessons on my own and using the format, I picked standards and made mini-lessons to fit them. I also would notice things my students were doing and then create mini-lessons based on areas we needed to work on. For example, my students especially at the beginning of the year had a hard time adding details. Their stories were very short. So, we focused a few lessons on adding details and they then had a chance to practice it during the writing time.
- Kids Love It – Kids love Writing Workshop. I once went to a school where they didn’t have a writing resource and I implemented Writing Workshop using the format and then creating my own mini-lessons. The kids ate it up! They were so excited for Writing Workshop time during the day. I also saw major improvements in their writing and less stress. Many of the kids since this was new were so fixated on making their writing perfect that the content was lacking. As they became more comfortable with the process, I saw major growth and they actually enjoyed writing.
-Writer’s Workshop Set-Up and Products Used
-Typical Writer’s Workshop Format
-Mini Lesson Ideas
-Tying Up Loose Ends