Sunday, October 5, 2014

Writers' Workshop

I have to admit that teaching Kinders to write has never been one of my favorite things to do.  We didn't have a dedicated writing curriculum so instruction felt as if it was scattered.  I did attend several workshops presented by Kristina Smekens, and was very familiar with the 6+1 traits of writing, but I still never felt totally comfortable with writing instruction.  (My past Kinders did learn to write with a good level of proficiency ~ check out some of my past posts on writing ~ I just felt that something was missing.)

Last year I decided that I wanted to revamp my writing instruction, so I did a little TpT research and came upon the fabulous Writing Through the Year units by DeeDee Wills & Deanna Jump.  This was just what I was looking for to take my little kiddos' writing up a notch.!  These talented ladies created an entire year's worth of Writers' Workshop lessons that take Kinders from telling stories with pictures to writing sentences.  And, as it turned out our corporation adopted a writing series that also has a workshop format.  Now that I am armed with lots of great resources I feel confident with writing instruction!  This is already proving to be an exciting year of writing in room A161!

Getting started
Before beginning our Writers' Workshop I made sure there were ample supplies.  Each student has a yellow workshop folder that is kept in a tub (each table has a color-coded tub.)  There are little wire baskets with Target pails filled with an assortment of writing supplies all around the classroom.

So many places to write!  
Each workshop session begins with a mini lesson.  After the 5 - 10 minute lesson the students are dismissed to their tables to get their folders.  They are free to choose where to sit while writing.  When we first started Writers' Workshop the students stayed at their assigned tables.  A few mini lessons on choosing appropriate places to work helped them to find comfortable places where they can be successful.  Of course, being that most of my Kinders are five we have to revisit that lesson now and then. :-)  Here are some pictures of the many places the kids can work.

Writing & Sharing
My little students have really gotten good at staying on task and writing for a good 15 minute stretch!  During that time I check in with as many students as possible, asking questions about their writing, listening to their stories, and helping them to think about what they can add or change.  I like to ask, "What are you working on today?"  This way the students can explain their stories to me.  We are still at the pictorial writing stage, so I ask them things like "What can you add to your picture to let your reader know that this is outside?"  "What color hair does your mom have?  What color crayon could you use to show blond hair?"  For those students who are ready to be pushed a little further I might ask them to try to spell their dog's name, or help them to find a word in the classroom to include in their writing.  I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes.  They know to finish up their current thoughts and to gather on the carpet for sharing.  At first some of the kids got upset because they weren't completely finished with their piece.  But, the beauty of Writers' Workshop is that they can go back to finish their writing on another day.  (This really does happen!  At first I didn't think that Kinders could do it, but they can!)    Two students are selected to share with the class (I have a check list of students who share & jot down notes about their writing.)  Those selected to share with the class get a "Share Pass" and get to pick a special magnet for holding their work on the easel.  A special "Sharing Pointer" rounds out the special experience.  Everyone gets a turn to share with the class ~ I have 17 students, so no one has to wait very long for their turn to come up again.  Once the students have shared with the class everyone gets to share with their partner.  So, even if it's not your turn to share in front of the class, you get to share every day.

Working at their levels
Another aspect of Writers' Workshop I like is the fact that each student gets to work at his/her own level.  They get to choose what they work on ~ they usually are not working on a specific prompt.  They are working on specific skills, but the topic is up to them.  I think that being given the choice of what to work on is a great incentive.  I have kids asking me when we are having  Writers' Workshop.  If something comes up and we can't fit it into our day, the kids are actually disappointed.  Imagine ~ kids getting sad because they don't get to write!  Here are some samples of the different levels of writing in my class.  Everything is celebrated for what it is!  No one feels that their work is not as is being compared to their classmates' work, so they want to write.  I haven't had anyone say that they didn't like writing yet.  Yippie Skippie!  Now, I like writing in kindergarten, too!

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