Typical Writing Workshop Format – Writing Workshop Wednesdays

If you missed the first two parts of Writing Workshop Wednesdays…click below to catch up.
Today I will be sharing with you the typical Writing Workshop format. This has been adapted from Lucy Calkin’s Unit of Studies and Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleaveland’s About the Authors.
A typical Writing Workshop lesson consists of 4 components…
  • Mini-Lesson
  • Time for kids to write
  • Conferring with students
  • Sharing
A mini-lesson typically lasts 5-10 minutes.  It should be no longer than 10 minutes because the goal is for kids to spend time writing, not listening.
I love this Lucy Calkins clip where she explains the importance of a mini-lesson to Writing Workshop.  Check it out here
Mini-lessons are where the explicit teaching happens.  Modeling is so important during the mini-lesson. I often will write in front of the kids. It’s so important to do that so they see how it’s done and can see the whole process play out. In addition to writing in front of them, sometimes I will also take a piece I already wrote and use that for the mini-lesson. It’s also a great idea to use student’s writing during the mini-lesson. Especially if you notice a student whose been doing the skill you’re covering that day particularly well – use their paper! It’s even better when the kids can learn from each other. Mentor texts are another great tool to use during mini-lessons.  It’s wonderful when kids can see other authors who they read all the time, doing the same things they’re working on in their writing.
Mini-lessons are where I throw my standards in or things I’m seeing during conferences. If you have the Writing Workshop Units of Study – follow those and add in as needed. If you don’t have the Units of Study, you can create your own mini-lessons based on your standards. Next week, I’ll be sharing some specific mini-lesson ideas on the blog.
At the end of the mini-lesson, I always wrap it up by giving the kids a goal of something that I’m looking for that day during their writing time. If we worked on using capitals, the goal is to make sure you’re using capitals in your writing. If we worked on descriptive word choice, that day’s goal will be to use exciting and descriptive words in your writing.  The goal always fits the mini-lesson and is very specific so the kids know what to focus on during their writing time.
Anchor Chart for Capital Letters that we created during a mini-lesson
Used this writing sample as a mini-lesson.  Students had to help me fix the punctuation errors.
Time to Write
Kids need time to write.  Like the quote I used in last week’s blog – as long as they’re writing – they’ll be fine.  Kids need time to create their own content and to craft their own writing style.  The block of time for the kids actually writing should be about 30-35 minutes. It should take up the largest part of Writing Workshop. If we want kids to be better writers, then they need time to practice writing.
During time to write, kids have their goal or focus area from the mini-lesson earlier.  Kids will be at different stages during this time. Some kids will be planning a new piece, while some will be editing, or working on a final draft.  This is where the differentiation comes in. Students will also be writing about all different topics.  I love this – it provides them choice and ownership of their writing.  During time to write, you the teacher, will be conferencing – see the next little section.
Pre-Writing Pages from Small Moments Writing Pack
Draft from Small Moments Writing Pack
Small Moments Writing Pack
The students above are using planning and draft pages from Leigh Langton’s Small Moments Pack. It can purchased in her TPT store, here.
Conferencing with students takes place while they’re writing. So, conferencing lasts roughly – 30-35 minutes.  Some teachers use a conferencing schedule so they know which kids the meet with certain days. In the past, I played it by ear, but will be making a conferencing schedule this year.
I make a conferring schedule, with each kid having a day that they know I will confer with them. That makes it more manageable for me to get to everyone.:
Example of Conference Schedule from Flamingo Fabulous in Elementary
During conferencing, this is your time to really differentiate and help each child with where they are at in the writing process.  We had a speaker named Jerry who is training our current staff on Writing Workshop. He mentioned start with a positive and for your constructive criticism, make sure it goes along with the positive.  For example, I like how you added details to the introduction.  Do you think you could add a few more to the ending to make the reader feel like they are there?  Jerry said that kids will understand the constructive criticism more if it’s tied to what they do well.  He also focused on asking questions to get kids to take ownership of their next steps instead of the teacher dictating that this is what needs to be done.
Sharing is a huge piece of Writing Workshop, however it has the smallest amount of time in the WW format. Share should only take about 5 minutes and is done at the end of the writing time.  I usually keep a list of my class and check off kids as they share. This way everyone gets a chance and I don’t gravitate towards picking the same students multiple times.
For picking students to share, I sometimes rotate, but I often ask kids to share for a reason.  If our focus that day was descriptive writing and during conference time I noticed a child who used a lot of descriptive words in her/his story – then I will ask them to share. Kids don’t have to be finished with their story to share. If a student has an excellent introduction, but that’s all they have – have them share it.  I normally have the students I pick be students who focused and worked on what we discussed in the mini-lesson.
For sharing, the child puts their story under the document camera so it’s projected on the board. Then, the child reads the story to the class. When they’re finished, they pick two students to give them a compliment of something they did well.  I do model this a lot at the beginning. I noticed because of the modeling that the compliments were actually quite specific.  Gone are the days of good job or I like it, but kids were giving feedback like I like how you used words that described what you were doing, etc.
Thank you for stopping by today to see how I format my Writing Workshop time!
Here’s what’s coming up next in the series…
-Mini Lesson Ideas -Teaching Editing -Publishing Pieces -Tying Up Loose Ends

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.
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