Knowing how to juggle all the components and fit it in writer’s workshop can be difficult. Hopefully this post will show you exactly what a second grade day in writer’s workshop might look like.
My current classroom has about 9 students with significant behaviors in addition to another 9 students with IEPs. A large percentage of my class is one or two grade levels behind in their literacy with only 6 students at or above grade level. To say this school year is a struggle is an understatement but I have seen improvement from the beginning of the year.
I love to teach writing using a modified version of writer’s workshop. I feel it helps me to keep all students on the same page (no status of the class check ins for me) and is easier to manage with such a variety of students at different levels. You can read more about the breakdown of what is writer’s workshop with this post: What is Writer’s Workshop?
Writer’s Workshop: Mini Lesson (I Do, We Do)
Writer’s workshop in my second grade class begins with a mini lesson. Emphasis here on the word mini. Depending on the focus for the day’s lesson a mini lesson lasts from 5-15 minutes. I try very hard to keep my lessons short and concise to save more time for students to independently write.
If you are familiar with Lucy Calkins, I run my mini lessons in a similar manner. My mini lessons are usually chosen ahead of time when I map out my units. If I see students struggling after a particular lesson I will address this in my conferences unless it is happening with the majority of the class.
On days when my writer’s workshop mini lesson is running long, I am sharing a mentor text and the class is having a discussion about a particular writing technique. Shorter days my mini lesson might cover the proper way to use quotation marks. The first example can take a long time depending on the length of the text I am reading. The second example might only be a few minutes to show some examples before we practice whole class.
My lessons typically follow the I do, we do, you do format of teaching. The I do part of the lesson usually introduces or reviews vocabulary. During we do students are often helping me with ideas, beginning to create a plan, or doing a quick activity on their whiteboards such as finding vivid verbs.
Writer’s Workshop: Independent Writing (You Do)
The second component of writer’s workshop is where most of your time should ideally go. This is where your students are simply writing. My mini lesson concludes with a student task so student’s are very clear what to be doing next.
Typically the whole class is working on the same task.
I’m not a fan of having the whole class on different parts of the writing process. It works well for some teachers but it doesn’t work for me. This isn’t to say that we aren’t using the writing process - we are but we go through it methodically together. I find with second graders that this works best for my teaching style.
Some days independent writing might be creating a circle map plan or other type of brainstorming. Other days students are writing stories or taking notes for their research papers. Independent writing time in writer’s workshop can vary based on what style of writing we are doing.
Writing Conferences During Writer’s Workshop
To be honest I am not always getting to writing conferences. Especially if it is a day where I have a longer mini lesson. When I do have writing conferences, I try to meet with students as a small group like I do with reading groups.
My groups are determined when the class sets writing goals. We review our writing goals throughout the school year. Read more about how I set individual goals here.
Groups of no more than 5 students on the same goal will meet with me at once. Typically we will review their goal and then I’ll ask if anyone wants to share where they think they’ve met that goal. We look at each other’s writing and I’ll use a whiteboard or notebook paper to model further if needed. Just like my mini lessons, the writing conference is focused on looking at one item in a student’s writing.
Writer’s Workshop: Share Time
While I firmly believe students get the most value from seeing each other’s writing, I know it is not realistic to always have students sharing their work. By setting a timer to preserve the last 5 minutes of writer’s workshop, this is a component that will happen each day.
If you only have 5 minutes for share time then the best way to maximize your time is to have sharing partners. I talked about this more in my blog post Helping Struggling Writers By Differentiating. Many teachers like to use an author’s chair to celebrate writer’s sharing their work. I used to do this as well until my writing block got shorter and shorter each year. If you can fit it in, I say go for it!