There is a set way I like to teach writing workshop to my 6th graders. When I was teaching 5th grade, it was much easier because I was in a contained classroom and had much more time in the school day. Now, I have my students for just 50 minute periods and after they come and settle in, get their materials and the pencil they forgot TO BRING TO WRITING CLASS! (and deep breaths) We begin.
I always like to remind students of what we did the day before so that they can be reminded and make the connection to the next strategy I will be teaching them.
For example: Since we have been working in writing, I have noticed things we all do very well such as writing drafts about times in our lives that we faced a struggle. Today, I am going to teach you how to get started with writing a personal narrative story where you’ve either solved a problem or learned a lesson.
I will teach the students exactly the strategy that I want them to use by modeling it with published authors’ books.
For example: In Ghost’s Hour, Spook’s Hour by Eve Bunting, the character tells a story about how he solved his problem of being scared of the dark. In Thunder Cake by Patrica Polacco, the character tells us about how she learned she did not need to be afraid of thunder, that it is just loud, not scary.
I teach through modeling as well, but I like to do “think alouds” and let the students know exactly what’s going through my head as I write. I don’t suggest always doing this, but sometimes I won’t have anything written and it will be 100% authentic in front of my students as I struggle to come up with an idea and work through that with them out loud.
Before students start to write their story, I have them first do something to get their ideas out before they put pencil to paper. I might do a turn and talk or a quick jot.
For example: Before you write your list, everyone make the T-chart in your notebooks and turn and talk to a partner about what you might put on the lists.
This is where the most time is allotted in the class because I want kids to be writing as much as possible. I usually let kids choose wherever they want to sit in the room. I have writing tables set up with comfy chairs, rugs around the rooms and pillows.
Sometimes, I will pull a small group of kids to reteach the strategy in a small group. This is usually when we are in the drafting and revision stages and the students are having trouble figuring out how to implement what I taught. Otherwise, I am one-on-one with students trying to get them to push their writing. I will meet with one student at a time during the writing for about 1-2 minutes. I use a student record sheet and place a check mark next to the child’s name so I know that we met and that s/he is on track and understands the strategies I taught.
About 5 minutes before class ends, I call students back to their desks and ask 2-3 students to share what they wrote. I like to choose students whom I’ve met with and know that they used the writing strategy correctly.
The writing lessons go by fast, especially when you only have about 50 minutes with each class. The more I keep the lesson structure the same each day, the easier it is to get started and kids get settled more quickly. They know what they each class and so materials should be an issue too frequently. The goal is to keep things consistent so that we can utilize the time wisely.
Daughter of the King, wife and mother, former upper elementary teacher, curriculum and course developer