I don’t know about you, but kindergarten writer’s workshop was one of my favorite ways to see my students blossom throughout the year. It’s amazing to see them start with scribbles and letters to ending the year with full stories and books! But what if you don’t know where to start? Some districts may not have a solid writing curriculum for kindergarten, but that’s okay! This block of time lasts about 45 minutes and is a powerful time of day. I want to share the basics of a kindergarten writer’s workshop so that you can implement it as soon as today!
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I always open my writer’s workshop block with a brief, but meaningful, mini-lesson. This explicit instruction lasts for five to ten minutes. The teacher is actually writing during the mini-lesson in a way that all students can see it. This could be on your projector, smartboard, chart paper, etc. At the beginning of the year, the mini-lesson might be closer to the five-minute mark. It just depends on the stamina of your students.
No matter what the mini-lesson will be, the key parts are:
-thinking out loud about your writing so the students can hear your thought process and
For kindergarten writer’s workshop, I liked to start the year with mini-lessons about writer’s workshop procedures, then move to drawing, and finally, writing. I would look at what most of my students needed to work on and go from there.
I also liked throwing in fun lessons to make writing more interesting like onomatopoeias, quotation marks for talking, labeling, and simple transition words. Just remember these are mini-lessons, so they can be as simple as remembering to use spaces, punctuation, starting with a capital, listening for sounds in a word, and using the word wall. There are so many people that have written lessons for writer’s workshop if you aren’t quite ready to fly solo. Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study is one of my favorites and was so helpful in my classroom. Here is one of her books that talks about getting started.
After the mini-lesson, students are sent to begin writing. This time frame can range 10-30 minutes, depending on your class. I found that my students were able to write longer than I expected sooner than I expected. So don’t hesitate to try stretching them towards 20 minutes early on. Typically, this is where we landed. I would set a timer, start our “quiet music” and off we would go!
In the beginning of the year, I give the students paper with a space for a picture on the top and writing lines on the bottom. Since we are still working on letter formation, the lines are not dotted. I don’t stress about handwriting during writer’s workshop. I just want them to get their ideas onto the paper!
It’s important to not give students a prompt or topic in kindergarten writer’s workshop- we want them to be authentic authors and come up with this on their own! The exception would be if we were working on a genre of writing I would have them do something in that genre, but still as much of their own ideas as possible.
One thing I love about this time is that it can naturally be differentiated for each student. If you have little ones that can only draw, that’s absolutely fine! If you have students who can write several sentences, let them! By thinking aloud during the mini-lesson, you’ll be encouraging all of your students to try something new, check to make sure they are doing something correctly, or show them how to extend their writing.
While the students are independently writing, I confer with them. This is the heart of the workshop model. I meet with several each day so I can get a good feel of where they each are at. The goal would be to meet with each student at least once per week, and some students twice a week. I keep a log of who I meet with each day, what we talked about, and what I wanted them to try next. This could be done in a notebook with sections for each student, a weekly chart with room for anecdotal notes, or a folder with Post-Its with your notes for each student. Whatever makes you feel most organized!
When I met with a student, I always started with “What are you working on today as an author?” When they answered, I got to hear how they were thinking and what they wanted to write about. I also got to hear something they were having a hard time with. Then, I would tell them something positive I noticed about their writing to help build confidence. Finally, I would ask them if I could show them another thing that writers also do to give them a teaching point and set a goal for next time. In my kindergarten writer’s workshop conference notebook, I would then record what they were doing well and what their goal for next time was. Having this notebook is very helpful for parent conferences, progress and report cards, and for planning your mini-lessons.
Sharing time is an important part of kindergarten writer’s workshop because authors write to share stories. I usually have students pair up and share their work from that day with their partner. By the end of the year, I encourage them to ask questions and tell their partners what they like about each other’s writing. Another thing I did was have the students who I conferred with share their work from our “share chair” with the whole class. This part usually lasts around five minutes.
So what are you waiting for?! Dive in!! You can TOTALLY do this!! Here are the guidelines that we had for our writer’s workshop time. You can grab these FREE by joining my email list.
Writer’s workshop really gives you a peek into their little minds. It’s so fun to learn more about each child in your class! If you aren’t doing writer’s workshop in kindergarten yet, I’d encourage you to try it! It just might be easier than you think.