The Architecture of The Writing Workshop

I continue to field questions concerning the structure, or architecture of the writer’s workshop. Graduate teachers, teachers from other jurisdictions, teachers returning from leave all seeking to know and understand the basics of structure around the workshop.

So, let’s revisit this critical consideration:

What Happens?

Connection/tuning in/
To help students make connections to previous work and to activate their prior knowledge. 
Talk about how this topic fits with the class’ previous learning and how it connects with the student’s as both readers and writers
 (Remember yesterday when we were discussing...?’)

Teaching/ Mini Lesson
To clearly or explicitly show students how to do something we’d like them to practice as writers.
To explicitly and mindfully communicate the focus of the lesson
Demonstrate, explain to students a strategy to try.
Retelling or roleplaying something we’ve observed others doing. The time for gathering information from students or giving information to students. The focus here may be on management of writing resources/behaviours, craft strategies, grammar/punctuation in context, routines, or writing processes (revision, editing, publishing, reflection). 

Shared or directed practice.
(At the teacher's discretion)
To provide students with the opportunity to quickly try the strategy or focus of the mini lesson.
Students have a go alone or with a partner while still in the group setting. 
Students may talk with a partner about their strategy or plan for the independent phase of the workshop. It’s a chance to articulate their writing intentions.

Link/Independent writing/ Composing time
To help students transfer what has been taught as the focus of the mini lesson. The 'independent' part of the workshop where students practice their skills as  writers
Clearly state what you want to see the students doing in the independent part of the workshop.  (“When you are writing today I want you to remember to try…)
You may also ask students to conduct their own enquiry into an aspect of writing by examining their own writing, or the writing of mentors.
After practicing a particular strategy, student writers may choose to continue with their own writing projects.
This phase takes up the majority of the workshop time.

Follow-up/Share Time
To reinforce and extend the focus of the mini-lesson
A time to tie the learning threads together and identify what comes next.  
At the end of the workshop, gather students back together and share an aspect of the independent part of the workshop. (“Who tried…? What did you discover about writing today? What did you discover about yourself?
How did it work for you?  I saw --- trying this. What will you do next time?

May take place as a group, with a partner.  A chance to give and receive feedback. A short, yet valuable teaching time.

This is a suggested outline. It is meant to guide the presentation of the lesson. Time considerations vary according to need and focus, but the majority of time is allocated to the independent hase of the lesson where student practice thinking and behaving like writers.


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