Sunday, September 1, 2013

Writing Workshop

I LOVE teaching Writing Workshop.  A few years ago, I was lucky enough to have a fabulous special ed teacher co-teaching in my room.  I was teaching first grade that year and she mentioned that she wanted to do Writing Workshop in my room.  My reaction was sure, sounds great but I was thinking that it would be hard to do in September with first graders.  Getting them to write complete sentences could be a struggle and she was talking about having them write stories.  And going through the entire writing process.

Thankfully, I was wrong.  It was fabulous.  We started with teaching the kids all about apples for two weeks.  Every read aloud had something to do with apples.  We learned about different varieties, where they grew, the life cycle, etc.  Then we started the writing process.  Since we were able to co-teach we modeled prewriting by making a web of apple facts.  Then the kids had to do a pre-write.  They could write an apple fact book, write about their favorite apple foods,  or make up a story about something to do with apples.

Next we modeled using the pre-write to write a draft.  It worked really well since one of us could write and one could do the think aloud, talking about what the other was doing.  We went through the whole process, including conferencing, revising, and editing, each time having the kiddos work on their own story.
Our Writing Process: Pre-writing, drafting, conference with the teacher (discuss revising only), revise, quick conference with teacher (editing), edit, peer edit, proofread (with teacher), publish, share.

After the apple story, we allowed the kiddos to write about whatever topics they wanted.  By December, the kids would complain on days Writing Workshop wasn't on the schedule.  It was wonderful to have a class full of first graders who loved to write.

Every year since, I have done writing workshop.  It hasn't always been easy since I have not had co-teachers each year, but I have had some wonderful parent volunteers who I have "trained".  I make sure no adult is changing the kiddos work.  We simply ask guiding questions and try to give them ideas to make the writing piece better.  We do not fix spelling, the kids use the dictionary.  It's amazing to see.

I usually do a mini-lesson every two weeks based on what I see in the kids work.  I usually do "sparkle" words early on to help them add descriptive words.  Other mini-lessons include stretching sentences, combining sentences, topic sentences, concluding sentences, sentence order, sentence fluency, and peer editing.

We also make sure to share our writing.  The books do not go home.  We have a special bin in the class so we can read each others' books.  Every couple of weeks we have sharing time.  2-3 kids get to sit in the rocking chair and read their books.  Then they get to call on 4 students for compliments.  Then a few kids can share ideas on what they could work on (in positive ways).  Usually it is ideas for another book or other details that could have been added.

I updated all of the papers I use and it's available at my TpT store!  I also have a conference form that I copy back to back with the rubric so when I conference with each student we can look at the rubric to see what can be added. However, that is not in the pack. (Someone else created it).

What is included:

  • 5 different pre-write papers 
  • 2 versions of draft paper
    • I have the students skip lines when they are revising they have space to write more details above what already is written. (nothing can be erased)
    • one version has pencils on every other line
    • the other has blank spaces between the handwriting lines for revisions
  • Rubric for grading; 9 expectations are on the rubric 
  • Variety of final copy paper (some have different size lines and placement of illustration box)
  • About the Author Page
  • Title Page
I cut manila file folders in half to use as book covers.

If you have any questions, please ask!  also, if you do Writing Workshop, I'd love to hear how it works in your classroom.