Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writing Workshop Essentials

When I started my new position in August as our district's Writing and Social Studies Coordinator, I began to look for a one page document that listed the important components of a writing workshop. Since I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for, I consolidated several into the following list. I'm still not sure that this is complete and I'm open to feedback, but this is the combination of some of the lists in Lucy Calkins' books, conversations with colleagues, and observations of powerful classrooms. I envision using this as a checklist for setting standards, expectations, and goals for workshop instruction.

Writing Workshop Essentials

o   Environment
o   Writing supplies area includes:
§  Pencils, markers, erasers
§  Post-its, index cards, envelopes
§  Spell-check machines, dictionaries, thesauruses
§  Mentor texts
§  Staplers, paper clips, tape, push-pins
§  Evidence of demonstration texts and teacher writing

o   Meeting area includes:
§  Chart paper
§  Author’s chair

o   Mini-lessons:
o   Link to the unit of study
o   Contain a clear and concise teaching point
o   Include active engagement
o   Link to independent work
o   Stay within the 10-minute guideline

o   Workshop routines are evident through:
o   Writer’s notebooks for grades 3 and up with appropriate quality/quantity
o   Writing folders for grades K-2 with appropriate quality/quantity
o   Writing folders for work in progress for Grades 3-up
o   Charts on the wall that serve as instructional tools and are evidence of strategy instruction
o   Solid 35 minutes of writing block to allow for conferring and small group work
o   Writing partnerships
o   Students’ understanding and use of mentor texts
o   Mid-workshop teaching point
o   Evidence of publication and movement through the writing process
o   Daily end of workshop shares:
§  Occur in the last 5 minutes
§  Provide evidence of the mini-lesson teaching point

o   Conferring includes:
o   A system of note-taking
o   Management that supports a no-interruption policy
o   Evidence of Compliment-Research-Teach-Challenge strategy
o   A balance of individual, partner and small group conferences

This is what I have so far and I am really interested in feedback, as well as ideas on how to use it.

Happy writing,


  1. You have a great framework here. I wish it had an image somewhere in the post so I could pin it!


  2. Melanie,
    I'm wondering if Regie Routman has a list. Anchor charts are so critical; I wish I saw them more "regularly" because they are such good evidence of "visible targets" for student learning!

  3. HI Melanie,
    You have everything on the list. I would add that you need to give yourself permission to make workshop a learning experience for you too.

    My workshop now looks much different than it did when I began (4+ years ago). My mini-lessons have gotten shorter, I've learned to streamline small group "seminars" for students who need specific reteaching. I've changed they formats of student journals - formats that allow for more choice. I've learned where technology can be integrated and where/how it proves to be a distraction. My anchor charts look different.

    Enjoy the journey - it is worth it!