What Does Writing Workshop Look Like?

All, Teaching Tips

Recently I’ve led a lot of professional development sessions encouraging teachers to embrace the writing workshop in their classrooms, but inevitably people want to know what workshop looks like in my class. I love my workshop model and think it is very productive for my students, but before I share I want to make clear that there isn’t one definitive workshop model (that’s why there are so many books and articles about workshop out there!). Look at as many different writing workshop models as you can then consider what is best for your students and you in your current context. Just as the writing process evolves based on the writer, purpose, and context, so does the writing workshop based on the teacher, students, and context.

This week my students began their journey toward developing their literacy narratives. They each wrote between 600-800 words during our 90-minute class and will then draw from that writing and thinking to craft a 250-500 word blog post as their contribution to our class conversation about literacy. In class we engaged in these activities:

  1. Bell ringer was a response to a quote about literacy (selected from a collection) and the writer’s definition of literacy
  2. Three brief videos introducing a range of definitions and opinions about literacy, a brief discussion about some of the literacies that were new and/or interesting to us, then more writing about our definition of literacy in the context of this new information
  3. A quick lesson about claims then we each crafted our own claim about literacy and wrote an explanation of our position
  4. We then each read one of five selected This I Believe essays related to literacy and the ideas we have been exploring and then discussed the claims of each and how those essays might inform our thinking about literacy
  5. We each pulled an interesting line from an essay to write in response after another quick lesson about writing in response to a text including the importance of identifying the source and what the source has to say (in quotations or paraphrase).
  6. After sharing our lines and responses, we then returned to the claims we had written earlier and determined if we would like to revise or rewrite the claim. After (re)writing our claim, we wrote an explanation for it.

This workshop session gave my students a lot of time to think and write about literacy with the opportunity to reflect on new ideas as they were introduced. This was all very low stakes as I did not collect the writing generated during this time, but students are aware that the writing will lead to something (this week’s blog post and a future assignment). Plus, we counted up our words to demonstrate our writing stamina and we shared our ideas to demonstrate that writing is thinking and that ideas need time and watering to grow. I was also able to work in two important mini-lessons which we can build on later. I think we got a lot accomplished in just 90 minutes and it was a very relaxing and interesting class.

Next week’s workshop won’t look exactly like this one because my goal will be to move my students closer to a draft of their literacy narrative, but it will include these same elements (Open, Shape, Work, Air). What is your favorite model for writing workshop? How traditional is your workshop? How have you adapted the writing workshop for your unique teaching situation?

Note: I ended class with students’ recognizing each other by awarding badges recognizing the classmates whose participation impressed them.

Artwork via Wikimedia Commons

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.