Writing Workshop

Hi all! I’m going to spend some Tuesdays focusing on a different subject and we will start with writing.

Writing workshop is an important part of the 5/6 classroom. The major of writing workshop is spent (wait for it) … writing. Students each have a writing journal they use for this time. Students spent a little bit of time during our first week decorating the covers. On the inside of the front cover of their writing journals is a rubric. The rubric is meant to be a helpful reminder of what they should be doing. For example, each day you write the date and the prompt or a title and then start writing. That sounds trivial, but taking pride in organizing our work is an important step. Sometimes the smallest of details determine our success. Also, it’s just helpful for the teachers and trust me, we need all the help we can get.

Every so often throughout the year, Lisa and Wendy will paste a copy of those rubrics into the writing journals to allow students and teachers to reflect on their progress so far. We’ve done this once already but skipped the student assessment at this point because they are still getting used to it. Using the same rubric for assessment that we used for the assignment means there are no surprises–it’s already in the front cover–students know what the expectations are! These assessments are meant to help students take their writing further and further throughout the year and, if necessary, identify areas they will want to work further on. If students ever have questions about notes on their assessments, please encourage them to come talk to us!

One of the most important expectations of writing working is that students are always writing or drawing. That’s right, drawing is also an important way to get our ideas out on paper and we don’t want to discount it. Of course, if it becomes an art journal only, we will try to redirect back towards writing, but drawing is absolutely a legitimate way to start the writing process, to brainstorm and express ideas. During writing time, we play quiet music–this is our signal that all talking stops and pencils are moving. So far, the kids have adapted really well to this and a lot of great writing has taken place!

There’s time for thinking, of course, but over time, we want to teach students to think on the page–they can make as many mistakes as they like–there’s no such thing as bad writing in a first draft!

But wait–a pencil? Don’t we have computers? Yes, yes we do. I’m a big fan of computers and we will use them a lot, but for the first part of the year, our writing notebooks will be actual paper and pen. Having a concrete item that students can see filling up with work is a tremendous incentive as well as a well-deserved source of pride. If you just open a doc on the computer, there’s no tangible reward when you are done. Also, if you leave it blank, there’s no open page staring back at you, reminding you that you really should have put something on it. Of course, we know that a lot of our students will struggle with the pencil and will need to use the laptop. This is not a problem. We will work with each student individually to make sure they have what they need.

Writing workshop period starts out with a mini-lesson. Sometimes this might be on a piece of writing mechanics, like punctuation or grammar. Sometimes this might be more about the craft of writing, like choosing a point of view or good hook for a story. Sometimes this might be about the writing workshop itself–how to create multiple drafts, turn in things that are ready, and request editing conferences with teachers and peers and final draft conferences with teachers. We are starting the year with lessons on point of view and genre.

Some of our prompts so far have been:

– describe your favorite dessert

– tell someone how to make a peanut butter sandwich

– tell a story about the first day at school for one of our class dogs or stuffed animals

Throughout the year, we will be mining our journals for pieces to turn into published drafts. Stay tuned for an invite to a publishing party!

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