Writer’s Workshop

Writer’s Workshop 

Rationale for using this approach

  • Best way to teach students to be better writers
    • It gets students writing (poetry can be part of this) – writing creates mental connections – sometimes the best way for students to learn writing is to write – keeps students busy doing the writing all the time
    • Gets kids comfortable with writing and sharing – build a culture where people want to share –> helps reluctant writers
  • Also builds community because students are sharing their experiences with others
  • Writing traits need to be taught in context – they don’t exist in a vacuum and work only in context of writer’s workshop and writing process
  • Fosters independence because students get to make decisions (e.g. what to write about, when/how much to revise, how to spend their time on a given day, etc.)
  • Honours the writer’s process – continually seek better ways to do their writing
  • Focus on process more than product
  • Also lets you practice listening and speaking (with the sharing part)

Components of Writers’ Workshop (see Chapter 2 of Creating Writers textbook)

Information on ideas and organization on pages 82-91 and 115-124 of Creating Writers textbook. There are some lesson ideas in there that we could teach as our mini-lessons. Some info also from the 50 Literacy Strategies book.

Model is mini lesson, write and then share.

  • Once a month do a celebration like author’s chair.
  • Try to do 2 blocks of writer’s workshop a week
  • Students can add all their works to a portfolio


Experience: Ideas (identify topics by sifting through your experiences – when you model topic selection help students see that experiences don’t have to be way out there – you can write great stories about everyday things in your family or life)

Rehearsing (internal) and pre-writing (planning on paper or talking through): Ideas (give shape and focus to the ideas that come from experience; this can involve talking, representing/drawing, just writing, thinking, listing questions to answer from your one line story, etc.)

Drafting: Ideas and Organization (keep writing so you have something to revise later, get everything down on paper so you have a sense of the whole story. Requires continuity – hard to pick it up again after a few days because you forget your train of thought)

Sharing with an audience: Voice (partner, small group or large group) – for shy writers can start by reading aloud to yourself and recording then move on to sharing with a trusted friend, group, etc. Model loving your writing for students. Be authentic.

Revisions: Ideas, Organization Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency (this is not editing – it is revising structure based on the traits. students might take info out, put info in, change wording, move things around, change point of view or start over if things are not working. reading aloud helps with good revision).

Editing: Conventions (making the reader feel at home in your text – make it so they don’t have to do the editing work while they are reading it – correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc). conventions make meaning clear and voice expressive (not just about correctness).


* When you are starting, you might do 10 mins intro, 10 mins writing and 10 mins sharing for a 30 min writer’s workshop. Gradually you can make the writing portion more or all of the portions more if you like. In the end, you want the writing time to be at least half your total workshop. Work on increasing writer’s stamina.

INTRODUCTIONteacher kicks off the workshop with mini lesson, sharing sample of literature, modelling some part of writing process, etc.

  • 1. Mini lesson / intro: 10 minutes based on what you see happening – e.g. maybe students are having trouble coming up with ideas. Ok let’s do some brainstorming (our teacher always had picture books up around the class that we could look at to start getting some ideas – literature/books)
    • In a mini-lesson, the teacher introduces a topic and connects it to the reading or writing students are doing (share examples). The teacher then provides information and supervises students as they practice.
    • Mini-lessons are usually 15-30 minutes.
    • Best to teach these when students can immediately apply what they learn.
    • Scaffold at the beginning – can use gradual release of responsibility model
    • Rationale: effect way to teach students to actually use strategies (not just explain them to them).
    • Rationale: especially good for English Language Learners because combo of direct instruction and supervised practice helps them. Gives them time to look at familiar texts and practice what they are learning.
  • Or instead of mini lesson could share a sample of literature with the class, model part of writing process or give writers a chance to share insights with the group

WRITING TIME – writers plan, begin or continue drafts, conference/check-in with each other or teacher, revise, edit, etc.

  • 2. Pre-writing / writing – individually (people can think, write, look at books for ideas). The first class we got 20 minutes to write (consider your students and whether that is too long). The second class I think we had like 30-40 minutes to write. Plan, begin or continue drafts. Confer with another, revise, edit. Check in with teacher or fellow students.

SHARING TIME – writers share what they have written (with partner, small group or whole class)

  • 3. Celebrate or share – share something you’ve written – choose a work to share from your portfolio (that you’ve been building of your writing each day). Our first Writer’s workshop class, we shared with a partner. Our second workshop we shared with the whole class but it was voluntary. Our third workshop we were all asked to share something for Author’s Chair – celebration.


  • Assessing done by teacher at end of writing process – e.g. looking at ideas

* You can also check in with students about where they are in their writing process by asking them to do an exit ticket with an image to describe this and a couple of sentences to explain it. When we did this, I drew a tornado and said I just have lots of ideas swirling around in my head and I am having trouble picking one or defining a concrete question.

* Make it safe (emotionally) for shy etc students – we built up to sharing with the class.

