The writing workshop is an opportunity to ensure every student feels safe and welcomed into your classroom community and empowers students by inviting them to be all-in on learning. And when students know that they are seen and heard—that they have a voice in your classroom—then everything in a school year can change for the better.
Why Is the Writing Workshop Model Critical Right Now?
The writing workshop is far more than an instructional period in the day. It is a belief that people learn by being all-in, by having choice and agency and relationships and meaning. It is a space where students are seen and heard—not only by us educators, but by each other as peers. The writing workshop can change the entire tenor of a classroom, and of a school. Walk the halls of any school that is alive with the teaching of writing and you will feel in your bones how this is a school that champions children, that delights in their lived wisdom, in their quirky way with words, and in their bluntly honest ways of putting their truths out there.
The Writing Workshop Creates a Classroom Community
A strong feeling of community comes to those students involved in the writing workshop. From the very first day, the writing workshop:
- Creates a community of writers willing to take risks,
- Reminds writers to be true to themselves,
- Allows students to share their identities,
- Uses writing as a vehicle to create mirrors and windows,
- Fosters collaboration through partnership and club work, and
- Engages all learners through various teaching methods and structures.
This community foundation is the essence of the workshop model. Students and teachers work together to tinker, invent, test things out through trial and error, reflect, revise, and grow. The multiple access points—from whole-class instruction, to small groups, to 1:1 conferences, to peer support—enable all students to be appropriately supported and challenged.
The Writing Workshop Builds Agency
The workshop model also builds agency, as students learn that writing is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Across each unit, writers learn a repertoire of strategies to draw upon as they generate ideas, rehearse and plan, draft, revise, edit and publish their work. On any given day, writers think about their own personal goals and the work they need to do to make those goals a reality. After carefully crafting work plans, writers set out on the adventure of writing, letting their words fly across the page. With the help of anchor charts, checklists and other tools, partnerships and clubs, writers decide for themselves how to maximize their precious workshop time. Students learn to nurture themselves as writers and to reflect on what makes their own writing process go smoothly.
Practice and Revision in the Writing Workshop
Take stock of your writing instruction and reflect for yourself:
- What have I done so far to give my students the writing instruction they deserve?
- What important goals might I aspire to during the next few months of the year?
Writing is a skill, and the only way for a student to become better as a writer is to practice writing. Expect your students to write often and a lot. First graders can often write a few 3-page booklets a week, with a few sentences on each page. Fifth graders can easily fill a page and a half in 30 minutes, and they can write one draft, then cross out half of it and write a substantially new draft. Your expectations for volume of writing matter. Students who write more often will write with fluency, putting words onto the page that carry the lilt of their oral language. Meanwhile, for students who rarely practice writing, writing becomes laborious, almost as if they are carving each word into marble.
When it comes to revision, it is helpful for students to say aloud what they intend to write before they write, and to repeat that process multiple times before writing a draft. For example, a student will first recall the story of something they once did by saying the sequence of events aloud. Then, they note, “I want to make them know how excited I was at first and how sad I was later,” and retells the same story, bringing out those changing feelings. They then vow, “I want to tell more details so they can really picture it,” and again they tell themselves the story but this time, more details are incorporated. By the time they are writing their draft, the story is already improved from the first telling.
Grow confident writers with K-5 writing instruction resources that provide effective methods and tools to teach foundational skills and improve students' writing. Learn more about the Units of Study resources for K-5 Writing.
The Reading and Writing Project at Mossflower was created out of the pioneering work that Dr. Lucy Calkins began over forty years ago. Inspired by her research, she developed innovative curricula and methods that transformed the way children learned to write, adapting the collegiate and professional-level “writing workshop” model for elementary-age students. Today, RWP-M remains deeply rooted in this experience, where Dr. Calkins and her team of experienced educators author the Units of Study in Reading, Writing, and Phonics for grades K through 8, and several series of engaging decodable texts. More than authors of curriculum, at its core, the Project is a community of practice, a think tank, and a professional development organization dedicated to working with schools and educators to empower students to become what we have always known them to be: proficient and enthusiastic writers, readers, and thinkers.