Thursday, June 23, 2016

Writer's Workshop

I have a love/hate dislike relationship with Writer's Workshop.  I love getting students excited about writing and watching them grow and develop throughout the year.  I dislike that I never seem to have enough time to "get it all in."  Writing is such a complex task that there just seems to be SO much I want my students to know and use.  I get frustrated that I can't do it all.

I wanted to share a couple of tips that I have learned to use during Writer's Workshop.  One is "the star on the board".  Sometimes I want students to have a silent, uninterrupted time to write.  When I draw a star on the board, the students know that it is a signal that everyone in the room will be writing and there is NO talking.  This includes me and any paraprofessionals or student teachers in the room.  Everybody writes.  I like to do this from time to time because it gives the students a chance to think and write.  I know that writers need to talk too, but every once in awhile it's good to have some silence.

Also, I get to do some writing.  I love to write!  I keep a writer's notebook in my classroom as well as a writing folder with works in progress.  I also have some "published" pieces that the kids can see.  I think it is important that the students see me as a writer too.  I can share my thoughts and struggles.  I model the process as well as the product.

We don't put the star on the board everyday.  I do this maybe once every couple of weeks.  It may last for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the engagement that I see.  I don't want to overuse this because I think it would lose it's effectiveness.  As it is now, the kids actually love to see the star on the board.

Another little strategy that I use is "the pencil on the board."  Just like the star, I draw a pencil on the board to signal drawing time. This is a strategy that my student teacher and I came up with last year.  When the pencil is on the board, students are allowed to draw.

I know that drawing is a really important part of the writing process too.  I want my students to know the importance of illustrations in their writing.  The problem I was noticing is that some students would draw the whole time.  They spent so much time on the illustrations that they never quite got to the writing part.  I want to give them the time to draw but also hold them accountable for writing. 

Now I tell the students that we focus on the writing part unless the pencil is on the board.  Sometimes I put the pencil up at the beginning of writing time.  Sometimes I put it up at the end.  Most days we have some time devoted to drawing during our Writer's Workshop time.  I always tell the students that they may draw during that time but they don't have to.  I don't want them to think that they have to stop writing and just focus on drawing.  I want to give them the opportunity.

I have so much more to talk about when it comes to writing.  I would love to hear your ideas and tips too!

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