• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Writer's Workshop and the Development of Writers

Page history last edited by Kristin Valadez 13 years, 10 months ago

Writer's Workshop and the Development of Writers


Established by: Maria Carrillo, Kristin Valadez, & Nicole Harned


Writer's Workshop and the Development of Young Writers


What is Writer's Workshop?


"Interactive Writing provides a means for teachers to engage in effective literacy instruction not through isolated skills lessons, but with in the framework of constructing texts filled with personal and collective meanings."

                                    Katheryn Button, Margaret Johnson & Paige Furgerson

                                                           (The Reading Teacher, 1996)

I. Background



     Writer's Workshop is an interactive writing process that enables students to visually see how written language works. One of the main premises of Writer's Workshop is developing meaning in written language.  "Young children especially need to be engaged in experiences that make academic content meaningful and build on prior learning" (Neuman, Copple, bredekamp 2000, pg. 5). It is also an effective technique that can build student's fluency in writing through continuous, repeated exposure to the process of writing. Through this interactive writing process, children begin to see that the letters on a page become much more than just symbols. This exciting discovery leads children to piece together each symbol as a letter, with a sound, that can make a word, and eventually a story with meaning! Of course, the function of Writer's Workshop will vary depending on the grade level or development of the class, but the premise is to always attach meaning and effective strategies to writing so the student can build that skill of writing by themself.


     The connection that is being formed through the visual and active interactive writing process with the teacher is to have the student realize that they can do this themself. It is different from Language Experience Stories (Charts that let teachers demonstrate how talk can be written down provide a natural medium for children's developing word awareness in meaningful contexts (Neuman 2000, pg. 10), in that both the teacher and the student share the pen. "Specific abilities required for reading and writing come from immediate experiences with oral and written language" (Neuman 2000, pg. 6). The student writes as much as they can and then the teacher writes the rest (Leiter, 2007).


     In many early childhood classrooms, such as kindergarten and first grade, "teachers have not focused on the ability to edit, revise, or peer conference because of the belief that first grade children have limited revising skills" (Jasmine & Weiner, 2007). It seems the process stays at the drafting stage with little conferencing amongst peers or interaction with the other students. In a Writer's Workshop, feedback is extremely important in the development of a writer. Calkins (1994) refers to teacher–student and peer conferences as ‘‘the heart of teaching writing through them, students learn to interact with their own writing’’ (as cited in Jasmine & Weiner, 2007). 


Advantages of Interactive Writing (Leiter, 2007):

  • Children see themselves as writers
  • Learn how letters and words are put together to form meaningful messages
  • Learn Concepts of Print
  • Make connections that everything that can be said can be written
  • Create meaningful reading material for the classroom
  • Can be used for similar text in Shared Reading


     Learning to read and write is critical to a child's success in school and later in life. One of the best predictors of whether a child will function competently in school and go on to contribute actively in our increasingly literate society is the level to which the child progresses in reading and writing (Neuman, Copple, Bredekamp, 2000, pg. 3).


Writer's Workshop Resources and Ideas


Snapshot #1: Conducted Writer's Workshop (Interactive Writing) in Pre-K.                        


     In a Pre-K class the teacher engages the students in writing by writing labels for all the things they see in the classroom. She would have the class sit down on the carpet and pick a new item to label. They pick door. The teacher posts a sentence strip on an easel and begins to sound out the word door. She pronounces each phoneme that has a one to one correspondence of sound to letter. She says "/d/" and the class yells "D!" the teacher proceeds to write D on the sentence strip. She then explains that the next sound is difficult to put with it's letter so she writes the double o in a red marker. Then they go to the next sound /r/. The class yells "r." and the teacher writes r. They have now spelled the word Door, which then they all take a trip to the door and watch the teacher paste it on the door. She then asks if they can spell it together and they begin as a class to say the letters in door. Then throughout the year, she can refer them to the door when need be. - Maria Carrillo, 2009



II. Components of Writer's Workshop


Getting Started - Launching the Writer's Workshop



      YouTube plugin error


A. Mini-lesson

     One component of the Writing Workshop is the mini-lesson. Typically a mini-lesson is quick and about 5 to 10 minutes in length. This is usually at the start or end of the workshop. "The Mini-lessons are usually focused on one area of the writing process such as: classroom procedures, pre-writing strategies, revision strategies, editing, and writing skills (Au et al., 1997; Calkins, 1986, as cited in Jasmine & Weiner, 2007).

