Work on Writing vs. Writer’s Workshop
While our Writer’s Workshop and Work on Writing are often closely aligned, they are two distinct mentor texts to model writing traits. (You can read more about our Writer’s Workshop here.) During Work on Writing, my students love applying our Writer’s Workshop learning to their own writing journals. BUT… during our Work on Writing time, students have complete choice in what and how they write. This choice allows students to explore what they love, develop writing stamina, and find a way to make writing work for them. During this time, students might be writing a thank-you letter to a custodian, sharing about the new location of their elf, creating a secret code for our class to solve (thanks, Jigsaw Jones!), reflecting on what we are learning in class, writing about a book they have recently read, or adding the perfect illustration to their narrative. I trust my students and I value their ideas. Our Work on Writing time helps communicate these ideas to the students. Whatever they are writing about (Minecraft, becoming a candy-maker, etc.) matters.
What’s in Our Writing Center
With this flexibility, the materials at our Writing Center change a lot…depending on what my friends need and want. In the second month of school, this was our writing center. I have a word wall to the right of our center for words we are continually spelling-out (school names, teacher names, favorite sports, etc.). In this picture, you see two anchor charts – these change based on what we’ve learned about in writer’s workshop. You can read more about the rating’s scale and grab the materials to make your own for free here, and you can read how I launch narrative writing (the heart) here.
Last March, you see that our focus was with Opinion Writing and Time Order words (from How-To/procedural writing).
Our classroom mailbox stays on the corner of our writing desk. When mail needs to be deliver (via me during planning) the red flag is put up. Our class writing journals are for shared experiences and stay in our classroom from year-to-year. I’m a *little* late introducing them this year (#oops) and am hoping Monday is our day. 🙂
Providing Support to Writers Who Struggle
One of the most important caveats to Work on Writing is that is must be independent. While I love reading a student’s writing and providing immediately feedback, this isn’t the time. While students are writing, I am meeting individually with students or in guided reading groups. During this time, I do have a few go-to supports: graphic organizers (pictured above), word rings, writing folders, and pencil/paper alternatives. (To read more about how I build writing independence, check out this blog post.)
While we love writing in our writing journals, students also keep a Blue Writing Folder of work. This folders include any graphic organizers, prewriting, and random writing collections. In a clear, sheet protector in each folder we keep Michelle Oake’s First Grade Helper in the middle. This is an amazing resource that includes how to spell months, colors, days of the weeks, numbers, and on the back is an editable word wall. All of our sight-words are on there for our reference. This solves so many of our writing woes.
While the writing resources really support my writers, I still have one friends who STRUGGLES. He has grown so much this year, but writing is physically and emotionally exhausting (for both of us!). Still, writing is such an important part of 1st grade and I do expect this friend to make his Work on Writing choices like every other student. I’ve found that Work on Writing via Whiteboard and Dry Erase marker to be an amazing accommodation. My friend LOVES using the whiteboard, it’s less intimidating because it can easily be erased, and the dry erase markers are easier to hold. The week after Winter Break, my friends wrote this ALL BY HIMSELF!
I got a gummy maker. I wanted a gummy maker so much.
Our entire class was so proud, and we loved celebrating him. This friend, his writing, and his toothless smile were captured in a picture and immediately emailed to Mom and Dad. So, yes, we are slowly making the transition to paper, during independent writing time, a whiteboard works.
One of the reasons, my friends love Work on Writing is the number of choices they have. I do believe in keeping our Writing Center novel. Last year, my friends were ALL ABOUT Mo Willems and Pigeon. So, much of our writing and ideas were directed at Pigeon.
This year, I have quiet a few Future Spies. Enlisting the help of a spy-in-disguise (i.e. a parent) we have loved learning and writing about spies. We have developed secret codes, writing letters, write opinion pieces about not stealing national monuments, etc. It has been so much fun and has captured the hearts of my writers!
I’m so thankful that this parent is willing to share a few moments with us each week. My friends have developed such a sense of voice and expression in their writing!
Dear Mr. Jason, I told people about what you did to the Statue of Liberty. And you won’t get away just like that. The key is safe at school so you won’t get it. But I’ll get the master key, I’m sure of it. Be prepared. Good luck not getting arrested. Ha, ha, ha. -C
We also love writing about the events going on in our school. From touring the science room, to looking at the pictures in the 6th grade hallway, to visiting the Character Pumpkins in the library – our school offers so many great writing topics. Plus, it’s a way to connect to other grades and remind my students where they will be one day!
Acknowledging New Literacies
While pencil-to-writing is a critical part of 1st grade, I also acknowledge that our 1st graders live in a world where they are SO many forms of writing literacy. From emails, to blogs, to digital books – we must start to develop students who are able to adapt and use many different writing modes. Slowly throughout the year, I do introduce many different ways to write. Around November, our 1st grade team introduces MyStory – an easy-to-work-with digital publishing app. Students can easily share their own writing in an e-book form and then, store it on our ‘Class Bookshelf’. These soon become some of our favorite stories to share during Listening to Reading. (Read more about how we use this app here.)
Mid-year, I also start to teach students to type their pieces. This is a HUGE motivator for my students and they feel so ‘big’ opening a Word Document and typing. (Note – I also have 6 iPads, so students will also type using Notes and then, email the file to me.)
When we start publishing pieces with Word, I teach 1 student from each of my reading groups how to do it and they are responsible for teaching their friends. This keeps my focus on Guided Reading! (Note – the writing below is not a perfect paragraph…but for independent 1st grade writing, I’ll take it.)
So, friends, tell me – what does your Work on Writing time look like? Is it one of your students’ favorite choices? How do you mix-it-up and to keep students engaged and writing? I’d love to hear your ideas!