Sunday, November 20, 2011

Writers Workshop-The Anatomy of my workshop and some conferring

I had received an few emails asking more about the logistics of my Writing Workshop, so this will look familiar to a few of you (I just cut and pasted into my post... la-zy)

So here is the anatomy of my "New Writer's Workshop"
WARNING: This is a long post, you may want to get a snack and something to drink

1.  Students get their writing folder and meet me on my carpet for my mini-lesson.  The students sit on their folder to keep the chaos to a minimum. NO PAPER FUSSING ALLOWED

2. Students know this is time for me to model write. I do a LOT to think alouds.  Before I added a page, I modeled how I went back and reread the previous pages to be sure what I was going to add would fit in the book.  I asked,  "So writers, if I wanted to write about what I made for dinner, would that go in this book?"   Stuff like that.  I did this EVERY day.  Because sometimes the kids need to hear it over and over.  My kids also helped me think of what else I could add in my book about Theodora.  They helped me form the sentence that I would write.  Once we had decided on the sentence, I drew the lines for each word.  Then I would write the words with their input, "Help me spell 'the'".... (10 minute mini-lesson tops)

3. Before they went off to write,  I did my usual "status of the class"... What are you going to write about today?  On day two with the books, my question changed to, "Are you going to add to your piece or start a new one."   I have let my kids choose a single page (like we had been doing) or starting a book.  

4. This week we set the timer for 20 minutes.   The students could write, draw, and add words during this time.  CONTROL FREAK WARNING:  I require my students to use a pencil to draw and crayons to exceptions.  I have not embraced the markers yet... just can't seem to go there.  I put on classic music while they write (nothing with words...sorry no opera).

5.  During this time, I meet with my small group writing kiddos (4 students per day).

6.  When there is about 5 mins left on the timer, I say, "Writers, you have about 5 minutes left.  If you have not worked on your words yet, please do so."  This has been a standard announcement since we started Writer's Workshop on day 1,so they have gotten good at jumping to it.

7.  When the timer goes off, I brisk around the room and have the students read their work.  They have gotten good at quickly reading it to me (not the case back in Sept.)  I quickly jot the words down that I think will be hard to figure out later (this is contrary to the KWR mindset).  I usually do the reading recovery check marks above the sounds they were able to write.  I praise the heck out of efforts.

8.  Those kids who don't have word attempts down I say, "Oh boy, you need to get some words down and I'll be back to check on you." I am moving at a super quick pace.  This is not my conferring time (I do that with my small group).

9.  Students come back to my rug and sit on their folder, NO PAPER FUSSING ALLOWED

10. My small group shares their writing for the day on the document camera.... Praise, praise, praise.... from me,  Kind comment from a peer. (10  minutes)

11. Students then get with their writing partner to share their work.  (3-5 minutes)

12.  The folder goes back in the pocket chart for the next day.

Whew!  Simple...ya... right!

Here is what I modeled this past week.

Here is what one of my students worked on this last week. The print is kind-of small, but if you click on the picture, you will get a larger image.

Here is what I could say about this writer:

He is able to generate his own topic for writing.
He can hold the language in his memory while he transcribes his message.
He returns to the beginning of the sentence and will reread if he needs to remember the next word.
His writing contains a logical and sequential order.

He says words slowly and records the sounds he hears.
He uses our classroom resources (word walls) although,not all of our word wall words are spelled correctly.
He uses spaces between his words.
He writes some high-frequency words correctly.
He uses punctuation.

My goals for him?
He is a risk taker, so I am planning on challenging him to vary the way he starts his sentences.  These all start with "I am" and I think he is ready for a little sentence variety.

I could also challenge him to go back and reread for correctness. I think he could do a little revising for clarity.

I am sure there are more ways my conference could go... Wanna give me your ideas?


  1. I love what you are doing with your Writer's Workshop. I am a children's author in Michigan and have really enjoyed your blog tonight! Maria Dismondy

  2. It sounds like your kids are doing great! I set goals with my kids (it could be use spaces, remember periods, or use beginning, middle, and end). I stick it inside their folder and if they do it, they get a star (I write one in pen on the sticker). When they get five stars, they get to set a new goal. Right now, many of my students are working on including an exciting event. (I am so done with I see the sun. I see the grass. I see a cow.) I am going to add sentence variety for those who are stuck repeating their sentence beginnings. Thanks!

  3. Thanks so much for this post. I am curious if the kids who didn't write any words down are writing sentences or are they more and the labeling stage? It might be neat to show Tanner how to incorporate a speech bubble and quotations..."I am the winner!" and of course exclamation mark :) Please continue to post more, would love to see your lower end students work and writing. I am also curious if you always use plain paper. We are instructed in our district to use paper with a box for the picture, and a line underneath for the writing.

