Writer’s Workshop in My Classroom
July 26, 2013
This past year, I participated in a year-long research study revolving around teaching writing and I picked up some great tips on how to keep track of your conferences with students.
This system is easy to write quick anecdotal notes when you conference with your students and it saves space! I just write down the date I met with a student and a quick note about what they are working on, getting better at, or still struggling with. I used to use a binder with a page for each student and I would write paragraphs every time I met with a child. I liked my cute little binder but this method is a lot faster and helps me get right to the point when I am meeting with parents to discuss a student’s work.
Click here to download the editable version.
What are some ways you organize student notes during conferences??
My writing block is my last block of the day and it is 50 minutes long. 50 minutes solely dedicated to the writing process. This past year, I used the program Being a Writer as a general guide for our block and the outline was this:
10 minutes – mentor text
10 minutes – teacher modeling & shared writing
20 minutes – shared & independent writing
10 minutes – sharing
I stick to this schedule pretty strictly so my students can get used to the routine and also build their stamina. Shared writing is on the schedule twice because at the beginning of the year, I spend more time modeling (the full 10 minutes) and then we go into shared writing for another 10 minutes before the students go back to their seats to write independently. As the year goes on, it shifts a bit and the students end up writing for a longer time independently and we do less shared writing on a daily basis.
Each day has the same set up and I generally work on the same skill all week. Some example skills that would be modeled and practiced all week would be:
-More detailed pictures
-Relating your illustrations to your writing
-Adding more to your story
I thought the easiest way to share what a week in my classroom would look like would be to create a shortened lesson plan with each day mapped out. This weekly lesson is for the skill: adding more detail to your illustration and relating your illustration to your story. I have done this lesson around early October right before we go into personal narratives. You can click on the images below to get the lesson plan for yourself:
As you can see, I also added examples of what I am modeling throughout the lesson. Monday-Friday is included.
full into the writing process (drafting, editing, revising, etc) things
can get messy quick with first graders. “I can’t find my paper.” “My
paper is ripped/crumpled/ruined.” You get the picture. My first year I
spent way too much time looking in students desks or backpacks to find
their work, that we didn’t get as much writing done as I would’ve
preferred. I am still learning and finding better ways to organize.
are marketed for grades 2-3 and it did take a lot of time for my first
graders to get used to each section of the folder and put them in the
right spots. Even then, their papers were still crumpled from trying to
shove them in each pocket and I made the mistake of using the folders
while we were working on more than one writing piece at a time. If I
taught 2nd, I think I could make it work… but if I used these again in
1st grade I would only have one writing piece in the folder at a time
and I would spend a lot more time modeling when we move a paper from the
editing to the revising pocket and so on.
year I used a different system, but I kept these folders in my writing
corner. I also used the folders with my high group who were able to work on
simultaneous writing pieces at one time. By the end of the year, just over half of
my class had one of these folders in their chair pockets and they loved
to add to their old stories.
year was my most effective method. It worked for me and my students and
we were able to spend less time searching for our work and more time
exact ones are from Target (Dollar Spot of course!) and are in storage,
but the neon ones above would work just fine. I only use three colors
for collecting writing samples: red, yellow, and blue. I tell my
students from the beginning of the year that when they pass in their
paper to a bin they are telling me something. This is what they are
the end of each day, I can take a quick flip through each bin and see
where my students are in their writing process. When our independent
writing starts, I have my star of the week pass out the papers and we begin!
The bins also let me easily flip through and find an example paper to show on the doc-camera (name covered, of course)! We can do a quick mini-lesson on adding more from a paper that was in the red bin and that student can gather some ideas. From the yellow bin, we can do a quick mini lesson on editing and revising. Or if I want to have someone practice sharing their paper and getting feedback, I will pull a paper from the blue bin!
Some have asked me if there are products or programs that I use when teaching writing and at my old school I was lucky enough to have a lot of freedom to pick and choose what works best for me and my students. With that freedom, I have been able to use bits and pieces of programs like Lucy Calkins, Being a Writer, and Write from the Beginning. I have been able to take the bits and pieces I like from each and do my own thing. I have made a few products that are available on TPT that pretty much get me through the whole year.
**You can see all of my writing units HERE** but I will highlight my favorite ones below:
My Common Core bundle has 3 explicit units (each about a month long) that teach the three main common core writing strands: narratives, informative texts, and opinions.