Mini-lessons are (Avery, 1993; Calkins, 2003).

  • multilevel
  • short

  • focused

  • gentle in tone

  • responsive to the needs of the children

Students can then apply what they have learned (or are at least are exposed to it) in order to enhance their writing skills.


     Mini lessons are the major vehicles of direct instruction. Instruction is based on what the students need to learn at the time. A short,focused lesson in which the teacher raises an issue, demonstrates a method, focuses attention on an author's technique or reinforces a strategy. They represent needs-based instruction, that is, teaching what students need to know at a given moment in order to get on with their work successfully (Gillet, Beverly year ?). For this reason a mini lesson can take place after writing, or during, when the teacher notices the areas that her students are struggling in while she walks around observing. Mini lessons are not used according to scope and sequence but through daily teacher observation and assessments of where the students are in that moment of time (Gillet, Beverly, ?).


     The mini lessons' teaching points will vary according to students' needs. A mini lesson will definitely be different from Kindergarten to Third grade, yet the lesson will still have the same components. It will be short and concise with no more than two teaching points in each lesson. A teacher must pick the most important strategy to work on and only cover that area of concern. It should be 5-10 minutes long, with 10 minutes being the maximum amount of time. 


Writing Mini-Lessons for the Primary Grades




@Writing Snapshot:

          Example of a Mini-Lesson: !

List Making

Gather the students around the carpet area.

Ask: “What could I write if I wanted to remember what supplies I need for school?

         What things would I write?

Facilitate Discussion

Ÿ        Markers

Ÿ        Crayons

Ÿ        Glue

Say, "Today's book will teach us about lists and also help us to become better


     -Share the title of the book.

     -Read a few pre-selected excerpts from Very Silly Lists by Tony Bradman

     -When finished, discuss the book with the class.

     -Ask, "Why were some of the different kinds of lists in this book?"

     -Explain to students that a list is a tool that people use to help them remember


     -Ask students, "What does a list look like?"

Facilitate Discussion: 

Ÿ        words

Ÿ        phrases 

Affirm students’ observations and contributions. Point out that, "There is one other thing that a list has. It has a title!"

     -Revisit several of the lists from the book and notice the titles of the lists.

     -Revisit several of the lists in the "Our Book of Lists" class book (or anything you have in the classroom that has lists)- - talk about what titles could be added.

     -Add titles to the lists.

     -Share with students that you'd like them to create lists to add to the class book.

          bullets/numbers to separate ideas



- - at this point don't REQUIRE students to create lists...they will begin to do so when they are ready...

  • Remind students that writers use lists as a tool help them remember something.
  • Remind students that writing lists is a way to help us remember something.
  • Remind students of what lists look like, and that they have titles.
  • Model for students how to write a list, and add a title to it.
  • Illustrate the list you wrote by adding simple pictures and add it to the class book.
  • Encourage students to write their own list during independent writing time.




      This can be the area where the Interactive Writing Process occurs. The Interactive Writing Process can provide a guide and convention model for Independent Writing. It is critical to know also, that the Interactive Writing Process can take place with any subject. Any writing can be done interactively (Leiter, 2007).


Some examples of the Interactive Writing Products are:


• Lists

• Labels

• Charts

• Signs and posters

• Graph questions & responses

• Write a class big book • Venn diagram

• Science observations

• Response to literature

• Captions for pictures or charts

• Graphic organizers

• Extend a book


• Rewrite a favorite story

• Notes

• Letters

• Description

• Daily






Here are examples of a mini lesson focus for Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten

Some Possible Teaching Points:

• Letter formation

• Matching upper and lowercase letters

• Spaces between words

• Spaces between lines

• Left-to-right directionality

• Return sweep

• Top-to-bottom progression

• Appropriate use of capital letters

• Linking letters to sounds

• Taking high frequency words to fluency

• Connecting unfamiliar words to known words

• Use of punctuation

• Spelling patterns

• Prefixes and suffixes

• Spelling strategies



@Writing Snapshot:

          Example of a 3rd Grade Mini-Lesson: !