  4. You have to keep posting about your writing workshop-it is such fun to get a glimpse at what writing is like in another kindergarten! My teammates do not use a writing workshop approach-so I have been going it alone and love seeing what you are doing! I think Tanner's writing is fantastic-and even though he is starting each sentence with "I am" there is really a lot of variety between his pages. I love that he's attempting to add in dialogue and telling how his family felt-I would tell him that I really felt like I was at his boxing match on those first pages-and I love how the last page leaves the reader thinking about what will happen in the next boxing match! Tanner seems well on his may to writing a small moment which I think is a big step-very different from the kiddos that are still writing repetitive "all about" books on one topic (like the princess one you shared awhile back). What you posted about in step 7 is something I have been thinking a lot about lately-I do the check marks too and write under some of their words-I have always done this and I am just not sure if I can give it up-I think there is a benefit to it because then they see what sounds they got and I am able to go back to their writing later and know what it says-but I don't want the kids to feel like I am taking over their writing or like I am correcting it-such a challenge!
    Keen on Kindergarten

  5. Thank you for sharing! Writer's Workshop is something I LOVE, but it always winds up on the back burner because my schedule is so choppy. Grr! So about how long is your Writer's Workshop Time? It appears to be about 45min or so? And do you have it every day?

  6. We totally keep markers off the writer's workshop block too! We are really focusing on the whole pencil/crayon tool usage too. Love that you confer with 4 kids a day. Keep up the great and inspiring work!

  7. I agree with you...I only like my students to work with pencils and crayons in their journals. I enjoyed your writing ideas.....I need to do more in my classroom. Thanks for sharing.
    I am sending some sunshine your way because of all the wonderful things you share on your blog....Read more here
    :) Sue

  8. One more thing -- in step 7 -- when you mention writing words and the check marks -- do you do that directly on the student's work, or on something else? Thank you! I LOVE reading your blog!

  9. Happy Thanksgiving! I'm sharing the Sunshine Award with you~~come over and grab it for your sidebar. Much love, Chrissy


  10. I am also passing along rays of sunshine to you with the sunshine award. Thank you for always inspiring me.

  11. Deedee! This is amazing! Everything you said is SO planned out and makes so much sense! I love that you time it! That way, it just can't run way over (like mine often tends to do). I am also curious if this is an every day thing? I SERIOUSLY wish you would do a workshop on this!!!!! This is the area I need help in the most--and it seems like lots of others are very interested in this too:)
    Little Warriors

  12. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing. I am excited to try out some of your ideas with my kiddos. In particular, drawing a line for each word they want to write. I currently have them "put the words on their fingers," but I love the visual of actually putting the lines on the page.

  13. DeeDee I have loved getting to know you and learning from you these past few months. I feel so lucky you stumbled upon a comment on my blog that sparked our book study. I know we could "talk shop" for hours and I hope one day we will. In the meantime, I am awarding you, a Sunshine Award. You truly inspire me to stop and think about the purpose of my lessons and teaching. Thank you.

  14. Wow~you explained Writer's Workshop so well, great post! I am really looking forward to trying to fit this in next year when I teach in England. I have always had a hard time fitting in Writer's Workshop because schools I've worked at either had a scripted curriculum that didn't allow this, or in England they have Literacy for only 1 hour (rdg, writing & language!) Do you have a lot of freedom at your school?

    Love your blog!

  15. Thank you ladies for the Sunshine Award... I totally needed it and blogged about it tonight... THANK YOU!

    Traveling Teacher~ I am pretty lucky that I have a lot of freedom with my curriculum. We do not have scripted curriculum. This can be a blessing or a curse as you have to create your own curriculum.

    Prior to going back in the classroom, I was the district's literacy coach, so the framework for literacy is one I helped set up and I believe in. I fit writer's workshop in EVERY day. I can honestly say, I may have missed 4 days this year. 1 hour for literacy is not adequate for reading and writing instruction. Research does not support shortcuts. Good luck. I hope you have better luck in your next year.

  16. I am soooooo addicted to this NEW topic in my brain! I have sooo been that teacher that the kiddos journal 1 topic each day -- I have gotten the book In picutres & In Words -- I cant put it down!
    The most important thing I love from the book is the idea of curriculum of time! I just think that is sooo powerful for kiddos!

    I want to jump back into this on Monday!! DAY 1! How about that for a second Quarter goal! I think my kids can do it --- How do you start w/ the paper you give them "pre made" booklets to start or how do you convey to them that they are "making" a book -- I think right now that is my hardest part...isnt that dumb. I just love love love this concept!! I cant wait to see where the year goes!!

    The book by Ray stated doing an illustration study -- our librarian right now is doing an Eric Carle study -- how powerful!!

    KEEP Posting or I will have to bugg you via email!!
    Thanks soooo much for the motivation!
    Sarah Hetrick

  17. OM Gosh! Sarah! It does not sound stupid at all. My biggest problem was the logistics of it all because I am a control freak. I will show more next week, but I finally settled on giving them a pre-stapled book of blank pages. We can add/delete/rearrange pages as the writing dictates. My kids seem to totally "get" making books.

    True story: I asked my class what we should do with the books we make. I have been compiling their single-paged pieces in a larger writing book (combined and all). I asked the kids if we should add their "books" to their year-long book. One of my kids said, "Well, Mrs. Wills it is already a book. Why do we want to make a book into another book?" Totally happened.

    I will share how I solved the "where to put the books we make" problem next week because I think it needs pictures.

    I am so glad you are excited about this. I am hooked! I think about it all the time! It is still a work in progress. Stay tuned and keep asking questions.


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