A lot of people have asked what a day in our writer’s workshop looks like, so I thought I would walk you through one.
First off – a couple of disclaimers:
1. My writers are ages 9 and 7, so they are both still in the emergent stage. That means they are just starting out, not yet capable of producing completely polished work independently.
2. Every day is so different in our writer’s workshop that it will be REALLY hard to paint the picture in just one post, but I’ll try to give you a basic overview.
Our Writer’s Workshop
We almost always begin with a mini lesson. A mini lesson is simply a short lesson on ANYTHING that helps to improve writing. This could be a grammar exercise, a quick lesson on remembering to capitalize letters at the beginning of a sentence, or any other writing topic. I make little notes to myself as I’m looking at their writing about trouble areas, and then we have a mini lesson on whatever subjects they need at the time.
Sometime during the day we usually do a sentence of D.O.L. too. I write a sentence up on the board that is full of mistakes in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The kids take turns coming up and fixing the mistakes they find until we’ve written a clean sentence. This is great practice in editing and helps them learn to recognize mistakes in their own writing.
Free Writing Time
About once a month I teach them about a new genre of writing and ask them to give it a try during our writing time. The basic genres are:
- persuasive essays
Then we spend about 20-30 minutes free writing in our writer’s notebooks. As the kids get older, this time will lengthen. Usually the kids come up with their own material, sometimes I remind them of something interesting that happened or that they learned about to spur on the topic, and sometimes I assign something specific. If I do assign, it’s usually a very funny or entertaining assignment or story starter. It can also be a specific assignment that goes along with our genre for the month. We also have a list on our wall of ways to get ideas for writing (shown above).
It’s important to realize that within each of these broad genre categories there are a lot of specific genres you could learn about. For example, you may learn to write myths, fables, tall tales, fairy tales, folk tales, or personal narratives all within the broad subject of “stories.” When we learn a new genre we read several works in that genre and talk about what makes it unique. Then we practice. The kids come up with an idea under that genre (often using something they’ve written in their writer’s notebooks as a jumping off point). Then they take their piece through the writing process:
While they are working on a specific assignment they can choose whether to use their free writing time in their writer’s notebooks or on the assignment. It’s usually a mix of both, depending on what ideas they have at the moment. Typically an assignment starts out in their notebooks, but then progresses to a polished piece of work that gets added to our classroom library.
Spelling & Mechanics Lessons
We also spend time each day working on vocabulary, spelling, copy work, handwriting, typing, and other mechanics. We use lots of fun spelling games, practice our words for the week, do quick worksheets, and copy great sentences of scripture and other great books.
Variety is the Key
Every day is different. Sometimes we’re quietly writing at desks. Sometimes we’re outside listing as many things as we can see in our yard together. You may find Mom typing up a story with a kiddo at my side as we talk about editing and how to make the writing better. You may see us all sitting together writing a collective story, with Mom as scribe. Sometimes we’re reading silly poems together. We could be playing a game about nouns or watching Grammar Rocks videos. We’re always reading, writing, and talking about writing. In the messy process (and about 45-60 minutes a day), we become better writers by doing writer’s workshop.
More From Layers of Learning
I hope you’ll go check out our Writer’s Workshop page. There are lots of printables, lessons, and fun ideas to spice up your writing lessons. Then take a look at more learning explorations, some fun recipes, and the units in our catalog. Hope you stay awhile.