Writing instruction can and should begin in kindergarten. Starting a writers’ workshop in kindergarten can be scary if you’re not sure where to begin! Before launching a writing workshop, make sure that you set your class up to promote writing! Read on or press play for a few tips on setting up your classroom to promote writing!
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Establish the Goals for Writing
The starting point lies in establishing goals. The first place you need to look at is your state standards. Once your students come into class, you’ll quickly get an idea of what their starting point is.
Sometimes the starting point and the end goal, according to the standards, it can be a pretty wide gap, but no worries, your mini-lessons will help them get there. Just for an example, we’ll use kindergarten. So what should students in kindergarten be able to do by the end of the school year? Let’s take a look. They should be able to write in complete sentences.
Now know where you’re thinking. This doesn’t mean that everything is correct, but it is grade-level appropriate.
Strings of consonants will represent words and you’ll have the beginning and ending consonants missing a vowel. This is totally appropriate. This also means that they’re on the right track. They should be able to write most capital and lower case letters. And sometimes they’re using them interchangeably. At this point, they’re also choosing a topic of their own.
I know some teachers like to use writing prompts at this stage. I do not writing prompts, because I have found that children write best when they’re writing from their own experiences. I consider it to be one of my biggest mistakes when it comes to writer’s workshop. So I always let them choose their own topic at this stage.
They’re also revising their writing. When I first became a teacher, I thought that this was heavy-duty revising. Boy, was I wrong! This just means if they’re able to maybe label another picture, add another detail, add another color to their detail, something simple like that. They’re also learning to share their writing with a peer and with their class.
You’ll also begin to notice that whatever you’re reading instruction is, they’re mirroring that information in writing. They’re using their phonemic awareness and phonics to write.
Achieving the Goals
So how do we achieve these goals? The first thing is we have to make them believe that they’re writers. I call them writers. I treat them like writers and they start to believe that they are writers. So there are what I like to call three avenues that come together to help us reach these goals.
The first one is attitude. How we approach writing will have a direct effect on how students think and feel about writing. I always love to stress that writing is important. We are always working to improve our writing. We share our writing with others and our writing is ours.
Next up, we have the responsibilities of the teacher. That means you. So it is up to us to conduct the writer’s workshop. If we don’t do it, no one else is going to do it. It’s our job to teach the mini-lessons. That’s going to get them to the next writing point. We have to provide the time for students to incorporate and practice what we’ve taught. We have to model everything. This means how we hold our crayons, pencils, how we treat our paper, our writing folder, procedures, mechanics, everything.
If you think it’s something that they already know, chances are they don’t when in doubt model it anyway, it’s our job to not dictate what they should write about now. Yes, we help them along the way, but kind of guide them in letting them choose what to write about. And we help them to publish the piece.
So what’s the third avenue? I’m so glad you asked!
Our room has to be set up in a way that encourages writing. This covers everything from our physical environment, to what materials we have available for students. One of the most important spaces in my room is our gathering place. And more than likely, you already have that space set up for your whole group instruction. And for your read-alouds, you’ll also use that space for your mini-lesson and your shared time.
Think about a place for them to work on their writing. Maybe you allow some students to write on the floor. Maybe some students are in different parts of the room, whatever works for you. You can group your tables and chairs together. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. And I found the most important thing is storage space. I always give them writing folders, but I never let them keep them in their desk because I’ve noticed that their writing pieces get lost if I let them keep them in their desk.
So they’re able to grab their writing folders every day. And every writing folder has a space to be returned to. At the end of our writing time, we also have our writing tools. I like to begin with plain white copy, paper, pencils, crayons, and erasers. And then, later on, I expand to markers and colored pencils. I know that some teachers like to start out with everything, but I like to go over rules and procedures.
We talk about how we take care of pencils and crayons. And then once they’ve shown me, they can master that, I move on to markers and colored pencils, and oh, by the way, keep a ton of pencils on hand!
Yes. Students lose pencils.
Yes. They need to sharpen pencils.
Yes. Sometimes they break them on purpose. Keep a plethora of pencils handy!
I like to keep an ABC chart handy in their writing folder. And it contains the keywords from our phonics series. I also like to keep a lot of clipboards. This allows students to write on the floor or in other areas of the room, if they wish to. Now I know that I said model everything and I can’t stress that enough. Even from the smallest thing that we do, how to hold a pencil or how to use a crayon, how to use a writing paper, how to use a writing folder.
Model what they need to do with their work when they are done, model everything as if your life depends on it, this means that often you’ll need to rehearse how you will model something. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up with what I thought was this great modeling lesson. And once I really thought through it, and I kind of rehearsed it a little bit, I realized that I needed to break it down into smaller chunks to make sure that the lesson was accessible to everyone.
Modeling is important because we know that students learn by imitating the teacher. So every little thing that I do sets the foundation for their writing journey. So how are you going to think about your writer’s workshop? What are you going to do before you ever teach that first mini lesson?
If you’re looking to read more about writer’s workshop, I’ve got a PD book for you to check out! You can grab it here!