Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Setting Up Your Writer's Workshop

For today's post, I'm linking up with Jivey for Workshop Wednesday!  I love writer's workshop because it can be so individually tailored to your students' needs.  This also means that there is a lot of prep work on the part of the teacher to make sure all of the parts of the workshop flow well together.

One thing that you definitely want to think about it how you have students sign up for conferences.  You can post a calendar in your writing space and have students sign on the day they want to meet with you.
Image Credit: Pulaski's 5/Cafe: Pictures

Or you might set a schedule of conferences so your students know when they will be able to talk to your about their writing.  You'll need a routine for sudden emergencies and where students can find help if it isn't their conference day but they need help.  You'll also want to keep in mind that struggling writers will need more than one conference per week in order to grow.  I've had many students that needed some type of check in DAILY in order to be productive.  For those students, I'd check their progress by initialing in the margin of their writing and I'd tell them the minimum I expected them to write that day and then I'd initial again at the end of the workshop.
Photo Credit: Flamingo Fabulous in Second Grade
Clothes pins and clip charts are another popular way of having students let you know they need a conference.  I don't use this method just because I use a clip chart for behavior and I'd rather save the phrase "clip up" for recognizing good behavior.  But I've seen some VERY cute clip charts out there!

For myself, I like simple.  I use my easel and write CONFERENCES at the top and number from 1-4.  After I close the mini lesson, I tell students that they can sign up for a conference next to a number.  

There is my easel. It was decorated by my (then) three year old last summer.

Full disclosure: I've had issues with this method every year.

I'll say something like "so that's what I'd like you to work on in your writing" and inevitably, I will have students RACE, like Olympic style sprint for the gold, to the easel.  Enthusiastic writers?  Not really.  By racing to the board, they show me that they have NO intention of practicing whatever I taught during the mini lesson.  And that's not cool.  I need them to work for a few minutes on what every skill or style lesson I presented so I can meander through the room and get some struggling readers started.

So what can you do about this?  Here's what worked for me.  I sit with the student that won the race and I ask him or her to show me whatever it is I taught during the mini lesson.  90% of them time, it isn't evident in their writing, so I'll say something like "I'm disappointed that you didn't try xyz in your writing.  It doesn't seem like you are ready for a writing conference.  You can sign up again when you've done xyz."  Then I'll erase their name from the easel and talk to the next person.  I'll probably end up saying the same thing for several days to different students, but usually by  the end of the first project, everyone will understand that conferences come AFTER you apply the mini lesson.

How do you manage your writing conferences?  Be sure to join the linky! 


  1. I like the idea of displaying your conferencing schedule. I do have the same kids on set days...but I think it is a great idea to display them, so they always know when it is "their turn" to meet with me.

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. I have a set schedule of 5 kids a day. That way I know I meet with each student at least once a week. Of course I am constantly touching base with them throughout the week, but this allows us focused one on one time. :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  3. I have my students set goals for themselves (instead of me doing it for them) and then base a majority of their writing grade on their progress toward their goal. If they meet with me and can't show me specifically where they worked on their goal (or had no idea what their goal was), it is not a happy day for them. My conferences go really quick -- usually 4 minutes tops.

    I just read a really good book about revising that may help you. It is "Making Revision Matter" by Janet Angelillo. Here is the link to Amazon: I think it will definitely help you help your students to use their workshop time wisely and be more interested in their own growth as writers.

    Sorry this is so wordy! :) (Funny that the topic was writing...)

    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

    1. I will have to check out that book! Thanks!

  4. Loving this post!! I will take note because I always have a hard time figuring out a good way for conferencing... thanks for linking up!
    ideas by jivey
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  5. Thanks for sharing your ideas! I can relate with the "rush" and management part. I am always looking for great ideas to keep a smooth flow!


  6. I love the calendar idea for writers workshops! I have 48 kids in my class (we team teach) and I always struggle to make sure I've seen everyone in the two hours I have each day (making sure I also see them for reading too!! Will definitely be trying this after the winter holidays in August (We're in New Zealand)

    Thanks again!!

    The E-Z Class