Writing Mini-Lesson:

Good Beginnings

Reference: What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher


     Prior to this lesson tell the students to pay attention to the beginnings of stories.

Good starters:
  • Let me tell you about…
  • Have you ever wondered…
  • I like to _________ for many reasons.
  • I think ________ was _________ for many reasons.
  • I just learned facts about…
  • Let me tell you how ______ and _______ are alike.
  • Let me tell you how _________ and ______ are different.
  • It's fun to _______. First you…
  • People used to think _________, but now we know ________.
  • _________ was a ___________ person.
  • Starting in the middle of a scene:
  • Plink, plink, plink, went the _____________.
  • Begin at the end, use of flashback, then proceed to tell story.
  • Read the book Louis the Fish by Arthur Yorinks's (the circular lead/close.)
  • Once a first draft is finished, a circular lead /close is easy to create. Have students look at their endings and ask them if they can begin with those
    closing words as well. It brings their writing full circle.
    *The climatic lead: Begin at the point of greatest conflict.




B. Silent writing/Writing Process


     The second part of Writer's Workshop is the writing component. This is where the students engage in their own writing whether it be in a journal, with a research paper, or group paper. As stated before the writing process will be different according to grade or level the students are developmentally ready for. In Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, it can be just allowing the students to write in their journal along the same lines about what they just wrote in their Interactive Writing Process with the teacher.


     Beginning in first grade and continuing throughout school, the writing process takes on different levels. According to Joanne Jasmine and Wendy Weiner in their journal articleThe Effects of Writing Workshop on Abilities of First Grade Students to Become Confident and Independent Writers, the writing process is divided into four subtopics: rehearsal, drafting, revising, and editing.


  • Rehearsal: It prepares the student for writing. For some writers it is drawing. It can also be brainstorming, creating lists and outlines, reading literature, and conversing with their peers.
  • Drafting: This is the time when writers focus on putting thoughts on paper. Drafting implies that writers will return to a piece of writing more than once to shape it into something different.
  • Revising: The third step is a continuous step (Rhodes & Dudley-Marling, 1996). In this stage (Calkins 1986) recommended teachers to encourage children to focus on the content of their first draft and later concentrate on spelling. (Jasmine, Weiner 2007). It can also be a process where the students within groups, share their writing and then discuss their peer's writing constructively. They can make changes in their compositions to reflect the reactions and comments of both teacher and classmates.
  • Editing: Students proof read their own writing. If they are in a group setting, then they can also proof read their classmates writing. This continual process of editing their work should lead them into increasing their ability to identify and correct their own mechanical errors (teachers.net 1996-2009).    

C. Conferencing 


   Conferencing can also be a part of one of the four divisions in the Writing Process. As the children are engaged in these various steps of the writing process, the teacher observes and confers with the student. The responder's role is to listen, retell in their own words, and ask questions to help students discover meaning and build on what they know (Atwell,  1987). Students must also be encouraged to take an active role during conferencing because writers know more than what appears on the page they draft.


     This also might be a time when the teacher might do a reteach of the mini lesson in case the student isn't understanding what they went over. It is not a time to criticize, but aide in the process of that student gaining the skills needed to write independently.


D. Author's chair or sharing 


     The final component of the Writing Workshop is sharing. During Author's Chair or Sharing Chair, the author sits in a special chair and the entire class gathers to listen as he/she shares the writing piece (Parry & Hornsby, 1985). It is a form of group conferencing, which develops audience awareness through feedback through peers. Publication can also be a way of sharing. Publishing contributes strongly to the writer's development by providing personal reasons for students to revise and edit their work (Rhodes & Dudley-Marling, 1996). Publishing, though, should be limited and should not be over emphasized as Rhodes and Dudley-Marling (1996) stressed in their book. An overemphasis on publication could send the message that every piece of writing is equally important and skilled.


