Saturday, July 26, 2014

Writing Workshop

I love teaching writing workshop. I think it is the most important part of my teaching day. My students become better readers and writers because we write everyday.

I have been teaching writing workshop for the past twenty years. If you told me that my kindergartener’s would be writing personal narrative’s with voice, animal research books with lots of facts, persuasive letters with strong reasons, and poetry from the heart, I would think it would not be possible… but it is.

Little kids become strong writers when they are given the opportunity to write, have choices in their topics, get teacher guidance on their work and see lots of writing demonstrations from an expert writer.

In my kindergarten class, I do a lot of interactive writing to help students learn the conventions of writing. During Interactive, writing, we are creating a short message that focuses on many of the skills we want students to do independently. For example, if I see that many students are not putting spaces between words, I would pull those students together, and we would write a few sentences focusing on spacing. I also do a lot of writing and thinking aloud to the whole group.
Interactive Writing

I also use lots of children’s books to teach writing. After reading Katie Wood Rays book Wonderous Words, it changed the way I look at children’s picture books. Now, when I pick up a picture book I always ask myself, “How can this book help me teach my students how to be a better writer?” What is the writer doing in this story that makes it a good book? Can my students try this out?

I have two boys in kindergarten this year. It’s amazing how quickly the year goes by.  Prior to entering kindergarten if I had only one wish for my boy’s school year, it would be that they have writing workshop. They have had a wonderful year in kindergarten. They have learned what it means to be a listener, a friend, a student, a reader, and many more important things, but they didn’t learn to be a writer.  

My kids did lots of worksheets that “prepared” them to learn about reading and writing. I do not believe worksheets teach kids anything about reading or writing. I think worksheets keep kids busy.

I think writer’s workshop should be happening in every kindergarten classroom if we expect students to learn how to be confident readers and writers.

One of my sons made this picture the night before the last day of school. To me, this is something I will always cherish! He was feeling sad and expressed himself with words and pictures.

 Imagine what he would have written if he had the opportunity to write every day?

If you are thinking about doing writing workshop next year 
below is a list of books I recommend. 
Happy writing!


  1. Yes and amen. I'm in love with the writing you do in your classroom, and your post here says it all. Thank you for believing in our young writers like you do!
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  2. You are such an inspiration to me! I always look forward to when you have a new blog post because I enjoy seeing what you are doing with your Kinders! I might have another book to suggest to you although I have not read it yet-I have only seen the author do a sort of in-service on youtube. The book is Helping Children Become Readers Through Writing. Check it out. I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

  3. Thank you Tammy, Let's HOPE they write in first grade!!! G Girl thank you for the book suggestion I am going to look it up right now on Amazon!! Happy Sunday! Melissa

  4. I am returning to the kindergarten classroom after years doing Title I with kindergartners. I agree with you about writing and would like to do some kind of writing instruction as you do. However, our school is departmentalized and I will teach Language Arts to 2 classes for 60 minutes each. The first 30 minutes will be devoted to our phonics program which leaves the last 30 for comprehension, sight words, and writing. No time for writing workshop, but I so want to do something like it as well as your interactive writing. Would you have any ideas/suggestions as how to schedule this activities? Also, do you have a year-long plan for your writing lessons? Thanks so much!

  5. Melissa, I used your post as part of my Saturday Sayings this morning. Thanks for being such a wonderful advocate for kindergarten writing.

  6. Lee Ann,

    I think it is WONDERFUL that you are thinking of ways to incorporate writing in your day. I would suggest you read the book Breakthrough in Beginning Reading and Writing by J.Richard Gentry, there is so much data in his book that supports giving students the opportunity to write and how that supports their phonics development and reading development.
    I don't know where your students are at but 30 minutes is a long time to teach phonics, maybe you could shift some of the times to squeeze in independent writing (20 mins).

    For lesson's my school uses the Lucy Calkins personal narratives and some of Tony Steads writing units. If you read the book About The Authors by Katie Wood Ray she explains different units of study you can teach (poetry, How To, Information books). I hope that was helpful! Melissa

  7. Melissa,
    LOVE this post. Thank you so much for sharing. I swear I tell my husband every year when school starts for our children, "I PRAY they will do writer's workshop" He always laughs that this is one of my very top priorities - but it matters! The years they have had w.w. are so powerful - they grow a great deal, but more importantly - they LOVE being able to write daily about things that interest them.
    You are so great at incorporating writing throughout your day. I especially love how much interactive writing that you do! Amazing! Looking forward to see what great ideas you share this year. - Amy

  8. Amy,

    Thank you so much! Your comments mean so much to me coming from an AMAZING kindergarten teacher. I look forward to reading your blog too this coming school year. Enjoy the last few weeks of summer. Melissa

  9. I wanted to thank you for your reply above. I will definitely check out the books you recommended. Today I talked about how you can draw a picture to write a story. For our phonics program, it is Fundations and includes handwriting/correct letter formation for a 30 minute lesson.

  10. I just found your blog, and I love, love, love your ideas! I am a veteran teacher but I still struggle with making instruction truly meaningful for my students. I love your focus on teaching reading through writing. A lot of phonics can be taught through writing as well. I look forward to following your future posts.

  11. Dear Early Literacy Teacher,
    Thank you for your comment! I plan to blog about interactive writing soon and how there are lots of possibilities to connect meaning to the school day. I agree a ton of phonics can be taught!! Have a wonderful day! Melissa


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