Writer's Workshop (How-to)

Writer’s Workshop for Busy Bees 2013-2014:

Gather students around the table.  Have their journals and pencils handy. Teacher models how to write in the journals first. She does this every day.

Teacher Modeling
Step 1: Think!  Teacher: “It’s time to write in our journals.  I am going to think of a story I can write.”  Think aloud some things you did last night and some things you did this morning. Pick one out loud.  “I have done a lot of fun things, but today I am going to write a story about what I did this morning. This morning I ate toast for breakfast. I am going to write that. My story will be I ate toast. I will draw a picture of me eating my toast

Step 2: Draw Teacher draws her picture, explaining that a good story has a “who” and a “what”, emphasizing those things as they are drawn. In this case the “who” is the teacher and the “what” is ate toast. “I have drawn the picture to my story, now I am going to write the words to my story.  Let’s clap and count the words.”

Step 3: Clap and Count The teacher says her story again- “I ate toast.”  Then she claps her sentence out- one clap for each word.  “I ate toast (while clapping).  Now, you do it with me.”  The students clap with the teacher. “How many words are in my story?  Let’s clap it again and see.”  As the kids clap and count, the teacher puts one finger up for each clap/word. “Three! You are right. There are three words in my story. I am going to draw three lines at the bottom of my page for each word in my story.” Draw three lines. “Now I am going to write my story.”

Step 4: Write The teacher writes her words in their corresponding lines. After each word, she re-reads aloud it to make sure it “matches her story.” (As the year goes on and the students progress, the teacher will be able to “stretch out/sound out” her words aloud and model for the children how to figure out beginning and ending sounds in words and write them.  The children will start catching on to this.)

Step 5: Share Once all the words have been checked, she reads her whole story again, making sure it sounds right and matches her picture. She “shares” her story with the class. 

Student Writing

Teacher: “Now it’s your turn to write in your journals.  I want you all to think of things you did last night or this morning and pick one thing you did to write for your story today.  Remember all of us are different and have all done different things so we can all write different things.  Reading stories that are different (or not all the same) is what makes reading fun.”  Ask each child individually what their story for the day should be. Help them as needed.  Repeat their story or rephrase if needed so that it is only 3-4 words. (At first they many of them may say the same thing which is okay for now. Right not the goal is for them to participate and enjoy the activity.  Eventually we can say “Someone already said, “I played soccer.  Let me help you think of something else you can write.” You also might run into children saying they don’t know how to draw something or can’t do it.  Just tell them this is for fun and try their best.  Their picture doesn’t have to look perfect, they just have to try.  When they try, they will be doing it just right. Once they know what to write about, hand out pencils and have them begin drawing their “who and what” of the story.  Only use pencils at this point. As they are working, float to each child and help them one and one go through the other steps of the writing process.  (Clap and count-obviously, you need to do this quietly so that it doesn’t disturb the others.) Once the lines have been drawn for each word, have the children “write” their own words. At this point, it could be scribbles, letter-like forms or some letters that don’t phonetically match. 

That’s okay.  That’s what we want them do--to participate and get the hang of it. Eventually we can work on getting the beginning sounds of words. Once all the children are done, they each can share their story (hold it up and “read” it) and the teacher can write the sentence the child has “written” below his/her writing. Celebrate each child’s work after they share.

“Yeah! We loved your story. It was wonderful. Job well done.”

Notes- If you find that the children are getting through the drawing part too fast before you can meet with each of them individually, you could possibly let them color their picture with crayons, though not until they are done illustrating it with a pencil first.  We want them to write with the pencil and also make sure they are understanding the two parts of the story and showing that visually.  I would hold back on letting them use crayons if you can. Another way to extend the drawing is to turn on some soft classical music and tell them they must work on their story until the music goes off. That has helped me in the past.        

Goals for Writer’s Workshop
Sept/Oct- Right now we just want the kids to participate and get the hang and routine of this down. Anything they write or draw is wonderful and should be celebrated.  By the end of October, we hope that the children understand that we can draw and write to convey something. Anything else they get at this point is bonus.

Nov/Dec- Here we want them to start getting the idea when we write we do so from L-R.  We want them to start “writing” in their lines to understand that there is a space between words when we read and write. They may start to write with letters, but they don’t have to phonetically match. If most of the stories the kids write start with  “I…” then many might write in that letter in the first line or at least say it out loud as they are dictating their stories.  All of this is great.

2014-Hopefully by January the children will be familiar enough with letter-sound association that they can hear the first sound in some of the words in their stories. This is the goal.  For them to hear some sounds in words and be able to write the letters or sounds they hear. (Sounds can be represented by incorrect letters- for example if they write the word “bike” as “BC”, we know that they can hear the B sound as well as the K, even though they use a C because they sound the same.)

We can evaluate after Christmas to see how this is going.  If the children are ready, goals for Writer’s

Workshop after Jan. to May could extend to stretching out words as you say them, emphasizing ending sounds first and then consonants in the middle.  So hearing more sounds in words and being able to represent them. Also, sentences or their “stories” could grow to more words (from 3-4, to 5-7—Example: I ate toast (3 words). 

I went swimming with my family (6 words).