* Take your time and do this over the whole year.

* Classroom doesn’t need to be quiet during this


Day 1:

  • Teacher models topic selection – goes through a list of 4-5 possible topics and chooses one to write on, asking students to do same (our teacher talked about dogs and cats, an encounter she had with a homeless person, etc.)
  • Then give students time to write


Day 2:



Connections to BC curriculum (in relation to Writer’s workshop):

I’m looking at grade 6 language arts

Big ideas:

  • Language and text can be a source of creativity and joy
  • Exploring stories and other texts helps us understand ourselves and connect to others and the world
  • Exploring and sharing multiple perspectives extends our thinking (texts have different perspectives)
  • Developing our understanding of how language works allows us to use it purposefully (using language helps us understand how language works) – words become yours by using them.
  • Questioning creates educated citizens (questioning what we hear, read, and view contributes to our ability to be educated and engaged citizens) 

Curriculum Competencies: students are expected to be able to do these things

  • Comprehend and connect (reading, listening, viewing)
    • Recognize and appreciate how different features, forms, and genres of texts reflect various purposes, audiences and messages
    • Think critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore ideas within, between and beyond texts
    • Recognize and identify the role of personal, social and cultural contexts, values and perspectives in texts
    • Recognize how language constructs personal, social and cultural identity
    • Construct meaningful personal connection between self, text and world
    • Understand how literary elements, techniques and devices enhance and shape meaning
  • Create and communicate (writing, speaking, representing)
    • Exchange ideas and viewpoints to build shared understanding and extend thinking
    • Transform ideas and information to create original texts
    • Select and use appropriate features, forms, and genres according to audience, purpose and message
    • Use writing and design process to plan, develop and create engaging and meaningful literary and informational texts for a variety of purposes and audiences
    • Asses and refine texts to improve their clarity, effectiveness and impact according to purpose, audience and message


  • Story/text
    • Literary elements (narrative structures, characterization and setting)
    • Literary devices (metaphors, similes, imagery, etc)
  • Strategies/processes
    • Writing processes (revising, editing, considering audience)
    • Metacognition (self-assess and became more aware of self as writer)
  • Language features / structures / conventions
    • Sentence structure and grammar
    • Conventions
    • Presentation techniques (if combined with author’s chair especially)

Core competencies: Communication

  • Connect and engage with others to share and develop ideas
    • I can ask and respond to questions, active listening, disagree respectfully with different points of view
  • Acquire, interpret and present information
    • Understand / share info about a topic important to me, present info clearly/in organized way, present info and ideas to audience I may not know
  • Collaborate to plan, carry out and review constructions and activities
    • I can work with others to achieve a common goal, do my share, summarize key ideas and identify commonalities
  • Explain/recount and reflect on experiences and accomplishments
    • I give/receive/act on feedback, can recount experiences and tell something I learned, represent my learning and explain connection to my experiences

Some mini-lesson ideas:

Order in which we teach traits is important

  • Ideas – our teacher shared a few ideas she had for things she was thinking about writing then gave us time to brainstorm a list of things we might write about. Afterward we picked something to write about and wrote about it.
    • Or can do activity where you summarize your book in 1 sentence.
    • Share your ideas with the class – and then ask them to think of 5 things they could write about
  • Organization (Hooks) – the first sentence is important. Our teacher gave us some time to come up with a few different hooks and afterward we shared them with the class. Another activity idea can be found under Activity 2 on the Children’s Literature page (this activity was linked to literature circles)
  • Voice – read samples have have students guess things about the writer (e.g. male vs female, etc.) – or have them guess if it is Dr. Phil, Seinfeld or Hemingway. Or do a mini-lesson on putting yourself into your writing with highlighting the “I”‘s in a passage (Wednesday visit classroom did this).
    • Tell your students about your topic and what other perspectives you could have written from
  • Word choice – rank words for intensity – like we did with the anger words. Or ask students how many verbs they can think of for the word walk (thesaurus game). Or use children’s literature – e.g. read Slinky Malinky and look at word choice.
  • Sentence fluency – sentence aerobics – write as many versions of a sentence as possible in a minute (by moving words around etc) – e.g.:
    • Write one thing you know to be true –> “Winter is terrific.”
    • Pass sentence to the left – read the sentence in front of you and rewrite it but this time begin it a different way –> “Of all the seasons, I love winter best.”
    • Pass left and read and rewrite the second sentence but start it with a pronoun this time –> “Everyone has a favourite season and mine is winter.”
    • Pass left and rewrite sentence to start with word “if” –> “If I had to pick a favourite season, I would pick winter.”
    • Pass left and rewrite by turning sentence into a question –> “Wouldn’t life be awful without winter?”
  • Sentence fluency – can also look at poetry and lines with this
  • Conventions – give students a piece of writing without any commas, see how it looks funny and then go through and add in commas. Then go through their own work and see where they need commas. or look at how commas are used in literature