Need help planning your writing workshop schedule? Fitting it all in is the hardest part of teaching. Read on to find tips for even a 30 minute writing block.
Planning Your Writing Workshop Schedule
When it comes to planning out your writing block, you might have limited control over how much time you are given. I know in my school district the amount of time allocated to ELA is already decided for us. Then, my school takes the required minutes and further separates it into exact minutes for phonics, grammar, writing, reading, and literacy small groups.
Even with this tight restriction on my schedule, I can still plan out my writing workshop to fit my preferred structure. Check out that post here to see what my writer’s workshop looks like each day.
Must Haves in Your Writing Workshop Schedule
When considering your writing workshop schedule, you will want to plan out what you absolutely don’t want to give up. For me this includes a mini lesson, student independent writing time, and share time.
The Mini Lesson
During your mini lesson you only have 5-10 minutes to get your main teaching objective across to your students. Since I love using mentor texts in my writing block, I try to fit the read aloud of the text at a different time. This saves time for the “meat” of the mini lesson.
The mini lesson should have one specific focus. This allows for the short teaching time and helps students to zone in on what you are trying to teach.
Independent Writing Time
Student independent writing time is the most important part of any writing block. It should also be the biggest chunk of time you can fit into your day.
Plan how much writing time based on how long you’d like your students to be writing at the end of the year. This way, you will not need to adjust your schedule as you go through the year.
If you plan for that full amount in the beginning, you can easily build your young writer’s stamina to meet those times.
During independent writing time is when I hold student conferences. Conferences are held as small groups and are based on individual writing goals. You may want to visit my post about goal setting for more information on goals.
As tempting as it can be to simply skip share time when you need to save some time, please don’t. Share time teaches students many valuable writing lessons that they learn from their friends. Sometimes just seeing how another student is writing their story can influence a student to try the same thing - even if their teacher suggested it first.
Share time can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes, depending on how much time you have available in your writing workshop schedule. I currently only have time to squeeze in a quick daily 5 minute share.
60 Minute Writing Workshop Schedule
If you have an hour or longer for your writing workshop, then you have a very envious schedule! This also means you have the most flexibility with how you plan your writing time. When schedules are much shorter, I recommend teaching grammar exclusively outside of the writing block. Here, however, you can see that I’ve included it inside your writing block.
Grammar Warm Ups
I do not recommend teaching basic grammar lessons within your writer’s workshop schedule. Occasionally I do teach grammar as my writing mini lesson but I think it’s easier for second graders to grasp concepts when they are taught independently.
I like to do what I call a Grammar Warm Up. This just means before I start my actual writing mini lesson I am teaching a short grammar lesson. Just like the writing mini lesson, a grammar lesson is also mini and usually lasts only 5 minutes (or less). I like to keep things short and sweet with one main focus.
After the grammar mini lesson students will practice that skill. Sometimes this could be partner work, writing answers on a whiteboard, or doing a quick skill worksheet. Then we move onto the writing mini lesson.
45 Minute Writing Workshop Schedule
Do you have a 45 minute writing workshop block like I do? It may not seem like a lot of time (and it isn’t), but it is doable.
The only difference between a 60 minute schedule and the 45 minute schedule is that I have taken out the grammar warm ups. During the forty-five minutes you have for teaching writing, grammar unfortunately will have to be taught elsewhere. This block is strictly focused on the components of writer’s workshop (mini lesson, writing time, and share time).
30 Minute Writing Workshop Schedule
Only have thirty minutes for teaching writing? While incredibly tight it is still possible to hold a successful writing block using a thirty minute schedule. It just means you will need to be fully prepared and clear on your mini lessons to maximize the time you do have.
Again, with a shorter writing workshop schedule you will want to teach your core grammar lessons outside of your writing block.
Free Up More Time For Your Writing Workshop Schedule
Still feel like you just don’t have enough time to teach writing effectively? You may need to start with a time audit of your classroom. I walk you through exactly how I do this in my own classroom in my free Better Teacher Organization email course.
Minimize Transition Times
My favorite way to free up lost time is to minimize your transition times. Simply tell your class you will be timing them during the activity. I usually pick something like getting out their math books and opening to today’s page number. Write down this time. Then, time the same activity and see if the class can beat their previous time. Before you know it you can easily change from 2 minute transitions to 30 seconds or less. Especially when you have a competitive class.
Mini Lesson Preparation
Another great way to free up time is to make sure you are fully prepared for your mini lessons. I like to plan out my week at one time. This means all copies and charts for the next week are ready to go before I leave on Fridays.
Being well organized is key to keeping to the times you have scheduled for your writing block (and other subjects). This way you won’t find yourself running out of time or “borrowing” time from another subject to fit it all in.
By having my anchor charts be mostly digital or printable, I save time needing to create large charts. My document camera is a great tool that I use extensively each day and allows students to clearly see the charts for reference during writing time.
Student Writing Conferences
Consider holding small group conferences rather than individual writing conferences. Much like a reading group, you can still have a student spotlight for each conference time but holding groups will maximize the amount of students you can work with each day. This means being able to get to the whole class on a weekly basis.
Contrary to how I originally learned to implement share time in my writing workshop schedule, not every student needs to share independently. While this does have some great benefits, it is certainly not practical in today’s classrooms with all of our time constraints.
One way I get around using an author’s chair is to have students use writing partners. This way, they know exactly who they will be sharing with and which partner will be going first. Again, this goes back to minimizing transition times and helps with keeping on the tight 5 minute share schedule. Depending on what students are sharing, you may have both students share in the time allotted. Other days, only one partner gets to share.
During writing conferences (which take place during independent writing time) you may notice an incredible student example you want to share with the class. Maybe that day you use the share time to showcase the student’s work to the whole class.
Having a split A/B schedule for your writing block may be another way to free up some more time. This means alternating different days for things like your writing mini lessons, share time, or conferences. Jen from Out of This World Literacy discusses using an A/B split schedule in her podcast episode you can find here.