Writer's Workshop

Writer's Workshop is a part of the day that my students look most forward to. Even the most reluctant of writers will produce if the expectations for writing workshop are clear cut, and the opportunity for writing includes a variety of genres. We all, as educators, have standards and expectations from state and local curriculum. That doesn't mean that writing has to be boring. Writing can be made enjoyable as you strive to meet grade level outcomes. The key to success is to make the writing process a key and meaningful part of what goes on in your classroom.

Getting Started

I start the year by providing each student with their own writing folder. This is simply a double pocket folder, labeled with their name, that houses important writing workshop papers, as well as the current writing pieces that are works in progress. This folder is kept in each child's desk. Finished products are moved to a three ring binder that houses all of the child's work throughout the year. I make a copy of the piece I'm going to use for the fall and end year samples (these go in their Cumulative Writing Folder that gets housed in the Main Office).

The left side of the folder holds papers that the students are expected to keep throughout the school year. I label this side of the folder Important Papers so that if they "get loose" they can be replaced in the right spot. The right side of the folder is strictly for Work in Progress.

Writing Folder
Click below for
Folder Name labels
Click below for
Important Papers labels
Click below for
Work in Progress labels
Cumulative Writing Folder

Every student that progresses through our school has a Cumulative Writing Folder. These folders are printed on heavy cardstock. We are required to enter a Fall and Spring writing piece that is done totally independently. The purpose is to see what the ability level is at the beginning and end of the school year. We usually, as a grade level, choose the same genre so that everyone is writing about a similar topic. The fall sample and spring sample is usually either a Friday Journal entry or a Weekend News entry. This writing folder is sent home at the end of second grade and at the end of fifth grade.

We are required to teach how to write personal narratives, opinion pieces, informational writing, and shared research. This is easily accomplished throughout the school year.

All of the necessary papers for Writer's Workshop are housed in a crate. The children learn to go to this crate for all of their writing needs. The key is to get them as independent as possible so that you have the time needed to conference with other students during workshop time.

Writing Folder
Quarter Recording
File Box
Permanent Writing Folder Front Cover
Permanent Writing Folder Inside
Permanent Writing Folder Back Cover
Writer's Workshop Materials

Writer's Workshop Guidelines

Guidelines for Our Classroom Writing is kept in the left pocket of the writing folder. I have a direct and explicit lesson to go over what my expectations are. We practice this and review it often during the first weeks of writing so that it becomes automatic.

As part of a homework assignment the children are required to fill out an Interest Inventory. We take time to share the responses to the questions on this inventory during one of our first class meetings. It serves as a way for us to get to know one another, as well as sparks interests and additions to the inventory. Children become very excited when they can add to what they have, or want to change something because one of their classmates sparks a memory.

After sharing the Interest Inventory we spend writing workshop time filling out our Topic List.

Click below for
Guidelines for Our Classroom Writing

Click below for the Interest Inventory
Click below for the Topic List

We generate the topic list from our Interest Inventory, as well as any other things that come to mind. I model and generate my own topic list as part of this lesson. The children really benefit from this thought process.

Class Progress Poster and Record Sheet

I started using this idea over the last few years and it has been one of the greatest organizational features I use during workshop time. It saves time and really provides me with a necessary tool for keeping track of where the children are in the writing process.

The Class Status Poster is placed in a part of the room that it can be easily seen by myself, and can be easily manipulated by the students. Each child has a clothespin with their name on it and they are all placed on the Brainstorming part of the poster. I show the children how to move their clothespin as they progress through the stages of the writing process. They love doing this and it is a great visual to show they are making progress. It is great for me because I can see very easily if someone is at a standstill.

I use the Class Progress Record Sheet when I check in on students as they are working. This has been by far the greatest tool for me. It allows me to keep track of what I see when I chat with a child and gives me something to go back to when I need it. I type the names in and have many copies made at the beginning of the school year because I use this for each major piece of writing that we do. The sheets are stapled together and I keep them on a clipboard as I meet with the children. I circle the step they are on when I chat with them. This is an informal chat to see how they are doing. I refer to these notes when I have a final conference to check to see if earlier suggestions for editing or revising were made. Prior to using this sheet I relied on my memory for that...NOT a good idea!!!!

Click below for the Class Progress Poster
Click below for the Class Progress Record Sheet


The graphic organizer we use for brainstorming depends upon the genre of the writing piece we are working on. There are many great sites for graphic organizers. Listed below you will find links to these sites.

Houghton-Mifflin Graphic Organizers Graphic Organizers
Graphic Organizers to Print Christmas Graphic Organizers
TeacherVision Graphic Organizers Graphic.Org Graphic Organizers
Graphic Organizer Maker EdHelper Graphic Organizers
Teacher Tap Graphic Organizers Write Design Online Graphic Organizers
Free-ology Graphic Organizers read•write•think
Interactive Essay Map
Interactive Circle Plot Diagram

Interactive Compare and Contrast Guide
Interactive Persuasion Map
Interactive Webbing Tool
Interactive Venn Diagram (2 circles)
Interactive Venn Diagram (3 circles)
Interactive Story Map
Interactive Drama Map
First Draft

When writing a first draft I drill into the children to remember to date each new day that they write.

First Draft Paper- pg.1 Friendly Letter Draft Paper- pg. 1
First Draft Paper- pg. 2 Friendly Letter Draft Paper- pg. 2
Revise/Edit Checklist

I have tried many different vehicles for this step in the writing process and I have found the the second checklist below works very well in my classroom. Though the first checklist is much more detailed, it ends up being too time consuming and confusing. Too much time is spent changing colors. We approach this task more holistically and it works very well. I also use a Quick Word Dictionary to save time when editing.

My first lesson for this step of the writing process is to model the editing and revising I went through when I wrote the children their summer letter. I copy the drafts on overhead transparencies to show the process. They are really amazed to see that teachers have to go through this process and that teachers actually make errors, just like they do when they write!!!

The children are required to revise/edit with a classmate prior to coming to me for a teacher conference.

Click here to print a Revise/Edit Checklist 1
Click here to print a
Simplified Revise/Edit Checklist
(I use this one)
Quick Word Dictionary

Though editing is an important part of the writing process, as a third grade teacher I am more concerned that the children work on the revision part of their writing. I provide the children with a Quick Word Dictionary to use as a first step in finding words that may be misspelled. This cuts down on the time taken to mull through a bigger dictionary. If the child can't find the word, then a class dictionary can be used. The word is then added to the Quick Word Dictionary.

Something else that works well that I often use is to work out the spelling of a word together, then have the child add it to their Quick Word Dictionary. It's a mini-word work lesson!

For example, suppose the word "teacher" was spelled...techir...

  • I would put lines for the letters in the word    _  _  _  _  _  _  _

  • Then I fill in the letters that the child had correct    t e _ c h _ r

  • Last we discuss what the sounds are and relate to what we learned relative to decoding

  • We fill in the correct letters and then the word is added to the Quick Word Dictionary

Click here to print a Quick Word Dictionary.

When printing, print odd pages first, then even pages on the back.

Free tool to create quality rubrics



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Marie L. Smith
Red Creek Central School District
Margaret W. Cuyler Elementary School
Red Creek, NY 13143
Last updated 7/6/13