YouTube plugin error


Snapshot #2: The Sharing Chair in Kindergarten


     During my student teaching in Kindergarten at Randolph Elementary School, the students engaged in Writer's Workshop daily. Their favorite part of Writer's Workshop was the Sharing Chair. After Interactive Writing, they would be allowed to pick a spot in the classroom and write in their journals (the writing process) about whatever the topic was during Interactive Writing. When ten minutes passed they were given the cue (rythmn clap or song) that the writing process came to a stop. There were groups 1-5 and according to the day, that is the day that that group would share. The sharing group knew exactly who they were everyday and would wait next to the Sharing Chair for their time to share their writing. The author would sit on the chair and show their journal entry. They would talk about their picture and also about what they wrote. Afterwards, they were allowed to call on three classmates to make a comment about their journal entry. It had to be specific, like they liked their drawing, or they liked how they made their letters, writing or they enjoyed the way they told their story. When all three classmates were picked then the author was able to choose a cheer they wanted and the whole class would give them the cheer the author selected. - Maria Carrillo, 2008



III. Stages of Writing Development and Writer's Workshop


"Beginning Readers are like tadpoles in metamorphosis...They are different versions, needing special nurturing, alternative environments, and unique kinds of instructional support for growth" (Gentry, 2007, p. 8)



YouTube plugin error  



@Writing Snapshot:

          A Teacher’s Perspective !

“Reversal patterns do not diagnose dyslexia”

               -Sylvia O. Richardson, M.D.

                        (as cited in Richards, 1999, p. 26)

       As I have been conducting my beginning of the year conferences with my first graders’ parents, I have had numerous parents express a concern over the possibility of dyslexia due to the reversals in their child’s writing. I have had to explain that reversals are a common occurrence in emergent writing due to the complexity of writing.

            The WGBH Educational Foundation explains (2002):

            To write well requires combining multiple physical and mental processes in one concerted effort

             to convey information and ideas. We must, for instance, be able to move a pen, or depress a

             key, precisely and fluidly to render letters, remember rules of grammar and syntax, place our

             thoughts in an order that makes sense, and think ahead to what we want to write next. (Basics

             of Writing section, 1)

            As a first grade teacher I try to comfort parents by explaining that within the emergent and transitional stages of writing, children are just beginning to understand that by creating symbols and placing marks on a page they are communicating meaning (Avery, 2002).

            “Reversals are developmentally normal through second grade…” (Richards, 1999, p. 22). Therefore, through consistent experience and practice, students will naturally move toward the conventional stage of writing and reduce their reversal errors.                                                   



               Because reading and writing are so tightly connected in students’ literacy development, Gentry’s (2007) representation of the metamorphosis that beginning readers experience goes hand in hand with the writing development of these same readers. As students learn and grow through the stages of reading development, they are simultaneously conquering the development and ability to write. Gentry uses this analogy to point out that educators cannot view beginning readers and writers as simply little versions of proficient ones. “There are no “emerging frogs,” “low-progress frogs,” “slow frogs,” or frogs in some state of limbo waiting for social, emotional, and fine motor development…so that they can finally embrace froghood” (Gentry, 2007, p. 8). Instead, beginning readers and writers are in a tadpole-like phase—strengthening their skills with support and scaffolding in order to progress through the stages needed to become proficient. Brain scans even provide support for the differing processes occurring in students’ brains at the varying stages of reading and writing development (Gentry, 2007).

                 With this knowledge, educators must ensure that they are aware of each student’s current writing stage in order to effectively support and apply strategies to continually help students reach their next stage of development. 



 Stages of Writing 




Preliterate: Drawing
  • uses drawing to stand for writing
  • believes that drawings / writing is communication of a purposeful message
  • read their drawings as if there were writing on them

Preliterate: Scribbling
  • scribbles but intends it as writing
  • scribbling resembles writing
  • holds and uses pencil like an adult

Early Emergent: Letter-like forms
  • shapes in writing actually resemble letters
  • shapes are not actually letters
  • look like poorly formed letters, but are unique creations

Emergent: Random-letters or letter strings
  • uses letter sequences perhaps learned from his/her name
  • may write the same letters in many ways
  • long strings of letters in random order

Transitional: Writing via invented spelling
  • creates own spelling when conventional spelling is not known
  • one letter may represent an entire syllable
  • words may overlay
  • may not use proper spacing
  • as writing matures, more words are spelled conventionally
  • as writing matures, perhaps only one or two letters invented or omitted

Fluency: Conventional spelling
  • usually resembles adult writing

(Blackgrove, J., n.d.)    


