Teaching writing was one of my least favorite parts of the school day. Honestly, I never really received formal training on how to be an effective writing teacher. I always felt like it was trial and error. Throughout my years of teaching, there was one strategy that completely transformed my writing workshop and helped me to create thriving writers.
The Traditional Writing Workshop
Once upon a time this is how I taught my writing workshop. If you walked into my classroom, you may have heard something like this: “Ok, class, we are working on our opinion essays. Don’t forget that an opinion essay needs a strong opinion, and you should have at least three reasons, and don’t forget to give an example for every reason. Good writers use transitions and they don’t use boring words. Make sure you check your spelling, your capitalization, and your punctuation. Ok, go write.”
You can probably imagine what happened next.
Sure, some kids excitedly got to work on their opinion essay. But many didn’t. Most students were doodling on their desk, rushing to use the bathroom, or waving their hand in the air to tell me that they didn’t know what to write about. Very little writing was happening during writing workshop.
And me? I was getting my aerobic exercise just running around the room trying to meet the diverse needs of all of my students. Some students were planning, while others were drafting. Some needed to revise or edit and a few students were ready to publish. Everyone was doing something different. I kept thinking, “There has to be an easier way.”
Introducing the Masterpiece
The toughest part about meeting all of my students’ needs is that they didn’t need the same thing at the same time. Even if I upped my mini lesson game (which I did) and taught a great lesson about a specific skill, only some of my students would need that lesson that day. I needed all of my students to be at the same place in the writing process. We all needed to be drafting at the same time. Then we could all revise together and so on.
But, how do you do this when every student works at a different pace? The answer? The masterpiece! This one change completely transformed my writing workshop.
Here is how it works: Every day we would start with a ten-minute mini lesson on a very specific skill that I wanted students to use in their writing. First, we would do lessons about how to choose a topic. After they drafted, we would do short lessons on revising their lead, show don’t tell, word choice, etc. We would continue through the writing process with one mini lesson at a time.
At the end of the mini lesson, students were given a very short writing task to complete that was entirely based on the mini lesson. They were implementing what I was teaching right away! For example, if I taught a mini lesson about strong opinion statements, their task might be to revise their opinion statement to be longer. They were just being asked to work on revising one sentence! It was a task that took writers less than ten minutes but made a huge difference in the effectiveness of their writing. This removed so much of the pressure that came with being told to “go write.” Struggling writers started to feel so much more confident.
Every day this piece of writing, the masterpiece, would get better as students completed the daily task. I could finally get all of my students to the same place in the writing process and implementing the mini lesson strategies every single day. It was so much easier to support all of my writers!
Managing Fast Finishers
I still had one problem. My writers still wrote at different paces. This meant that everyone did not finish their daily task at the same time. If a student completed their task early, I didn’t want them to just continue working. Doing so would mean that everyone was no longer at the same place in the writing process.
Instead of continuing to work on their masterpiece, I had students who are fast finishers flip to the back of their notebook and work on a different story or report. And yes, students are often working on multiple stories.
I had two rules for these extra stories:
- The story had to be in the same genre that we were currently working on. If we were in the mission of our informational writing unit, then their extra piece needed to be informational as well.
- Students needed to attempt to use all of the skills and strategies that we had learned in the mini lessons.
I didn’t grade these extra pieces of writing. They were just extra practice for my writers! But, most importantly, the extra stories kept all of my writers at the same place in the writing process for their masterpiece. The extra stories could then be completed at their own pace.
Join the Writing Masterclass
This strategy is part of the Not So Wimpy Writing Process that is taught by my good friend Jamie from Not So Wimpy Teacher (that’s her story above). She teaches this strategy and so many others in her online professional development course for teachers in grades 2-5.
The Not So Wimpy Writing Masterclass is a self-paced professional development program that teaches you, step-by-step, how to become a successful writing teacher who inspires students and transforms them into great writers. And the best part? Jamie will teach you how to make teaching writing EASY!
This program is only available online–which makes it the best darn professional development you could ever take. Why? Because you don’t have to dress up, wear makeup, or do your hair in order to participate! You can watch (or listen) while wearing your pajamas, going on your run, or driving to pick up the kids from badminton practice–nobody will know but you!
Transform Your Writing Workshop
The Not So Wimpy Writing Masterclass gets results. By the end of this program, you will have learned how to:
- Turn your students into skilled writers who love writing so much, they beg for more writing time!
- Follow a process for teaching writing that makes it simple, effective, and even joyful to teach writing.
- Create manageable mini lessons to teach.
- Find time every day for writing instruction and weekly conference time for all of your students.
- Help your students get the skills they need to perform well on standardized tests.
- Take all the mystery, overwhelm, stress, and anxiety out of teaching writing.
If you want to make teaching writing easy, and transform your writing workshop, I highly recommend you check out the Writing Masterclass.
Check out the details and sign up HERE.
Find more writing ideas in these posts:
Free Friday Letters Starter Kit & Parent Letter
Reading and Writing Activities That Are Perfect for Fall
Opinion Writing: Will Moving to Australia Solve Alexander’s Problems?
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