Monday, June 27, 2016

Procedural Tips for Writer's Workshop

So, I have already shared how I get started with the 6 Traits in writing.  I follow the same basic procedure for introducing each trait. (See yesterday's post for more info.)  While we are working on each trait for 2-3 weeks, I am also integrating various mini-lessons.

One type of mini-lesson that I provide more frequently in the beginning is procedural.  This takes time to decide how you want things to go in your classroom.  Are your students going to use folders, writing notebooks, or journals to store their writings?  Are they allowed to use pens or markers during this time?  What do they do when they finish a piece of writing?  Are they allowed to sit anywhere in the room or do they stay at their desks?  All of these (and more) are questions that the teacher needs to determine ahead of time.  You have to decide what works for you and your students.

Once you decide on these type of things you need to explain and model them explicitly for your students.  I have learned that although it takes some extra time in the beginning, it is very worth it to set up clear expectations and follow them consistently. Model, model, model!!   Nothing can destroy your precious learning time faster than procedural or behavioral distractions.

Here are a few procedural tips that might help:

1)  Have a central location for paper and offer a variety of types.  I usually have 3-4 trays with various types of paper (lined, unlined, with borders or clip art…)  Students do not need to ask for paper.  They may get it themselves but only one sheet at a time.  (I have encountered a few hoarders).

2)  Have a bin of already sharpened pencils.  I really do not like the distraction of a pencil sharpener of any kind!  If a student needs another pencil, they just take one from the sharp bin and leave the unsharp one in another bin.

3)  Have a place where you meet students that is *sacred*.  At my kidney shaped table, I meet with students for conferencing.  When I am at the table, other students may not approach me or ask a question unless they are bleeding or on fire.  Before implementing this rule, it is a good idea to have a mini-lesson on problem solving.  Make an anchor chart about different types of problems and how they can be solved.  This will help eliminate the need for interruptions.

4)  Have various spelling resources available.  I have some dictionaries available to help with spelling.  I also have various phonics charts and resources posted in the room.  We have a class book of "Hunks and Chunks" to help with spelling.  Each student has a phonics chart in his or her TIGERS binder.  Be sure to model how to use each of these resources.  Also, when you notice a student using these resources, be sure to point that out during your sharing time.  Make a big deal of problem solving and the students will follow that lead.

5)  Have an area or procedure for students to gain writing ideas.  There are always a few students who have difficulty getting started.  They say they can't think of an idea.  One thing you can do to help with that is have a place where you provide topics or prompts that students may use.  Also, train the students that talking to others is a great place to get ideas.  (You have to train the students in "3 inch voices")  If they are stuck, they should ask the people at their table to share what they are working on.

6)  Tighten your transitions.  I am very protective of instructional time, so I strive to make transitions quick and smooth.  Typically, we have mini-lessons at the beginning of writer's workshop and on our carpet whole group meeting area.  Once I am finished with the mini-lessons, I want students to get started writing.  I don't send them all at once.  First, if I know of a student or students that I want to conference with, I tell them to go to the table and begin with a certain task.  I might say, "Be ready to share the piece you are working on and share your bold beginning." That way they are ready when I get there.  Then I release the other students back to their desk a few at a time.  I usually have my students sitting in groups of 6.  I refer to them as "teams."  I will send one team at a time to get started. This prevents a backlog at the paper station or a frenzy of movement that tends to distract individuals.  Also, you can stagger students getting started by asking about writing goals for the day.  But that will need to be a post for another day…    
(I get so excited about sharing that I get a little long winded!)

It seems as I write this post, I think of more and more to share.  I know that I have learned so much over the years by people sharing these ideas with me.  I am still getting great ideas from others and trying them out!  It is so exciting to me!

If you have a great tip to share, please let me know!  I love learning new stuff!!

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