IV. Scaffolding Students' Writing Stages through Writer's Workshop


A. Differentiated instruction


 “If you can recognize a child’s phase, you can pinpoint the child’s needs and deliver targeted instruction”

                                                                                                              (Gentry, 2007, p. 12).


     Carol Avery (2002), with the support of writer’s workshop advocates such as Graves, Harste, Woodward, and Burke, believe that young children can write, want to write, and possess the personal interests and experiences to write about. The Writing Workshop model of writing development supports the idea that a “safe, structured, private, unobtrusive, and literate” environment is required to enable students to experience the naturalness of writing (Emig as cited in Avery, 2002, p. 66). Avery (2002) warns educators that measuring children’s writing against preconceived concepts of how they should be performing as writers could handicap their natural learning styles. Avery’s belief is in unison with Gentry’s (2007) discussion of the stages that writers go through as opposed to prescribed abilities that students should be able to demonstrate at a given point in the school year. Instead, Avery encourages teachers to cheer writers on and provide feedback as they practice, experiment, and talk about their writing.


     Differentiated instruction is at the foundation of Writer’s Workshop. Gentry (2007) supports the need for teachers to be knowledgeable about the phases of writing development in order to identify each individual student’s current stage of writing. Gentry emphasizes the importance of knowing the writing capabilities and expectations of each phase, knowing the target methods to help focus the writer, and utilizing specific instructional methods with specified goals to help the child move to the next phase. He ascertains that “Writing brings a recognized sequence to the child’s system of code breaking,” which means that writing provides a powerful assessment of the literacy skills and abilities that students have acquired.


     As a teacher of writer’s workshop, it is important to apply effective instructional methods to help scaffold students’ instruction once their stage of writing development is identified. Individual writing conferences are an integral part of writer’s workshop and an effective strategy for individualizing students’ writing development. Carol Avery (2002) described the individual writing conferences in her class as a means to listen, ask questions, respond to, and give strategies, gentle suggestions, and affirmations about her students’ writing. Avery also reminds educators that the key element to keep in mind is to be a patient and authentic listener during writing conferences, so that the writers have an opportunity to think and consider possibilities for their writing. “The goal is to support them in using what they know to get to what they do not yet know. That means knowing our learners and working “on the edge” of learning” (McCarrier, Pinnell, & Fountas, 2000, p. 204).


     Avery (2002) also describes mini-lessons as an important means of differentiating instructions to meet the needs of developing writers. She explains that mini-lessons are the way that teachers respond to the writers’ needs. “Daily workshops allow children to explore and experience the strategies mini-lessons show them” (Avery, 2002, p. 136). Avery also makes sure to emphasize the important point that mini-lessons are in response to the needs of the class and cannot be used from year to year in the same format. “New groups require their own lessons. The children will write new stories; I must present responsive lessons that are just as new” (Avery, 2002, p. 136).


     Overall, in order to differentiate instruction through the use of these valuable elements of writer's workshop, one must ensure that expressive writing takes place in her classroom every day. Various literature reviews (Avery, 2002; Gentry, 2007; Samway, 1992/2000) support the need for students to write every day. "If children are to develop as writers they need time to write every day" (Avery, 2002, p. 136). "The more they write, the more sophisticated their writing gets" (Gentry, 2007, p. 67).



B. Teaching writing to read.


"Writing and reading are so intimately connected at the beginning level that they may become impaired when one exists or is presented without the other"

                                                                       -J. Richard Gentry

                                                                                                                                   (as cited in Gentry, 2007, p. 66) 


     Gentry (2007) emphasized the importance of not waiting to introduce writing to children. He even claimed that “kid-writing” is easier to grasp than reading because it is more concrete and allows the beginner to “express his thoughts or meaning in print with confidence and enjoyment” (Gentry, 2007, p. 65). He continued to explain that the slow and analytic operations of early writing are perfect for beginners because this is how they are beginning to process print. Feldgus and Cardonick (as cited in Gentry, 2007) supported the idea that beginning readers and writers need experience with the entire system of reading and writing in order to learn its parts.


