5 Things You NEED to Know About Writers Workshop

There are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop. But I hope this will get you started! We will start with the routines of kindergarten writing and some of the best practices that are out there.

So… to be honest… there are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop.   But I hope this will get you started!

There are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop. But I hope this will get you started! We will start with the routines of kindergarten writing and some of the best practices that are out there.

I have been reflecting on the questions I get asked most frequently when I do presentations on writers workshop.   Here are the some of the biggies!

Student Choice

I will start right off by saying writing prompts for writers workshop are not considered best practices.

Don’t take my word for it… let’s hear from the experts.

Matt Glover writes in his book, Engaging Young Writers:

Topic choice is perhaps the most important source of energy for writing… If we want children to become passionate about thier writing, then allowing (and encouraging) them to choose topics that matter becomes crucial.  p 42-43

Lucy Calkins writes in the Art of Teaching Writing:

Writing allows us to hold our life in our hands and make something of it.

She goes on to say:

This is how I write.  I take a moment, and image, a memory, a phrase, an idea – and hold it in my hands and declare it a treasure.

And finally, Jennifer Jacobson states in her book, No More “I’m Done!” discusses practices that foster student independence.   Prompts = Dependence:

If you have been providing your students with prompts each day, then they are likely to have difficulty at first.  This is because choosing a topic takes practice (and all the more reason to for offering choice).

So yes, I do not give my students prompts to write about during writers workshop.  Yes, I do think it is important for a student to think about a prompt and respond to it.  THIS is done as a reflection of reading, not writers workshop.

“WAIT,” you may say, “I have all of these PROMPTS!”  Fantastic!  Put them in your student writing center.  Your class can work on them during center time.

Naturally, student choice requires many mini-lessons on how writers get ideas.  Perfect Segway…

Great Books

The Best Story ever is a great book about writing about what is most important to you.

Writing Mentor Text

Good Dog Carl reminds us that we can tell a fantastic story… even without words!

Writing Mentor Text

Red Rubber Boot Day shows various illustrative techniques.  Perfect for our little friends who convey meaning through pictures!

writing mentor text

Ralph Writes a Story is about a boy who has trouble finding his story!

Writing Mentor Text

Hop Toad is another fantastic illustrative book to use in writers workshop.  Sadly it is out of print, but you might find it in your school library.  You can still get it on Amazon too.

Writing Mentor text

 Open Ended Pieces

I get asked, “Do they do one page a day?”  “Do you all finish at one time?”

My students write in books.  This means that after we have completed the first 20 days of writers workshop, we move into writing books.  Students are given a book that has a cover and 3-4 pages attached to it.

There are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop. But I hope this will get you started! We will start with the routines of kindergarten writing and some of the best practices that are out there.

Students add or delete pages as needed.  These are mini-lessons that I teach throughout the year.  When they are finished with one book, they start another.  Again… mini-lessons surround knowing when you are done with a piece… but students are able to manage this on their own.

Some students might finish a book in 3 days, some need longer.

There are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop. But I hope this will get you started! We will start with the routines of kindergarten writing and some of the best practices that are out there.

Teacher is the spell checker

Don’t DO IT!  You will foster dependence.  I simply say, “What sounds do you hear?”  This is a hard habit to break.  You can’t spell any words for them.  Sincerely!   You might say, “Can you check your word list/word wall.”  BUT if you spell one word… you are doomed.

There are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop. But I hope this will get you started! We will start with the routines of kindergarten writing and some of the best practices that are out there.

Like I said, at the beginning of the year, they will fuss at you… especially the most capable students. They want to be RIGHT!   Let them struggle through it.  It is in the struggle that independence happens!

Be enthusiastic

Not too long ago I was working with a kindergarten classroom.  They did not know me from the man on the moon.   I was there to talk to them about setting writing goals.  This was their very first time hearing about goal setting.  Look at their faces.  You would have thought I was telling them that we were headed to Disneyworld! I was excited about it… THEY were excited about it.

There are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop. But I hope this will get you started! We will start with the routines of kindergarten writing and some of the best practices that are out there.

Big Question:  How do you teach students to write, when they don’t know letters or sounds? (So there are 6 things you need to know, but this one is important!)

My school was probably no different than most.  I had students who had zero kindergarten experience. Didn’t know their colors… didn’t know English.  I get it!  BUT they can tell a story!  They tell their story with pictures.  Let’s look at this piece of writing from early in the year.

