After being inspired by a fellow colleague, I decided to give Writers’ Workshop a try in our Year 4 classroom. Without a doubt, it has been my best decision yet! Within a matter of weeks we saw a transformation in our students. Those that had struggled with punctuation were now rereading and editing their writing; one student even took it upon herself to use paragraphs to organise her writing. Another took action and continued writing at home. Those that were struggling with handwriting, were now CHOOSING to hand write rather than use the computer. I simply couldn’t believe the dramatic change in our students. Their perceptions towards writing had changed.
So you might be wondering what exactly is Writers’ Workshop. It’s involves creating a inviting environment where students respect each others’ writing and offers us the opportunity to demonstrate the power that writing can have on our lives. By inviting students to write daily, we can help them discover how it can enrich our lives. As Charles Whitaker Ph.D. mentions it is basically a studio approach in which student writers are engaged in developing their craft and are guided by a mature writer—the teacher. In the writing workshop, students are involved frequently in the writing process, though in some cases not all students necessarily are at the same place in that process. To find out more, read Best Practices in Teaching Writing.
To set up the Writers’ Workshop routine, I gave each student a new ring binder folder with the following divider sections inside:
- Current piece
- Previous writing
- Published pieces (sometimes we actually did the current piece and published all in one go on the Chromebook)
- Mini-lessons (any sheets/ activities/ examples you use in the mini-lesson)
- Resources (anything to help the children write more independently- word banks for EALs, etc.)
Our students were very excited to have this new binder. Once the routine was established, they took great pride in organising their writing and going back to improve previous pieces. The use of a ring binder also gave me the flexibility to differentiate even more for the students, giving shaded handwriting lines to those students who wanted to improve their handwriting.
Following the approach of my colleague, I often structured my Writers’ Workshop lessons in the following way:
- 5 mins – Read (Texts that suit your writing genre)
- 10 mins – Mini-Lesson (Craft- e.g. How to write a good recount, Skills- grammar, spelling and punctuation)
- 15-20 mins – Writing
- 5-10 mins – Share Session
Whilst the structure of the lesson doesn’t allow for a lot of writing time, it adds up over the week if you are doing Writers’ Workshop everyday. I found very quickly that it is important to allow students the opportunity to share their writing. We created a routine of having an ‘Author’s Chair’; we put a chair at the front of the class and invited our aspiring authors to sit and share their favourite writing. After reading their writing aloud, peers gave them positive and constructive feedback. It was wonderful to see the respect they gave to each other. Sharing their work was really essential for helping the students to value their own writing.