     In describing the shift in writing instruction over the last 20 years, Jasmine and Weiner (2007) cite Calkins and Willis’ belief that “Teachers emphasized the final product of writing, not the process it produced” (p. 132) in the past. Without teaching the whole system and process, students missed out on the chance to actually try out the techniques that they learned in their own writing. As a result, the small parts of the system that they learned did not help them develop their writing skills.


     In contrast, the student-centered Writer’s Workshop approach implements a form of writing instruction that involves teaching the system of writing and reading over the parts. “Children learn to read by writing first and reading first” (Gentry, 2007, p. 66). Therefore, students must be provided with the opportunity to write at an early age, even if what is written seems to be nonsense. “Writing puts both meaning and phonics first and helps the child synthesize knowledge enabling her to understand how aspects of reading and writing…fit together” (Gentry, 2007, p. 66).



V. Writer's Workshop in early childhood


Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential."  Jessamyn West


     **Whose voice is this? Is it a personal aside that you would like to add here, or a researcher that you found? This would be great to include, but there needs to be more meat and information about the author and how you know! Just a thought! I would also put a headin here to tell the reader who is talking in this section** I believe it would be safe to say that writing is fundamental to a person’s development. From the time that a child can hold a pencil he or she should be allowed to write. Writer’s workshop can be used at any age and at any stage of development in writing. Below you will read how Writer's Workshop would be used in Early childhood classes.  



Writers Workshop examples by grade level

A. Ages 3 to Preschool                          


Writing comes in different forms as it goes through stages but one thing is for sure, children should be given the opportunity to write at a very early age. Hilary White stated in her book Developing Literacy Skills in the Early Years, that age three is an all-important fundamental stage. It makes since then that at this age it would be important for writing to come into children’s life. Before children reach the stage of actually writing letters and words, they need to develop the muscular strength and co-ordination required to hold and control a writing implement (White, 2005). She states that activities such as peg boards, sprinkling sand, threading, and using tweezers can help in the muscular development. Once children have good muscular development then they are ready to go into the writing stage. At this age, children are not expected to write words and sentences but they should be able to understand the “pen to paper” aspect. The teacher or care giver should model writing and talk about writing with the child. When talk, drawing, and movement are considered part of the writing spectrum, an expansive definition emerges of what constitutes writing for the youngest students (Horn & Giacobbe, 2007). There should also be a print rich environment for the child to see how writing is used to tell many different things. Teachers or care givers should set up a writing area that is assessable for the child at any given time. It is important while setting up the writing area to not swamp the child with too much choice (White, 2005). Items that are in the area need to be discussed with the children so that they know what it is used for and how to use it. The young writers should have access to many writing materials (see Writer’s Workshop supply list).


The writing area should be a warm and inviting place to be for the young writer. The child should feel free to explore and use any of the materials provided. Much of the writing done at this stage would probably just look like scribbling and drawings but to the child it is telling a story. According to Marcia Padron, a preschool teacher at Indian Creek Elementary in San Antonio, Texas, the preschooler tends to use a single drawing to tell their stories. As they are “reading” their story to her she writes the story in their words.  During this stage of writing it is hard to assess the child’s writing without allowing for conversation about the writing being done. This is the conferencing stage of Writer’s Workshop. Mrs. Padron is conferencing with the student to check if their drawings match the story they are telling. Conferencing plays a major role in Writer’s workshop, especially at the early stage of writing. Conferences can take place with the writer and a peer or the writer and the teacher. During conferencing, the writer talks about his drawing and tells the listener the story behind it. The listener may ask questions and give suggestions to the writer to help improve the story.  “Children who are encouraged to draw and scribble ‘stories’ at an early age will later learn to compose more easily, more effectively, and with greater confidence than children who do not have this encouragement.” (Lance, Dr. Wayne D. ,2005).  Dr. Lance’s statement brings home the importance of introducing the fundamentals of writing to children before they enter kindergarten. Children are at a great advantage when they enter kindergarten already having the knowledge of print and the muscular ability to write.


