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Writing Workshop

Inside the 1st grade classroom you will find your author writing a small moment story. What is a small moment story you may be asking? It is a true story that the child experienced that lasted a short time, not over a day or longer. We use the idea of a watermelon. If the story is big, like a watermelon they pick one seed or one small part to concentrate on.  Children begin writing their story by thinking of something that maybe gave them a big feeling or maybe the first time they tried something, or the last time they did something, or about something they did with a special person in their life. As teachers we teach them when something happens to them or they remember something special, they hold that small moment in their hands carefully and put it into their pockets to pull out when it is writing time or to write it down so they can remember later.After they have an idea, they begin to think about that moment, replaying it in their mind like a movie.They learn how to tell their story across their fingers, across paper (we use booklets of 3 or more pages) or to a partner. Children naturally are storytellers and this is what we use to teach them how to turn their story into a written story like an author.The next step in the process is either to sketch that moment quickly or to begin writing.  The children are told they are the “bosses” of their writing and they are the ones to control what and how they write. We support them by teaching them strategies to use to help them become better writers. These strategies are not things that they can use one day, but strategies that they can use every time they write for the rest of their life!

Do you want to help your child become a better writer? Here are a few suggestions that you may use. Read to your child, because reading authors’ writing gives examples of what a good piece looks like. Talk about things that you do together. When your child tells you something that happened in school or on the bus, or when having a play date, listen closely. Ask questions about details that they may have forgotten, such as who was there, what were they saying, how did that make you feel, where exactly were you, were others around? What this does is get children to focus on details of what actually happened. Always compliment them on their story telling and suggest, “Wow, that would make a great small moment story!”

At SAS we teach writing through ‘The Units of Primary Study’ by Lucy Calkins.

LucyBelieves…Here are some of Lucy Calkin’s strong beliefs about Writers’ WorkshopStamina and RigorLucy believes that the writing program needs to be rigorous. When she speaks of stamina, she means that children need to build up their ability to write fluently and for long periods of time. It is the teacher’s job to work toward building the stamina of her/his children. You may need to start by having the independent writing time be 5-10 minutes if your kids are younger and have not been required to write for extended periods of time before. You should, however, work quickly toward increasing the time expected of them to write fluently. Your job is to get them writing and writing fluently for increasingly longer periods of time.

Promote independence in childrenChildren are taught and expected to be independent in writer’s workshop. Once independent writing time starts, they need to know what they are expected to do and get going doing it. This means they need to know where all supplies are. They also need to know that it is not okay to interrupt the teacher if she is conferencing. They should be busy writing for this period of time. Children actually thrive with this independence and it frees you up to get some serious conferencing done with students.

Keep workshops simple and predictableThe writer’s workshop has a set format to it. It always starts with a mini-lesson with the large group gathered on the floor in front of the teacher. It continues on to independent writing time and closes with the large group back together again for sharing. There is an ebb and flow to it. Large group, small group….large group. The children learn the routine and without question, should know what is expected of them. They should be able to get busy without direction from the teacher once the routine is taught and established.

All lessons are multi-levelA great benefit of the Units of Study is the fact that the lessons are all multi-level. They are very open ended. Since the students are choosing their own topics and writing at their own level, the lessons are truly differentiated for all the different levels in your classrooms. Finally! With all of the mainstreaming and the wide range of levels common in classrooms, this is truly a curriculum that will fit all.

Writing is the ONLY option during writing timeThis is a biggie! Students are taught that they are never finished in writer’s workshop. This is a paradigm shift from the traditional way many teachers have taught writing. In the past, you may have given a prompt and instructed the kids that this was the day for them to write their rough drafts. You know how it went from there. Johnny finished in 10 minutes and Suzie was still writing an hour later. The kids that finished early needed something to do to fill in the time waiting for others to finish. This is the beauty of the workshop way. During workshop time, children keep writing the entire time. They are all at different levels and stages of writing. Some may be publishing, others are working on rough drafts and still others are conferencing with the teacher. Children are taught early on that they are never done. Teachers will repeatedly say to them, “When you’re done, you’ve just begun”. They are directed to go back to their writing and either add to the pictures, add more detail, or perhaps start another piece. The main issue is they must get busy doing something with writing and only writing.

Responses -

Dear Mrs. Voge,

The Writer’s workshop is very helpful. We are using the tips with Amanda at home. Thank you very much! Lisa

It was cool to met the ather class and to read theare storys:). I can’t wait until we publish our stories again

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