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Writing Workshop

Differentiation in WW – Tip #1 – Writing Pre-Test

Uncategorized, Writing Workshop
I am so excited to be sharing my first differentiation for Writing Workshop tip with you today.  If you missed my intro to this new blog series click here >>> Introduction. So before you can actually differentiate for each child in your class, you need to know where they are as a writer.  You need to know their strengths and things that they can work on.  One way to quickly figure this out is by giving them a writing pre-test. If you use Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study, she has pre-test ideas in the Writing Pathways book.  She calls them On-Demand Performance Assessments.  If you don’t have the Units of Study, you can still have your students complete a writing sample/pre-test.  At the beginning of the year, I have my students write about themselves on the page below. From this writing sample, I can learn a lot about each student.  For example…
  • Do they use complete sentences?
  • Am I able to read their spelling and inventive spelling?
  • Are they able to stay on topic?
  • Do they use capitals and end marks correctly?
  • How is their handwriting?
  • Do they add details?
Those are just a few questions I can typically answer by looking at this writing piece.  Now – this helps me differentiate for students because from this I am able to make individual goals for each student.  Some students might need to work on adding details to their writing pieces while others might need to focus on conventions. To be able to differentiate it’s important to know where you students are.  It’s also important to have a sample from the beginning of the year so you can see the growth and progress they make by the end of the year. Stay tuned….on Monday I will be sharing Tip #2.  I will be talking about differentiating with mini-lessons.  

FREE Writing Checklists

Picture of four writing checklists.
To make your life easier I have a FREE set of writing checklists for your students to use! These are geared towards the primary grades and include 8 different checklists – so you’ll be able to differentiate based on what you’re teaching and your students’ needs. Grab your writing checklists HERE.

New Blog Series – Differentiation in Writing Workshop

Writing Workshop

I’m so excited to share with you a new blog series that I’m starting called Differentiation in Writing Workshop. I am very passionate about teaching Writing Workshop and have been teaching it my entire career in grades first through third. Through the years, trainings, and books, I have come up with some ways you can differentiate Writing Workshop in your classroom to reach all learners.

Here is what the series will include:

  • How to use writing pre-tests
  • Mini-lessons to fit your class’s needs
  • Choice in paper and topics
  • Effective ways to use a mid-workshop interruption
  • Word walls
  • Editing checklists – differentiated
  • Anchor charts
  • Strategy cards as a differentiation tool
  • Individual conferences
  • Students creating their own goals.

Check back Thursday for a new post in the series about how to use writing pre-tests to help differentiate Writing Workshop for your students.

Five for Friday – February 3

Math, Reading, Writing Workshop

Crazy that it is already February! January flew by! After missing last week, I’m back to link up with Kacey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching for another Five for Friday. Check out our busy week below…

So I don’t have Amazon Prime, but I do now see what all the fuss is about.  We were low on class snacks and one of my parents graciously offered to order some from Amazon Pantry/Prime.  And much to my pleasant surprise – three huge boxes like the one pictured above, arrived with snacks.  Right to the school! We will probably be covered on snacks until the end of the year!

I posted my newest product to TPT this week. Check out the strategies we used for division and also my Division Story Problems on my blog post…here
We love coding! I even enjoy coding with the kids! We’ve been working on code.org’s different lessons and it is amazing! I love how the kids can move along at their own speed and the lessons continue to get more challenging as the go! We’re going to have some code geniuses by the time the year is complete.

We had our second field trip of the year on Monday. We went to a theater at UNLV and watched the play Charlotte’s Web. It was so cute and the kids really enjoyed it since we read Charlotte’s Web as a class in November.

We’ve been working on our third Writing Workshop Unit – Opinions.  This book from Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study has us working on writing letters to share our opinions on books. Above I modeled an example using the book – Seriously, Cinderella is So Annoying! If you haven’t read that book or checked the books out where the fairy tale is told from a different point of view, I highly recommend it!
Hope everyone has a great Super Bowl weekend!

Why Writing Workshop? – Writing Workshop Wednesdays

Writing, Writing Workshop
“No matter what, just let them write every day.  Even if you’re not sure what to teach, just let them write.  They’ll do fine.” – Lisa Cleaveland – Teacher (from About the Authors).
I love this quote! I love this quote because it fits perfectly with the Writer’s Workshop model.  Instead of being so concerned about spelling, capitals, punctuation, etc – we need to just get kids actually writing.  As long as they’re writing, they’ll be good. They need to write every day…in all subjects.

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.


Here are a few more reasons why I love using Writing Workshop:
  • 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.



As I mentioned, I’ve been lucky to have the resources and at times have had to create my own. These two books below are amazing! Lucy Calkin’s is a writing genius! I highly recommend her Writing Workshop series (it is pricey).  My current school just adopted the resource this summer and we’ll be using it next year.  I also used the older version many years ago at my first school.  I also recommend the book About the Authors.  This is geared more towards K-2/3 and is another great writing resource.  Ray and Cleaveland provide many ideas and many mini-lessons for teachers to use to implement writing in the classroom.  You don’t have to have the books to be able to use Writing Workshop in your classroom.  Stay tuned for the next few blog posts to get more ideas of how to implement even if you don’t have the resources.


Here’s what’s coming up next in the series…

-Writer’s Workshop Set-Up and Products Used
-Typical Writer’s Workshop Format
-Mini Lesson Ideas
-Teaching Editing
-Publishing Pieces
-Tying Up Loose Ends

Writing Workshop Wednesdays Series

Writing, Writing Workshop

I am starting a new series on my blog called Writing Workshop Wednesdays.  This is a series that has been on my to do list for awhile and with summer here it’s the perfect time to write it up!  I’ve been using Writing Workshop in my classroom for the past 9 years and have used it a variety of different ways.  I’ve had the Lucy Calkin’s materials (which are amazing) and also had to wing it a bit using the format and my own resources.

Here’s what you can expect over the next few weeks in the Writing Workshop Wednesday series:

– Why Writer’s Workshop – July 6
-Writer’s Workshop Set-Up and Products Used – July 13
-Typical Writer’s Workshop Format – July 20
-Mini Lesson Ideas – July 27
-Teaching Editing – August 3
-Publishing Pieces – August 10
-Tying Up Loose Ends – August 17

Check back next Wednesday, July 6 to learn about “Why I Use Writer’s Workshop.”
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