Why Writing Workshop? – Writing Workshop Wednesdays

Writing, Writing Workshop
“No matter what, just let them write every day.  Even if you’re not sure what to teach, just let them write.  They’ll do fine.” – Lisa Cleaveland – Teacher (from About the Authors).
I love this quote! I love this quote because it fits perfectly with the Writer’s Workshop model.  Instead of being so concerned about spelling, capitals, punctuation, etc – we need to just get kids actually writing.  As long as they’re writing, they’ll be good. They need to write every day…in all subjects.
I’m a huge believer in the Writing Workshop model and one main reason is because it focuses on getting kids to write.  Gone are the days of every word needs to be spelled correctly. Gone are the days that kids are scrutinized for missing a comma.  Now, these things are important. These things are also a part of writing. But, they are not the end all be all.  When I was a kid, I don’t remember writing much until middle school. I know I did, but it doesn’t stand out to me. I think part of it is because we weren’t allowed to just write.  Everything was so focused on the sentence structure being perfect and each punctuation mark being just so that it didn’t feel like writing. It felt like a lot of work.

Again, let me reiterate. I’m not saying grammar and spelling aren’t important.  Neither are Lucy Calkins, Katie Wood Ray, or Lisa Cleaveland. I’m just saying we need to give kids a chance to just focus on writing.  Since I’ve been using this model I have seen so much growth in my student’s writing. Even those reluctant writers who you are lucky to get a few lines from – I’ve seen growth.  Writing Workshop is about allowing kids to write and be at the level they’re at. If kids are so stressed about how to spell the word “Florida” then their story stops.  If kids spell it the best they can and keep going, then we’ll see more actual content.  Which is the whole goal of writing to me. Content not perfection.  Especially in the early elementary grades.

Here are a few more reasons why I love using Writing Workshop:
  • Differentiation – Writing Workshop allows kids to work at their own pace.  Johnny may have edited and published five stories and be beginning number six.  Susie on the other hand might be a slower writing and working on publishing her first piece.  With Writing Workshop kids don’t have to be on the same page or even the same piece. They’re able to work at their own speed and you as the teacher are able to tailor personal goals to what each student needs during conferencing.
  • Content – Writing Workshop focuses on content not perfection. I also like that Writing Workshop allows kids to just write about what they want.  There are no prompts in Writing Workshop. While prompts have their time and place, and students need to be able to write to a prompt, during Writing Workshop, kids write about what they know and have experienced. They can write about learning to ride a bike, their trip to the beach, going to Disneyland, losing a tooth, a class field trip, etc.  They have choice in their content, which makes writing more enjoyable and you will see them more engaged during the writing time.
  • Modeling – Another huge focus in Writing Workshop is modeling.  Kids need to see how writer’s write. They need to see how they can come up with ideas. They need to see how to edit. And the best way to do this is through modeling.  Often it’s the teacher modeling with his or her own writing. It also is bringing up other students to model skills taught during Mini Lessons during sharing time.  Modeling is a very important step in Writing Workshop.
  • Mini-Lessons are Tailored to Standards – Whether you are using the actual Lucy Calkin’s Writing Workshop resource or you’re doing this on your own (I’ve done both), you can tailor Writing Workshop to your standards.  When I was creating lessons on my own and using the format, I picked standards and made mini-lessons to fit them.  I also would notice things my students were doing and then create mini-lessons based on areas we needed to work on. For example, my students especially at the beginning of the year had a hard time adding details. Their stories were very short.  So, we focused a few lessons on adding details and they then had a chance to practice it during the writing time.
  • Kids Love It – Kids love Writing Workshop. I once went to a school where they didn’t have a writing resource and I implemented Writing Workshop using the format and then creating my own mini-lessons. The kids ate it up! They were so excited for Writing Workshop time during the day.  I also saw major improvements in their writing and less stress. Many of the kids since this was new were so fixated on making their writing perfect that the content was lacking.  As they became more comfortable with the process, I saw major growth and they actually enjoyed writing.

As I mentioned, I’ve been lucky to have the resources and at times have had to create my own. These two books below are amazing! Lucy Calkin’s is a writing genius! I highly recommend her Writing Workshop series (it is pricey).  My current school just adopted the resource this summer and we’ll be using it next year.  I also used the older version many years ago at my first school.  I also recommend the book About the Authors.  This is geared more towards K-2/3 and is another great writing resource.  Ray and Cleaveland provide many ideas and many mini-lessons for teachers to use to implement writing in the classroom.  You don’t have to have the books to be able to use Writing Workshop in your classroom.  Stay tuned for the next few blog posts to get more ideas of how to implement even if you don’t have the resources.

     
Here’s what’s coming up next in the series…
-Writer’s Workshop Set-Up and Products Used – July 13
-Typical Writer’s Workshop Format – July 20
-Mini Lesson Ideas – July 27
-Teaching Editing – August 3
-Publishing Pieces – August 10
-Tying Up Loose Ends – August 17

Check back next Wednesday, July 13 to learn about the Writer’s Workshop Set-Up and Products Used for WW.
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  • Reply
    Our Elementary Lives
    July 9, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Hi Jordan. What a great post, I can't wait for the rest. I am a HUGE writing workshop fan and have gone to NYC Teacher's College to learn from Lucy twice. I love the quote you started the post with. Such an important part of it. Thanks for sharing.
    Paige
    Our Elementary Lives

  • Reply
    Marlene
    July 9, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    I love Writing Workshop and ever since I started using it, I have seen a big improvement in my student's writing. I've never used Lucy Calkins but have heard great things about it!

  • Reply
    Jordan
    July 10, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Thank you Paige! I'm so jealous that you were able to go and see Lucy speak! I've heard she's amazing in person. Thank you for stopping by!
    Jordan
    Team J's Second Grade Fun

  • Reply
    Jordan
    July 10, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Thank you Marlene! So glad to hear so many people are using Writing Workshop. Kids definitely show a lot of growth using this process. Thank you for your positive comments!
    Jordan
    Team J's Second Grade Fun

  • Reply
    Positively Learning
    July 11, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Our writing program at school seems to change every year, but hands-down the best approach my firsties have had success with is writing every single day. It's painful for so long…but then all of a sudden, writing emerges and they LOVE it! Thanks for sharing, Jen 🙂

  • Reply
    Jordan
    July 11, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Thank you Jen! I agree- the start is painful. I taught first grade for five years so I get it. But, by the end of the year it's amazing to see the progress. Thanks for stopping by!
    Jordan
    Team J's Second Grade Fun

  • Reply
    JanCT
    July 14, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Our school is just starting to transition to writing workshop. I'm excited about it. Thanks for your posts. In addition to reading The Writing Thief, I'll be reading your blog posts! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience.
    Jan
    Laughter and Consistency

  • Reply
    Jordan
    July 15, 2016 at 6:00 am

    Hi Jan! Thank you for checking out my post. So glad to hear your school is going to use Writing Workshop. I think you will love it! It has sure changed my writing teaching for the better. I'll have to check out The Writing Thief. Thank you for stopping by!

    Jordan
    Team J's Second Grade Fun

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