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Sunday, September 28, 2014


I love fall! It has always been my favorite time of year, from the smells to the decorations...
This was taken at Lagoon, an amusement park in Utah.

...and the fact that my classroom is running (more or less) smoothly. The kiddos are still excited about the wonders this school year will bring, as are all the teachers. We just finished our local hot-air balloon festival, the first units in math, reading, and science are coming to a close, and writer's workshop is up and running full force! Our school is focusing on writing this year, and I'm lucky enough to be facilitating our professional development for the first semester.
I have used writer's workshop for 10 of my 11 years of teaching, and I can't imagine teaching writing any other way. It is universal--works for kindergartners on up. After our last staff discussion I learned that there are many preferences to how it looks. It all depends on your teaching style...and ability to tune out the extra noise.

In my class, I always start with a mini-lesson with either a picture book (even for my 5th graders), anchor chart, or student writing (the exemplars from the CCSS appendix are great, or writing examples from a previous class). That never lasts more than 10 minutes.
Narrative Anchor chart--we add to it with each mini-lesson

Then we write, write, write! Some teachers like silence during this time, some like quiet music in the background, I like the quiet hum of students sharing ideas, peer conferencing, teacher conferences, writing together, along with the students who choose to write independently with a variety of music playing in the background (it's different every day). Wrap up with 1 or 2 students sharing what they are working on with the class. I have found in my own experience that my kids learn as much from each other as from me, so I don't make them write silently on their own during workshop time. Journal time is different; that should be quiet and independent, but I believe workshop time is just that--a workshop. I allow students to co-author books, or split up the job of writing and illustrating if they choose. Some students choose to brainstorm together, then go off on their own and write. Some students stay together from planning all the way through publishing. And there are always others who prefer to work alone.

Whatever works, as long as they're writing!

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