Management of Writing Workshop

Management of Writing Workshop
A successful writing classroom depends on a classroom climate that encourages students
to take risks without fear of failure and on clearly established routines and procedures
that enable students to work successfully, deliberately, and independently. The
organization of the writing classroom must support the essential conditions for an
effective writing workshop, in particular choice, time and response. In the workshop
model, students often choose their writing topics, have extended time to work
independently and receive extensive response to their work from peers and teacher.
These conditions require organizational and management practices that facilitate student
movement, student discussion, quiet writing time, and student independence. Teachers
must attend to both organization and classroom procedures.
Space must be carefully organized in order for students to navigate with ease. The
space in the writing classroom should include a meeting place large enough for
minilessons and whole class response sessions, a place for tools and materials, and
carefully arranged desks or tables. At times, the teacher will pull students away from
their desks to come together in the meeting place for instruction, a read aloud, or sharing.
Much of the time in the writing classroom students are engaged in actual writing, and
they need to be comfortable while writing--at their desks or in other spaces around the
room. Table arrangements should encourage student talk, and the teacher must decide
where to hold one-to-one conferences. Ideally, teachers move to the students to avoid a
“line-up” of students waiting to conference.
The walls in the writing classroom are also part of the environment--they can be used
to reinforce aspects of writing process, classroom procedures, how students can get help
from their peers. These physical reminders “free the teacher from being the only source
of information.” The walls should also display student writing and author quotes-enabling students to “read” the room, as an important source of instruction.
Materials in the writing classroom should be stored and organized so that students
can access and return materials with ease and independence. Materials may include:
Paper, pencils, notebooks, computers for drafting
Folders for storing work
Scissors, tape, staplers for publishing
Dictionaries, thesauri, word lists, check lists, colored pens for editing
Time in the writing classroom should be used flexibly, with most of it devoted to
actual student writing. Students need opportunities to apply the lessons demonstrated and
practiced in the minilesson. Each teacher must strike a balance between teaching to
support the grade level writing standards and the needs of students. Daily writing
workshop should have the following suggested time frames:
Demonstration/mini lesson based
on student needs/interests/curriculum requirements
Sustained writing
Whole class share
20-40 minutes
10-15 minutes
An important component of managing the writing classroom is teaching students how to
use the structures of writing workshop with independence and efficiency.
“They need to learn how to exploit the expanded opportunities for inquiry and
independent thought offered by the classroom setup. Good literacy learning
requires their internalizations of logistics and procedures. Students need to learn
how to move.” Kaufman
Students must be explicitly taught every procedure in the writing workshop: how to
move around the classroom, how to access and store materials, how and where to store
their work, how to set up and use writing notebooks, how to confer with a peer, how to
present or publish finished work. These procedures and behavioral expectations should
be taught just like the elements of writing craft or process-- through modeling and guided
practice: if the teacher expects students to work quietly when writing, then he/she must
model for the classroom what working quietly looks and sounds like and support students
as they move through guided experiences to independent practice. Routman
Learning to navigate in writing workshop is critical at the start of the school year.
Teachers will spend as much time teaching organization and procedures at the
beginning of the year as they do teaching aspects of writing process or craft.
Kaufman suggests the following key organizational principles for management of
writing workshop:
The teacher must organize the classroom proactively before the year begins--so
that every resource, tool, and product has a specific home and a clear procedure
for access and storage.
The rules and/or procedures established by the teacher and students must promote
the ability of students to exploit new freedoms of choice and time--promoting and
channeling motion rather than inhibiting it.
Organizational frameworks, logistics and procedures must be taught, reviewed,
and practiced intensively at the beginning of the year until students internalize
them to the point of practicing them independently.
The organizational framework and procedures require periodic upkeep, as some
lessons previously learned may be disregarded as the school year goes on. By
spelling out expectations on a consistent basis, classrooms may continue to
operate smoothly.
Many resources are available for teachers which describe specific management
techniques for writing workshop and for collecting and sharing student writing. A
resource list is included in this guide. Fletcher also has a helpful chapter on management
problems that might crop up: i.e. when kids use in appropriate language, when kids finish
pieces too quickly, when kids don’t finish what they start when you’re overwhelmed by
student conferences, when workshop energy runs low, and more. (Writing Workshop,
Chapter 10)
Citations: Doug Kaufman, Organizing and Managing the Language Arts Workshop;
Regie Routman, Writing Essentials; and Ralph Fletcher, Writing Workshop.
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