Essential Elements for Setting Up an Elementary Writing Workshop
Writing Workshop Basics: Getting Set Up for Back to School
Back to school. A fresh start. A new year. Oh, the possibilities! In this post, I'll share some of my tips for setting up a writing workshop in elementary school.
Let’s get this year started right…with writing!
Setting up a structured time for writing is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your students. It sets the tone for the year. Having a regular writing workshop block emphasizes that writing is an important part of classroom learning. It provides a structured opportunity for teachers to set writing expectations from the get-go. When students know from day-one that their school year is going to involve a specific time for writing, they are more likely to embrace the writing mindset.
At the begging of the year, I like to set up my writing workshop and expectations. A writing routine helps students feel more comfortable with their writing. I find that when writing routines are established early in the year, students have a more positive outlook on writing.
In elementary school, writing is often pushed to the side (or used sporadically). A paragraph here or a paragraph there. Little paragraph writing assignments still have a place in the classroom, but they should supplement a full writing block. Writing is such an important skill and it needs to be practiced regularly for students to strengthen their abilities.
Get your writing workshop off to a strong start by creating a daily writing workshop routine with these writing workshop essential elements.
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Writing Workshop Snapshot
Generally, my writing workshop structure looks something like this:
- I try to have at least 45 minutes - 1 hour for my writing workshop every day.
- Start with 5-10 minutes writing warm up (every day)
- 5-10 minute mini-lesson (2-3 days per week)
- 30-40 minute writing workshop (every day)
- 5-10 minute writing cooldown (every day)
Want help setting up a Writing Workshop in your elementary classroom? CLICK HERE to sign up for my FREE 5-Day Course: Launching Writing Workshop in Grades 3-5
Start the writing block with a writing warm-up. The writing warm-up is an important element of the writing block that is frequently overlooked. Additionally, the writing warm-up has many positive features including setting the tone for the writing block (start with something fun and positive), building writing fluency, building writing stamina, generating ideas, and community building. Let's explore these benefits:
Set the Tone
Let's face it, no matter how much we want it to be, writing is not the most desirable activity in elementary school. Kicking off the writing block with a fun, engaging writing warm-up sets the tone that writing can be fun! Check out this post all about how to liven up the writing block.
Build Writing Fluency
Writing warm-up is a time to build students' writing fluency. It is important that they learn to write and write quickly. I want ideas to flow off the pencil onto the paper. During writing warm-up, students are building this skill in a fun way. This technique prepares students for the drafting phase of the writing process. Students too often get hung up on spelling words correctly that they forget what they wanted to write. The goal is to get students writing fluently, so the ideas flow out instead of being forgotten. You can read more about building fluency with writing warm-ups HERE (No Rules Writing).
Building Writing Stamina
Once students learn to write fluently, they need to be able to do it for an extended period of time (stamina). By slowing increasing the time given for writing warm-up, the students slowly build their stamina to write quickly for longer blocks of time.
In elementary school, a popular comment I used to hear during writing was, "I don't know what to write." My goal is to eliminate this phrase from my students' vocabulary by the end of the year. A warm-up can also be used as a PowerWrite or brainstorm for their main writing piece. When getting ready to brainstorm ideas, a writing warm-up can help students quickly brain dump what they are going to write about. It activates their thinking and opens their mind to new thoughts and ideas.
At the end of the writing warm-up, I usually choose a couple students to stand up and read their writing aloud. Students must stand at their desk and project their voices as they read their passage. After they read aloud, we celebrate each person with snaps or claps. All students need to focus their eyes and bodies on the reader. It is a good way to set the expectation for how the class should position themselves to listen and respect the person sharing.
The next small block of time is usually dedicated to a small writing mini-lesson. I usually only do this once or twice a week that way we practice it for a couple days.
A mini-lesson might include teaching how to use commas in a series or examples of leads for opinion writing. These short lessons target a skill that students need to learn to improve their writing or an area of weakness in writing.
The mini-lesson should tie-in to what the students are working on during writers workshop so they have a chance to practice what is being taught. For instance, if you are working on writing an opinion body paragraph, you might want to do a mini lesson on transitional words and phrases used in opinion writing. That way students will be able to apply what they learned immediately in their own writing.
This is the heart and soul of the writing block. I guide students through the writing process and give them time to work on various types of writing: narrative, informative, opinion, etc. During this block of time, the teacher models instruction and then gives the students time to do their own drafting, writing, and/or editing. Students learn that writing is a process and they will take days (even weeks) to finish a writing assignment from start to finish.
This is also the time to integrate writing with other curriculum (science, social studies, etc.).
Writing Cool Down
Writing cool down is another opportunity for students to have a positive and enjoyable writing experience. Writing cool down is a writing choice activity for students to do when they finish their writing workshop assignment. Click HERE to download my Freebie: My Top 5 Writing Cool Down Activities. Writing cool down activities might be as simple as creating a writing May-Do menu for students to choose from. For instance: write a letter to a friend, write in a journal, publish a journal entry, make a Keynote presentation, write a story, write a movie script, write a book review, etc. The idea is that students choose a fun writing activity that appeals to them and they see that there are many different forms of writing.
Back to school is the perfect opportunity to carve out time for a structured writing workshop and get a writing routine in place. Using all or some of these writing workshop elements will set your class up for writing success.
PS. Don't forget to sign up for the FREE 5-Day Course: Launching Writing Workshop in Grades 3-5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have 10+ years teaching experience in elementary education, and I've taught every grade level from kindergarten to sixth grade (except first). My teaching passions include interest-based learning, creative technology, project based learning, and building confident writers. Additionally, I have my M.S. in Instructional Media, so I frequently incorporate digital flare into projects and writing assignments.
I live in a sunny beach town with my husband & 2 kids. When I'm not teaching, blogging, or designing new lesson plans, you can find me at the beach with the family.
This Writing Lesson Packet is jam-packed with 10 days worth of writing lesson plans and printable resources for the first two weeks of the year. Lessons are very guided and specific so you can use these lesson plans to drive your writing instruction. Buy it HERE.
The lessons include specific instructions about how to set up your writing block, how to have students set up their writing journals (with printable resources), and a guided paragraph activity for the beginning of the year. Introducing students to graphic organizers.
- How to have students set-up their Interactive Writing Journals
- Introduction to Writing Cool Down activities
- Introduction to Writing Warm-Up time
- A quick paragraph writing activity: The Best Part of Me (inspired by Scholastic).
- Quick View Daily Lesson Plans
- Detailed Daily Lesson Plans