Children want to write…
Choice About Topics
Best writing is that which comes from a writer’s thoughts, experiences, and dreams. A prompt of the day or a scripted writing curriculum will not provide the level of authenticity, inspiration, and motivation that comes from allowing children to write about what matters most to them. Support children in understanding that they have everything they need to be great writers: powerful ideas and a desire to share them with others. It is critically important that during a day filled with opportunities to respond to instruction through writing, children have the opportunity to move an idea of great importance to them through the writing process.
Time for Writing
To get better at anything—whether it is riding a bicycle, solving math problems, or kicking a soccer ball into the goal—requires time to practice. Writing is no different! Children need sufficient time on a daily basis to engage in the art of writing if they are to perfect their craft. According to Donald Graves, “If students are not engaged in writing at least 4 days out of five, and for a period of thirty-five to forty minutes, beginning in first grade, they will have little opportunity to learn to think through the medium of writing.” (A Fresh Look at Writing, pg 104)
Access to Good Writing Models
It is important for children to have purposeful exposure to a wide range of authentic texts to better understand what good writing looks and sounds like. Daily independent and read aloud times are critical components to a writing workshop moving toward the goal of nurturing and growing writers. Filling the room with beautifully crafted language and teaching children how to read and listen like writers as they hone in on the particular ways authors use words and structure their texts, permits children to envision the possibilities for any idea they wish to take from conception to publication.
Teachers understand the value inherent in a routine. It promotes effective and efficient use of time, reduces confusion and undesired off-task behaviors, and generally, enhances teaching and learning. In a writing workshop, adherence to a routine maximizes instruction and, most importantly, provides time for writers to perfect their craft. A typical writing workshop should span about one hour. However, times can be adjusted, proportionally, as long as all of the components are included and the writing workshop occurs no fewer than 4 out of 5 days a week.
| Organizing Writing Workshop Time
|*Mini Lesson – a focus on a single topic beneficial for the majority of writers – writers should leave the mini lesson envisioning new possibilities for their writing
|| 5-15 minutes
|Status of the Class - taken daily, enhances accountability, permits teacher to see trends and issues at a glance, charts writing development
|| 2-5 minutes
|Independent Writing/Conferencing - the heart of the writing workshop, teachers frequently confer with individual or small groups of writers
|| 20-45 minutes
|Sharing – affords validation for writers and promotes celebration of writing – teachers can share their writing also
|| 5-15 minutes
*Mini Lessons are not necessarily a daily event – a few times a week is adequate in most classrooms.
“We want to teach all children that the writing workshop is an opportunity to make and convey meaning.”
- Lucy Calkins
Guest post by Debbie Linville
Biography: Dr. Linville has been teaching for over 30 years and her passion is enabling educators to promote the proficient, joyful reading and writing lives of children.