After I teach those three units, I move onto some more involved writing through reviews, how to books, and even realistic fiction writing:
My Writing Through the Seasons pack is a bundled resource I came out with only a month or two ago and it has tons of narrative, informative, and opinion seasonal writing prompts that will get you through the whole year. Each prompt also comes with graphic organizers.
I use the seasonal prompts when I am not knee-deep in one of my Common Core units and I made the prompts very kid friendly and included a bunch of crafts to create cute bulletin boards throughout the year as well!
Click on each product image above to see more details and previews.
Thank you for sticking with me through these two long posts and I hope I answered some of your questions!
Do you do anything similar for your writing block?!
Leave A Comment - 31 Comments
Can't wait to see part 2!
Can't wait to see part 2!
Love this and am so excited to see part 2! Do you have a TPT item for writer's workshop or one you would recommend?
I primarily teach writing using my two TPT bundles – one is for the 3 main common core writing standards: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Common-Core-Writing-for-1st-Grade-Narratives-Informative-Opinion-Bundle-487663
The other is my writing through the seasons which have tons of seasonal prompts aligned with the common core:
This is great information, Susan! I am so glad you are sharing:) I was looking into purchasing Lucy Calkins writer's workshop, and still may, but I really wanted to add to my current system this year (which is the district-approved system, anyway) before spending even more out-of-pocket! Thanks!!
Thanks so much for this! I'm always looking into ways to improve my writing workshop. 🙂
Teaching Little Miracles
Your post was so helpful and insightful! Thank you for sharing! I look forward to reading Part 2!
I love teaching writing too! Last year, I used post-it notes and kept them in two file folders, sorted by student. The only issue was that the post-its would lose stickiness and fall off. I like the index card idea a lot though! Thanks for sharing! Can't wait for Part II!
Teaching in the Valley
I am a post it queen, but the same thing always happened to me too!
Pinning this! What a great post. I love teaching writing to those firsties. Their writing is so precious. I love how you organize. Thanks for sharing:)
Sarah's First Grade Snippets
Thanks for sharing. I tried writers workshop last year for the first time. I have a lot to work on. I look forward to part 2!
Thank you for posting!! Looking forward to the other parts!!
Hi Susan. This may be a silly question but this is an area I really struggle with getting in daily. How much time per day do you work on writing? I know it should be little lessons each day but I was just wondering. 🙂 Trying to improve my writing this year!!
Thank you so much!!
Great question! Our writing block is 50 minutes every day – I will share in my next post how I break it down!
Pinned this post. Thank you for providing guidance on how to form guided writing groups.
This is such a HUGE help to see how writer's workshop works in an actual classroom. Can't wait to read part 2. Hope you include how much time you allow and how it's broken down. Thanks for sharing!
For the Love of First Grade
You got it, Lindsay! I sure will 🙂
Love the idea of using anecdotal records on index cards! I think I will adapt this idea but try using the Evernote App on my iPad to compile digital notes. Looking forward to part 2!
Great idea! I need to get an ipad!
This is awesome!!!
This looks AMAZING!!!! Wow!
Loving the index card method! Works so effectively! I also like to put the dates of the individual conferences by the names on the outside of the index cards so at a quick glance I can see who I need to work with.
Great Post! Thanks for the shout out!
from Well, Michelle?
Yessss – good idea, Michelle!! and of course you get a shout out!
Can I please just say a huge THANK YOU! This will be my second year teaching first grade, and I felt that I really struggled with writing and writing workshop last year. I absolutely love your idea of ability groups (not just for reading!) and the way that you track your observations. I can't wait for Part Two!
Teaching with a Smile
I'm so glad it could help!! Thank you 🙂
I could teaching writing with you all day everyday!!! We'd jive so well! Excellent post my friend!
Falling Into First
I could teach everything with you all day long! Thanks for the love!
I love your writing conferences record. I've been trying to tweak this for a while and this might just be what I need! Thanks for sharing!
P.S.- I'm your newest follower!
Check out my blog if you get the chance.
Mrs. Patton’s Patch
I love the idea of using the index cards to keep organized with conference notes!
Thank you for taking the time to share all your great ideas. I will definitely use!!
When do you meet with your small groups during your writers workshop?