How I Plan Writing Workshops in the Classroom

If you know me, you know I ADORE teaching writing! I love writing myself, but this isn’t just why I love teaching it in the classroom. Teaching writing is so fun because the opportunities are endless and you can be so creative (one of my favorite things about being a teacher).

Keep in mind that I am a fourth-grade teacher, but these can be incorporated very similarly into middle grades and even high school.

Now, I don’t always just throw a prompt at my students (for morning work, yes). There is a time and a place for only giving students a prompt and asking them to answer it in a five-paragraph paper. I would say this is after ALL of my writing workshops are done and I know that students are fully capable of completing the prompts without any support or instruction.

I try to create my writing workshops to be student-paced and lead. I am trying to steer away from whole-group lectures and PowerPoints because I lose my students attention QUICK. One, because I then have the capability to support students that need me as they are learning. Two, students that can learn at their OWN pace, is the way it should be.

Now, I get it, sometimes you HAVE to lecture and teach whole-group, but for my writing workshops, I try not to unless it is needed.

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WHY USE WRITING WORKSHOPS?

  1. IT IS ENGAGING. Not only can you make writing workshops fun and engaging, but this means students are engaged with meaningful work. IT IS A WIN, WIN.
  2. BUILDS CONFIDENCE. I saw this first-hand during my student teaching that writing workshops build student confidence in writing. They watch videos, read text to build their knowledge on a subject, and then get to write about something they are confident about which then makes them confident about their writing! There is nothing worse than having to write about something you feel like you don’t know anything about.
  3. INDIVIDUALIZED INSTRUCTION. Writing workshops are great to incorporate whole-group (if needed), small-group, and one-on-one instruction! It is the perfect way to meet the needs of all students!
  4. ALL STUDENTS CAN BE SUCCESSFUL. Your advanced, struggling, and in the middle learners will ALL be successful. That is a dream as an educator!

Below I will walk you through how I plan my FIRST writing workshops. AKA, the workshops students complete when they are learning a NEW genre of writing.

  1. CHOOSE THE TOPIC-

This is my favorite step because I get to be CREATIVE! I think of the season, time of the year, and what we are learning in class.

For example, in November, my students will be completing an informational writing workshop on women heroes in history. All of these women will be women we have learned in class, which makes the writing become easier because they know what to write! Then, they just have to worry about HOW!

Another example is for my persuasive writing workshop. Students will enter the classroom and see that they don’t have chairs! Students will be required to persuade their chairs to come back to work! You can read more about this lesson in my read-aloud blog.

2. DECIDE THE GENRE-

I always like to find the topic before I decide what genre because then it allows this part to come easy.

I knew informational writing was going to be the hardest for my students, so I knew I wanted to incorporate it based on something they already had knowledge on for their first workshop. Once I knew I wanted students to write on women heroes, I knew this was a perfect way to teach informational writing.

For opinion writing, I was sitting in class one day and a topic came up that students were giving their opinions on. I immediately wrote this down and later decided it was perfect for my first opinion writing workshop because students were interested in it!

In my classroom, I stick to these genres when creating writing workshops:

  • Persuasive
  • Opinion
  • Informational
  • Creative

Now, creative writing I like to stick to during social studies. There are ENDLESS opportunities for this.

3. HOW-TO-

Once you have your topic and genre, it is now time to plan how you are going to teach the students ‘how-to’ when writing.

I like to embed videos into my Smore (more on what Smore is in another blog) from Teaching Without Frills from Youtube! She has great, short videos that explain the writing. She also has videos that walk the students through the introduction and all pieces of the writing.

I will have a description of what this writing is, give any vocabulary they may need to know, and then embed the videos explained above. This is the perfect and short way of helping your students know ‘how-to’. These videos are also a great ‘hook’ because, truthfully, what kids don’t like to watch a Youtube video?

NOW, if your students truly struggle with writing and you know that they do, these videos might not be enough to answer the ‘how’. You may have to model this type of writing for students! Of course, this would need to be whole-group and done before you present the workshop.

A great HOOK/ACTIVATOR for opinion writing is a debate! Choose a topic, have students choose their side of the argument, and debate as a class! After the debate, introduce the opinion writing workshop.

ALSO, a great way to show students ‘how’ is having anchor charts and sentence starters!

4. THE WRITING-

Now, it is time for everything needed for students to write.

Personally, I stick to this list:

  • Anchor Charts
  • Sentence Starters
  • Articles
  • Videos
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Prompt
  • Paper

I make sure everything is accessible by all students and that all students know where to find everything that is needed. Students know that graphic organizers are in a specific drawers, articles in another, and they know where to find the sentence starters and videos (Smore).

I also make sure students know where to come in the classroom for help if needed. For example, my students that need more support know exactly what table to come to for my help. I never want to MAKE a student come to me during their independent work. Therefore, I have a table that students come to instead if they NEED it.

Make sure your prompt directly says what is expected and what is needed to be answered. Time and time again I have to go back to my prompt and change it to make sure it is just right for my students to complete!

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Example:

You have read three articles on the topic of women heroes in history. We have also learned about these women in class! Write an informational essay (5 paragraphs) in which you describe how these women are heroes. Be sure to use facts and details from at least two articles in your essay. Use your graphic organizers to guide you!

Personally, these writing workshops have been a HIT in my classroom. The students look forward to them and get excited when I introduce a new one. Be creative and think, what do my students need?

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