There are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop. But I hope this will get you started! We will start with the routines of kindergarten writing and some of the best practices that are out there.
My first thought was, “Oh, Boy!” Here is how our conference went: Me: Tell me about what you are working on. J: This is my dad and this is the wheel on his truck. He is driving down a gravel road, so I made the lines bumpy like the gravel road. This says, “My dad is going down the gravel road.”
5 Things You NEED to Know About Writers Workshop 1
J: This is my dad and he is driving his truck. This says, “My dad is driving his truck.” J: This is me and my dad working on the truck. He is bigger so I made him bigger. We have the hood open. This says, “I am helping my dad.”

 

5 Things You NEED to Know About Writers Workshop 2
J: My dad is working on his truck and this is his toolbox. This says, “This is his toolbox.” : My dad has a bunch of parts for his truck. You see these, these are his parts. This says, “My dad has parts.” [stiffle giggle]
You might say… “Hey… that is not what it says!”   Katie Wood Ray tells us in her book, In Pictures and in Words, that we want to help students tell their stories.  At first, they tell their stories in pictures.  Over time, when their transcription skills develop, they will add words to their stories.

Oh! My! MERCY!  This is a long post.  I hope you can tell how much I LOVE writing.  I have SO much more to say.  I would like to invite you to join me in some follow-up discussions.  This will be an on-line series (FREE).  If you are interested, please sign up below.  I even have a little gift for you in there!

There are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop. But I hope this will get you started! We will start with the routines of kindergarten writing and some of the best practices that are out there.

There are WAY more than 5 things you need to know about writers workshop. But I hope this will get you started! We will start with the routines of kindergarten writing and some of the best practices that are out there.

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Deedee Wills

Deedee Wills

My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching in different classroom environments and grades. My heart belongs to early childhood education. My job is to make teaching FUN, ENGAGING, and EASIER. Welcome!

Hi, I'm DeedeE.

My teaching career allowed me to experience teaching in different classroom environments and grades. My heart belongs to early childhood education. My job is to make teaching FUN, ENGAGING, and EASIER. Welcome!
 

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20 Responses

  1. What is the best book to purchase, as a Kindergarten teacher, for getting started with writers workshop in K?

    1. In my opinion, I would start with the Matt Glover book for kindergarten. Then Katie Wood Ray! Lucy is a MASSIVE book! Like Anna Karenina-MASSIVE!

  2. Thank you for validating how I do Writer’s workshop! Thank you also for sharing and encouraging us!

  3. I like the series of books that start with “Journey” by Aaron Becker. He has some of the most engaging illustrations and wordless storytelling I have ever encountered. I use the series to have children tell me what the words for the story should be. The process reinforces that stories can be read or even told solely through pictures. And it also bridges the gap of simply illustrating stories into illustrating and then writing words. Thank you for your work and resources in this area. Our district didn’t address writing in Kindergarten in their curriculum, even though they expect children to be well versed in writing once the year is over. Thanks to your work I have been ahead of the game and been using workshop for 3 years. Now that district is rolling out something similar, it is a very easy transition.

  4. Are you using F.A.S.T in this picture above? I just see the alphabet on your wall and we use it at our school, but I feel it is too slow for K. How did you adapt to using it along with your guided readers phonics? Is there any sort of alignment?

    1. Hi there! The photos of me in the classroom was a room that I was visiting for writers workshop.
      So I am not really sure how her phonics were used in her classroom.

      I do honestly like the speed of introduction for our Guiding Readers phonics.

      1. I know I LOVE your guided readers, i have used it the past 3 years or however long you all have had it out! My school uses FAST which is based out of CO, so I just noticed this, but I find it to be SO slow for K. They don’t teach the letters with the sounds, and they don’t introduce the silent e until April/May and that is the only rule they get into and barely touch on it.

        I was just curious, so I will stick to your program!!

  5. Hi Mrs. Wills ??‍♀️ You are amazing!! Just curious… do you have your Kinders write on lined paper – similar to First Grade? Thank you for ALL you so much for caring ?
    Kay Senn from Wisconsin ?

      1. Would you mind sharing the reason you don’t use mid-line? What are you thoughts about blank paper to write on, in kindergarten?
        Thanks-

        1. Hi Angela!

          Mid-line paper is great when you are working on letter formation. So I use them when we learn the path of motion and handwriting. When we are working on composing messages, our focus should be on forming our ideas, so a mid-line is not included for those tasks. Does that help?

  6. Thank you! My oldest this method but my youngest won’t brave spell. Everything has to be perfect. With school out for covid, I’m going to develop our own writers workshop. Thank you for the great ideas.

  7. Hey there! You used to have a resource that said “Author at Work” at the top that was a letter to parents about inventive spelling, but I can’t find it! Do you still have that resource that you can share? I think now more than ever (with kids at home with parents all day) it is so important to send home!! Thank you!

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