A Day in our Writer’s Workshop

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

One of our school room shelves is specifically for writer's workshop. The shelf has a paper tray filled with different kinds of paper. Right next to the paper tray you can see little blank booklets. (I just fold 3 sheets of typing paper in half,surround them with one half-folded colored sheet of paper, then sew up the binding with a straight stitch on my sewing machine. That gives them the chance to create a book in a real book format.) We also have crayons, scissors, and other bookmaking supplies nearby.

One of our school room shelves is specifically for writer’s workshop. The shelf has a paper tray filled with different kinds of paper. Right next to the paper tray you can see little blank booklets. (I just fold 3 sheets of typing paper in half,surround them with one half-folded colored sheet of paper, then sew up the binding with a straight stitch on my sewing machine. That gives them the chance to create a book in a real book format.) We also have crayons, scissors, and other bookmaking supplies nearby.

Mini-Lessons

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.

This list was actually made by us during a mini lesson about how to come up with ideas to start writing when you feel stuck.  We all contributed ideas and made the list together, then hung it up on our school room wall to refer to when we need it.

This list was actually made by us during a mini lesson about how to come up with ideas to start writing when you feel stuck. We all contributed ideas and made the list together, then hung it up on our school room wall to refer to when we need it.

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:

  • stories/narratives
  • descriptions
  • reports
  • instructions/recipes
  • opinions
  • biographies/autobiographies
  • poetry
  • letters
  • plays
  • 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).

Each kid has these little pockets at their desk. They move the popsicle stick down as they progress through the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing. This helps me see where they are at in just a glance, and helps them remember what they should be doing during our free writing time.

Each kid has these little pockets at their desk. They move the popsicle stick down as they progress through the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing. This helps me see where they are at in just a glance, and helps them remember what they should be doing during our free writing time.

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:

  • pre-writing
  • drafting
  • revising
  • editing
  • publishing
One section of one of our bookshelves is devoted to our classroom library. When a kid publishes a book, they get to put it in the library for us to read over and over again.

One section of one of our bookshelves is devoted to our classroom library. When a kid publishes a book, they get to put it in the library for us to read over and over again.

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.

 

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One Response to A Day in our Writer’s Workshop

  1. Ana Bertozzi says:

    This was a great inspiration. I’m now looking for a way to adapt some of this ideas to my Adult classes. Congratulations!

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