March 10, 2014

Writer's Workshop Part 1 and a Spring Freebie

 Writer’s Workshop Part 1

Writing is such an important part of any literacy program whether it be pre-k, k, 1, 2,3, etc .  During my years of teaching I can’t tell you how many times I have been at a professional development meeting with other districts where I’ve heard teachers make statements like “We don’t start writing until January” and “How can they write if they can’t read?” January???  REALLY????  Think of all the instructional time and practice time that is not being used wisely.  Students reading and writing go together like bread and butter; one is not complete without the other.  Writing allows students to “play” and “practice” with letter sounds in the context of their own thoughts and ability; differentiate learning at its best!

Writing for Any Classroom

Journal Writing
Formal Writing-Informative, Explanatory, Narratives, Biographies, etc.
Reading Response
Making Books


Today’s Topic-Journal Writing

When To Start Journals

Students start writing in their journals the first day of school and will write in their journals every day for the first nine weeks. 

The Mini Lesson

Modeling daily before students write in their journals is essential. Students learn their ABC because someone sang with them and practiced writing the letters with them. The same is true for writing a paragraph or story, it is important to model how to use basic mechanics, organize thoughts, and put letters/sounds together within a sentence before expecting students to do so.

Rules for Journal Writing

Journal Writing is a time when students can explore how writing works, practice how letters go together to make words, and share their ideas.  Here are the rules I give students to help establish the expectation for putting those three components together in their journal. 

·         Everyone writes for the entire writer’s block.
·         Writing First/Drawing Pictures Last-otherwise some of the artistic ones will spend their entire writing period drawing.
·         No copying-I always erase what I write because some students will take the easy way out and copy what I have written.  I honestly don’t even use sentence stems.  I might use a sentence stem during my modeling and say it out loud but I don’t leave it on the board for students to copy.  I find that copying doesn’t help students because they are not having to think about letter sound relations or the process of how words go together.   

Erase the board or turn off the projector.

·         Students are responsible for their own spelling-Students should say the words slowly and write what they hear.  (I do not let students use their dictionaries until later in the year because some would spend the entire journal block looking up every word. 

This also helps students……

*put letter/sounds together
*encourages students to be risk takers instead of always depending on the teacher/others


What Does the Teacher Do During Journal Writing?

Gently Guide Students-This means something different for each student. 

 Students might need help:

          *with letter formation
          *holding their pencil correctly
          * staying on task
          *Stretching out words
          *Getting thoughts organized


Topics for Writing

When I get started with journals the first day of school I always assign a topic for writing. Over the years I have found that if I don’t some students either.

      *Never come up with a topic
     *Write about the same topic every day

And let’s face it some of those kiddos already have enough to stress about; holding their pencil correctly, getting the letters/sounds correct, and getting the letters on the line, not to mention all the thoughts of what’s going on at home swirling around in their head.  Wow, first graders have a lot to stress about!


What Are the Topics?

The first few weeks of school I always give the students topics about “THEMSELVES 

WHY??????.........Because first graders are EXPERTS onTHEMSELVESand always have something to share about “THEMSELVES.  Ex: What did you do this summer?  Tell me about your family? 


As we all know first graders are all very different; therefore, the expectations for each student should be different.  Each day I set an expectation as to the least amount of sentences students can write but then add if those are finished before writing time is up more details/sentences should be added.  This ensures that students have a requirement for completion but also differentiates and challenges those that are ready to write more.  

Journal Sharing

Just as students like to write about themselves they also enjoy “sharing” what they have written.  Once Writer’s Workshop is over 4 to 5 students will share their journal entry in the group area.  The students each read on their scheduled day.  Warning………. if you get mixed up because you were off on Monday for Columbus day but call the Monday group up to share, the class INFORMER will let you know. 

Here’s a Spring Break Journal Freebie that can be used any way you like it but here are a few suggestions. 

·         If your students haven’t gone on Spring Break yet you could send this with them to document how they spend each day.  I am by now way suggesting this as homework over break because I think that is absurd but I do know there are those kiddos that are overachievers that would love to do this just for fun. 

·         I also know some families will go on spring break whether your school has spring break or not and this would be a great way to document their trip. 

·         You could also put this in your writing center/station.  Enjoy

If you have a freebie you would like to share you can link up with :
What tips or tricks do you have for journal time?

Have a Great Week

Alison Funk


















Fern Smith said...

I laughed out loud about “THEMSELVES” Isn't that the honest truth!!
Have a great week,
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A Tale of 2 First Grades said...

It is the truth and somedays I don't think we know the half of it.


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