My Notes - 6 Essentials for Writing Workshop

Note: The following are my notes about the writing workshop I attended one day facilitated by Elizabeth Martin. Any errors, incomplete thoughts, failures to cite appropriately are mine. 


My Notes:
1. Starts off the day sharing stories...at least 4-5, if not more about a variety of topic. The purpose of this, I think, is to "prime the pump" for participants.
2. Ms. Martin passed out a small, fit in composition notebook half of a manila folder and instructed us to title it "Library of Ideas." The purpose of this is folder is for participants to jot down  stories brought to mind by Ms. Martin's. This worked for me, since the story she shared about her first few weeks at college reminded me of my time at MSU and the time before classes started. Another example is calling Dad for help or rescue.
3. We all have stories to tell. Avoid summarizing and instead put yourself in as a character in the story.

4. Tell stories at your table. Participants shared their stories they'd jotted down on their manila folder.
5. Think of small moments to share...put someone's name on a chart, then think of 3 small moments.
6. Come up with different small moments for places and people. Put down stories for each place.

7. Telling stories helps encourage sharing...sparks memories of other stories in her past.
8.  Neighborhood map list...this is a neat idea. You draw a map of your neighborhood when you were a child and then identify places where stories took place. By having this in your writing notebook, you are able to quickly find topics to write and share about.
9. Heart Map - First, put people in there. Second, places. Third,  put things on the heart map...when you're done, expository writing. Things could be iPad, iPod, etc. Fourth, activities and events.

  • Places
  • People
  • Places
  • Things
  • Activities
  • Events
  • Goals and Dreams

Six essentials for writer's workshop:
1) Time - Have to give time to write each day.  Some students will fake it until they move on. "I write because I'm expected to write. I know that at a certain, I will be called in and be expected to write at a certain time." If you can only do workshop twice a week, the don't bother. You send the message to kids that it's not important. We're writing every day. Responsibility, expectation are important. I feel have to feel a sense of responsibility as a writer.  Treat child with expectation that they are going to speak. That is expectation.

Inside that expectation is the responsibility. If you're sitting at your computer, why should students write? We are imbuing our expectations to our kids.

2) Talk  - "If they are not talking, it's not workshop."  We've been programmed to believe that we're not on task if we're not sitting at our desk. One of the conditions that must be present if feedback to response. Teachers process what they are learning by talking to each other. The best practices for instruction have changed...but we're still sort of programmed from the way we talked. If the kids aren't talking, it's not workshop. Teach appropriate talk for workshop.
"No walking, no talking." Writing is, by its very nature, a solitary affair. Isn't writing a lonely affair?
We need to create a net to enable students to talk to each other. Students need to be co-dependent on each other, not just the teacher. If they are dependent only on you, then you are outnumbered.

3) Tone - Create a climate in your classroom that's an invitation. Create an environment as a strong invitation that is exciting. Everything you around the work is part of the invitation. Make a thoughtful plan about how to get kids excited about the writing work. The tone of your classroom needs to be an invitation.

4) Teaching - You teach the whole time. The biggest problem is knowing what to teach. In the past, we were taught grammatical structure. Teach kids what good writers do.

5) Choice - Good writers know what they write about.  Roald Dahl's work.We cannot invite kids to the table and then tell them to write about what is important to them. Lucy Calkins: Tell the exact truth about something.  Sometimes we are too quick to push kids to something new. The once in a lifetime nature of topics.

Kids have the idea that if they don't write about something exciting, then it's not going to be good writing. Kids need to have choice.

6) Structure - There is structure in the hour of time. If it's a problem, there are two things I can do--teach a mini-lesson or put a structure on it.

You can't gatekeep...students need access to what they need to get through the writing process. And, they will need to be able to getup and get what they need to move on.

What Happens in Writing Workshop during Conference:
While students are writing, you are teaching. You are not at your computer, etc. You are up and walking around, talking to child, writer to writer. "If you don't manage your people, they will manage you."
"Writers need to be writing."
Constantly move around the room, teaching.
Conferring is your best teaching. We get better at reading and writing when we do it a lot.

Share Time:
We don't meet author's chair. We mean that we'll take the work of the minilesson. When you write dialogue, it has to have a reason, moves the story forward. Dialogue with a purpose moves the story forward. When kid write dialogue that moves the story forward...celebrate students who achieve the goal of the writing workshop mini-lesson.

Share time can be a nice book-end on mini-lesson that reteaches the lesson. When you invite kids to share, it will be very awkward. When you start at the beginning of the year, it's not going to feel comfortable for the teacher or students until later. Make sure that you give it awhile until everyone feels comfortable.

Hands up, come in for a minilesson.

"We write so that our curriculum knowledge of the process of writing runs deep and true in our teaching" --Katie Wood Ray

  • Writing partnerships may last the duration of the school year or could change across units of study.
  • Get systems in place to get work done.
  • Writing partnerships are reciprocal relationships where everyone gives and receives help.
  • Partnerships should:
  • Meet often, share their writing, listen to one another...
  • "By offering a community where every member is engaged in similar struggles, we offer our independent writers the knowledge that they are not alone." - M Colleen Cuz, Independent Writing
  • All mini-lessons either give or gather information. 

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