Last week, mid-Week 4 – our 1st grade team launched Writer’s Workshop. I am SO excited because all 5 of us are committed to using a Workshop model this year, saturated with lots and lots of mentor texts, the bulk of our time spent writing, and assessment guided by Lucy Calkins’ Writing Pathways. Today I wanted to share with you our 1st day of writer’s workshop!
Now many classrooms and teachers jump right into Writing Workshop and that works for them. If you are one of those amazing teachers, go you! For my 1st grade friends, I actually hold off a few weeks. We spend the first few weeks of school building writing stamina, doing oral writing (through Whole Brain Teaching), and setting expectations for our Writing Journals. You can read all about these procedures here.
Structuring Our Time
To jump-start our conversation, we talked about how we would spend our time in writer’s workshop. Currently, I only have 30 minutes on the schedule for writing. I need a little longer than that and am dipping into theme time to get an extra 10-15 minutes. On days that it is not possible to take more than 30 minutes, I alternate days we do mini-lessons and share. Cutting out writing time is a non-negotiable for me. On days that we only share, I will make sure I am very intentional about picking students to share, based on skills and ideas I want to highlight in their writing.
Generating Writing Ideas
Our first writing unit is Narrative Writing and our first mini-lesson was all about “What do I write about?” I was introduced to Ralph Tells a Story through Instagram and will forever use it. Ralph is an adorable little boy who has zero writing ideas and he does all kinds of things to avoid writing – breaking pencils, using the bathroom, helping friends, getting drinks of water, etc. Then, with the help of his friends and a push from his teacher, Ralph learns that stories have been all around him the whole time! It’s precious, hilarious, and hit home for so many of my littles. (Note – I read Ralph during morning snack, so our mini-lesson would indeed stay mini.)
After brainstorming ideas, we entered into our ‘Work/Write Time’ where I play some type of classical music (currently we are listening to Yo-Yo Ma), students are writing/illustrating, and I am conferencing with students.
Accommodating All Writers
Although I do have some fabulous writers, I am a normal classroom with normal students – I promise! I have one friend that is not writing independently, yet. He struggles with motor and OT issues, reading issues, attention issues, and at the beginning of the year absolutely refused to pick up a pencil. In 5 weeks, we have come LIGHTYEARS! Even though he struggles, I still expect this friends to participate. He dictates his stories (obviously we need to review what a narrative is) to me and I write them on his table with an EXPO marker. Then, as this friend writes each word, he erases them from the table using his finger. It is a HUGE motivator for him to write because he loves erasing the words. Then, he adds pictures to explain his ideas.