Monday, September 30, 2013

Teaching Writer's Workshop (plus a QR code freebie!)

I love to teach writing in first grade! They make so much growth over the course of the year. I thought I would share some of my workshop tips with you since I have been absent from blogging (and very, very tired :)). I use the Lucy Calkins Writer's Workshop books aligned to the common core, as well as some of my own ideas mixed in. We are currently in a small moments unit of study. I begin each workshop with a mini-lesson focused on a specific skill or concept.

I begin the unit by brainstorming what we can write about as a group. This chart is hung up as a reference for the entire "small moment" writing unit. Many of my writers this year try to tell me that they don't know what to write about, so I refer them to the chart! I am thinking about printing a copy of this for each of their writing folders with lines for them to add on other ideas as well. 

Each student has their own blue writing folder. I didn't take a picture, but on the left side, there is a red dot sticker, and on the right side, a green dot sticker. The red side holds stories that are done and the green side holds stories that are in progress. This helps organize their work and makes it easier for them to find what they're working on when it's time to write.
 These are two great books I use when I am launching my Reader's and Writer's workshops. Rocket is an easy character to relate to!

These are my writing caddies. They are also used for crafts, which is why there is glue in there! The special markers are just for writer's workshop or craft times. I also allow the use of staplers and staple removers, tape, paper clips, "people" color crayons and markers, and various kinds of paper. A lot of the beginning workshops are about management and expectations, as well as lots of review on writing (stretching out words, hearing all the sounds, etc.). 

We start writing on single pages, but by week 2, we are working on stretching out our story across multiple pages, and including a beginning, middle and end. To do this, we need to discuss how to write a story. Step 1 is to think of an idea, step 2 is to plan by touching each page while telling to story to a partner and sketching with pencil (no words yet), and step 3 is to write the story. My kids have writing partners that sit next to them at their tables so that they are able to plan with them and get help from them.
Booklets are usually introduced at this time- 3 pages for writing and a blank cover. Also, we begin talking about adding details (see poster below). We also talk about matching our pictures to words and making our pictures "5 star". 

The hardest thing to teach (for me) is how to write a small moment and not a giant, watermelon story. I taught that lesson for the first time today! I read a lot of "small moment" mentor texts over the first few weeks of school so that they are familiar to the students when I refer to them for writer's workshop. They are full of great details and awesome story lines. Here are my favorites: 

Today, we made a poster with a watermelon on it (I wish I took a pic!) and talked about taking a watermelon topic (I modeled with going through our whole school day, saying "and then... and then...") and finding a tiny seed inside that great big watermelon. We decided that "changing desks" was a good seed to go with. I also mentioned that watermelons have tons of seeds - so if your watermelon is your trip to Disney world, you might have 5 seed stories to go with it, zooming in on teeny tiny moments during your vacation (i.e., waiting in line forever to ride Space Mountain and feeling so nervous). This takes a lot of practice! I conferred with kids 1:1 today (I got to about half the class) and tried to help them find seed stories within their watermelon topics. We continue to use our mentor texts to help us with it. When I gave this mini lesson today, I referred back to "Night of the Veggie Monster" and how the author could have written about how they eat dinner and his son doesn't like vegetables but he has to eat them anyway and then... and then.... but he instead tells a funny, detailed small moment story about it! This book is a must buy! 

Not at all writing related, but I just created this for my iPad course that I am teaching for K-1 teachers. It is a number matching game with QR codes (you don't have to use the QR code cards if you don't want to or don't have access to iPads/iPods). It's good review! :) Hope you like it!


  1. Sara,
    I'm glad you found me! Great post! I use Lucy Calkins too and we are doing Small Moments right now- I love all of the ideas. Thanks for sharing!
    JD's Rockin' Readers

  2. I love that When I'm Stuck Anchor Chart. Very Nice!

    Digital: Divide & Conquer

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