Beginning the Journey

Today I worked with 17 teachers who attended the All-Write Primary Beginning Writing Workshop. Basically it’s a training for teachers who want to learn the basics of writing workshop and get it going in their classrooms. Although I’ve led this training many times, this is the first time it has been focused on primary grades. (Tomorrow I’m leading an intermediate version.) We meet one day a week for three consecutive weeks.

So I had one day to help teachers capture a vision for writing workshop and decide what they are going to do the remainder of the week to launch writing workshop in their kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms. Does this feel like a monumental task to anyone else?

Here are some of the things I suggested:

  1. Remember these two things: “Writing workshop is a happy place where we make stuff” (Katie Ray & Lisa Cleveland); and “Teach the writer, not the writing” (Don Graves).
  2. Let’s broaden our definition of writing to include oral storytelling, pictures, and words. We discussed the importance of not only teaching out of illustrations, but also to teach into illustrations (Ray, 2010).
  3. Build stamina over the course of the week and track this progress with students.
  4. Maintain the structure of writing workshop, including a short minilesson, work time, and sharing.
  5. Invite children to tell their stories and then watch and listen to see what they will show and teach us about the way young writers compose text.
  6. Embrace imperfection. Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, we want to celebrate the mess, because it is here that learning happens.
The next session will focus on reflective practice, conferring, and mentor texts.