Today I'm linking up with Jivey for Workshop Wednesday.
I started Writer's Workshop last year in my classroom. I work at a small private school that isn't under the mandates of the state, so we kind of do our own thing. I wish we had a little more accountability, but I do appreciate the freedom I have to try what works best for us rather than feeling pressure from the state. (This is not to say I'm against state guidance. I'm all for it as long as the lawmakers are making informed decisions.)
Anyways, I'm pretty sure I'm the only teacher at my school doing any sort of workshop format so I'm kind of winging it. :)
Last year I went through some online videos that really helped me get the whole Writer's Workshop thing figured out. I also read Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How and Ralph Fletcher's Writer's Notebook to help me get started.
Buckner suggests starting Writer's Workshop with a activity focusing on one's name. She suggested reading the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes since it's all about names. I didn't use it last year, because I was too cheap to buy it, and I ran out of time to go to the library. This summer I was able to find it for super cheap at a thrift store, so I intend to use it to introduce my Writer's Notebook this upcoming school year. Anyways, last year I shared my story about how I got my name. I had previously written it in my Writer's Notebook and read it directly to the class. I then had them briefly write about their names as their very first entry in their Writer's Notebook. Most of them did very well with this, but I had a few stubborn boys who didn't think they had anything to write about. I then had the few who wanted to share their story with the class. It was a lot of fun to hear their stories especially since we had several new students in our class last year.
After this activity, I explained to the class how Writer's Workshop would work and that they were expected to write a daily page every day first thing when they arrived at school. I shared some ideas with them about what they could write about. The daily pages were pretty rough towards the end of the year. They had sort of lost their steam. I think I will provide some more guidance to help them out this year. Some of them were just boring diary entries. For example: "Today I had basketball practice. Then I went to McDonald's. Then I watched Duck Dynasty. Then I did my homework. Then I went to bed." There was then some variation on this theme EVERY SINGLE DAY! ARGH!
One thing I did very poorly was not modelling my own writing enough for the class. Sure, I would write when I needed to give them a specific example for how to do something in Writer's Workshop, but I didn't model DAILY writing for them. I hope to improve upon that this coming year.
One thing I really think helps get students excited about Writer's Workshop is having lots of engaging activities for them from the get-go. They would always get excited when I would tell them to pull out their Writer's Notebooks or when I would pull out the easel to show them an anchor chart. I just need to keep the momentum all year. I slacked off in this regard as the year went on.
I'm planning to implement Reader's Workshop this year. I'm really revamping what I do for Reading instruction because it has been incredibly sub-par in the past. I'll have to share what I'm doing once I'm finished. It's a huge project!