Writer's Workshop

Last Updated: 6/16/2018 12:25 PM

Writers' Workshop

The basic philosophy behind Writers’ Workshop is that students write every day for real purposes about things that interest them. Students learn the craft of writing through practice, conferring and studying mentor texts with the ultimate goal is of developing life-long writers. The Writers’ Workshop has a structured order of events that occur daily within a block of time. The structure of Writers’ Workshop follows a predictable pattern and set format which builds structure, expectation, and opportunity for students to write. The model always starts with a mini-lesson with the whole class in which the teacher explicitly teaches one skill, strategy, or quality of writing. Once introduced, the teaching point becomes an option for students to use in their writing.

As students move from whole class to independent writing, the teacher confers with students individually or in small groups about their writing. Through additional mini-lessons and conferences, the teacher is able to attend to individual needs, set goals for students, and reinforces previous lessons. At some point during independent writing, the teacher may chose to address an observation or remind students of prior lessons with a mid-workshop interruption which provides a mental break and refocus on writing objectives. The workshop often concludes with the whole class reconvening for a brief share. The teacher may identify a student whose work has effectively utilized a strategy or teaching point.

The philosophy and principles of Writers’ Workshop create a learning environment that:

  • Encourages independence
  • Gives the writer a high degree of choice within a framework
  • Has procedures that are consistent for both materials and movement
  • Structures the environment to encourage writers to take risks and learn their craft
  • Provides a scaffolding support system to all writers
  • Gives students frequent responses to their writing
  • Has a regular and predictable time to write and amount of time
  • Gives students direct instruction in writing by different methods; whole class, small group, individual
  • Uses literature to teach students the craft of writing


The Writers’ Workshop includes:

  • Mini-lessons (5-15 minutes)
  • Independent Writing (10-15 minutes)
  • Conferencing (during independent writing; 2-4 minutes each)
  • Mid-Workshop Interruption (2-5 minutes)
  • Independent Writing (10-15 minutes)
  • Conferencing (during independent writing; 2-4 minutes each)
  • Sharing (5-10 minutes)
  • Total Writer’s Workshop Time: 50-60 minutes


The Writer's Notebook

The Writer’s Notebook gives students a place to write every day… to practice living like a writer (Buckner, 2005, p. 3). Students use the Writer’s Notebook to think about how they feel about a topic, a character, or an issue. It can be used to jot down the answer to a question before a small group or whole class discussion. It’s a safe place in which to practice those new reading and writing strategies.

In the Writer’s Notebook students will respond to a poem, an idea, or an image. It’s a perfect place to do the pre-writing of their essay, letter, or story. It’s a personal space in which to collect images and thoughts for their next piece of writing. The Writer’s Notebook is powerfully simple: it lets students write their way through reading and writing instruction. The Writer’s Notebook is a place for students to write meaningfully and with purpose in a safe, non-judgmental environment. It is high purpose, low stakes writing.

Writer’s Notebook assessments are based upon quality and depth of thinking about writing, quality of entries, evidence of mini-lessons and conferences, and attention to identified conventions of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Students are assessed, and self-assess, on their work with their notebooks, but entries are not assessed individually as complete writing pieces.

The Writer’s Notebook is most often used for pre-writing and rehearsal. Much of the development behind pieces of writing begins and begins to grow in the Writer’s Notebook before drafting begins. The principle behind the Notebook is that it is a place for students to save their words- reflections, lists, rambling thoughts, and sketches. As teachers, we can guide its use and present strategies for students to try.

The Woodcliff Lake School District staff and students recognize that writers need a place to write, and write a lot. It’s the act of writing- the practice of generating text and building fluency- that leads writers to significance; keeping a notebook is a process (Buckner, 2005, p. 7).