Time is always our enemy. We feel our days are packed tightly with curriculum demands and find it almost impossible to fit everything in. Writing workshop does take time, but writing is the most powerful tool we have for thinking. In order to make time for writing, we need well-established routines. Many of these time savers can be found in Routman's Writing Essentials. I have added some of my thinking as well.
- Writing should be scheduled every day so that students have a sense of continuity. It is much easier to “pick up where they left off” from the day before.
- Develop your students' writing identities. When they believe they are capable writers they will embrace workshop time (And sometimes beg for more!).
- Try to use prompts that have real world audiences such as writing to an author to tell him how much you enjoyed his book and why (not about how he should change his story).
- Choice, choice, choice! Students need it and crave it!
- Integrate test preparation into daily practice, but don’t let it become the focus of what you do.
- Teach basic skills in context and not in isolated exercises and worksheets.
- Expect high-frequency words and environmental print to be spelled correctly. No excuses here! This saves a lot of correction time.
- Expect legible handwriting. Demand it! You need to be able to read a piece in order to communicate feedback to the student.
- Invented spellings (Actually, highly engineered spellings) permit students to use a larger vocabulary. Students should circle words they feel they may have misspelled as well as consult a dictionary, read the room, or use other tools such as spell checker or a thesaurus before asking the teacher for help.
- Use parents and other peers as editors, too.
- Become an expert at clipboard cruising - gather information on your students through roving conferences - easy to put in place on a daily (or almost daily) basis.
- Make sure the students have a purpose for writing. Understanding why we write is crucial for ownership and investment of energy and time!
Source: Writing Essentials by Regie Routman, 2005.
Adapted by Lynne R. Dorfman