Example, Kirkland, Age 4

Arantxa's story 


"Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing."

                                                                                                                                                                     --Melinda Haynes


This website has great information and resources for teachers to help students with thier writing.



I especially liked this link of the website above because it stresses the importance of bringing and using the child's homelife to the classroom.






B. Kindergarten 


Writer’s Workshop in kindergarten is a continuum of what the child learned in preschool. Children are still learning fundamental skills when they enter kindergarten. Teachers need to start writing activities with kindergarten students as soon as the first day of class. These activities include shared writing, modeling writing, and interactive writing. The amount of time spent teaching writing in Kindergarten should be between thirty to forty minutes everyday. It is important to remember that children develop at different rates. “For some beginning school-age children, “writing” may be conveying their ideas through pictures. Pictures actually serve as a rehearsal for writing. They provide a framework for putting thoughts and ideas into words” (Lance, Dr. Wayne D. ,2005). In preschool children used one drawing to tell their story, in Kindergarten they begin using several drawings for one story.

                                         *Example by Sabrina, Age 5


The materials used in Writer’s Workshop are about the same across the grade levels (see Writer’s Workshop material list). One more item can be introduced when the child enters Kindergarten. This is the Writer’s Journal, an Interactive Journal. This writing process emphasizes not only writing development, but also writing as a way of communicating a story or a message (Cress, 1998). Some students do not fully respond to writing a message or a story until about 4 weeks into a daily writing program (Cress, 1998). This means that teachers must make a long-term commitment to the writing journals. The students work in their journals every day for at least 30 minutes. Since Kindergartners are emergent writers they need a lot of support during their writing.


     Young children tend to not stay with one concept for every long, they lose interest. The same could probably be said about their writing. Teachers need to give feedback to the student rather quickly or it may have no meaning to them. Cress suggested that after the student writes his story then the teacher makes a comment or asks a question about the story on top of the next page. When the student gets back his journal, the teacher reads what she has written and the student is instructed to go and work off of what she has commented on. In this way, children develop an understanding that they can communicate a written message or a story by responding to the teacher’s dialogue or comments in their journals (Cress, 1998). This can also help expand the student’s writing on that story, adding more detail or making parts more clear. The young writers also help each other in Writing Workshop. They hold conferences to help with ideas for writing, revising, rehearsing, and evaluating. After the writing is done for the day, the teacher should ask for at least two students to share their work with the class in the Author’s Chair. It is important that every child gets the opportunity to share their work. Some may not want to share but it is important to encourage those students to do so. Being in the Author’s Chair should be a big deal in the classroom. The Author should be the center of attention as he is reading his story or message. Praise and congratulations should also be part of Author’s Chair.


     Kindergarten students are like sponges, they can easily soak up lots of information but will just as easily lose the information if it is not used regularly. What I mean is that kindergarten students need to be exposed to writing messages and stories. If they are taught what it is and they are given lots of time to practice it then they have a better chance of keeping it inside of them. If they hear about writing but not given the opportunity to experience it in their on stories then it just dries up and it goes away.



C. First Grade


     If children come from a writing environment prior to first grade, they have already acquired critical understandings for learning about the writing process (Dorn & Soffos, 2001). By first grade, the students are considered to be at the Beginning Early Writers stage and should not only have pictures represent their stories. They should be able to write down words to tell what they want to get across to the audience. The student uses phonemic awareness, creative spelling, and word recognition to help get the words on the page.  Modeling by the teacher is important in Prekindergarten and Kindergarten but it is essential to first graders. They must have many opportunities to see what good writing looks like. This can be done by the teacher during a mini-lesson.

     Writer’s Workshop should start the first day or at least the first week of school. By first grade, the students should start using and understand the writing process. The stages or steps of the writing process are pre-writing, drafting, editing, revising, and publishing. The students should know what stage they are in and what it is called. This will help them have a better understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it. The first grader will start editing/revising their own drafts and their peers drafts more closely now. They should be able to hear when something does not sound right and they should have knowledge of basic punctuation usage. They can also start using outside resource for spelling help.

     A study was done by Joanne Jasmine and Wendy Weiner on the effects of Writing Workshop in the first grade. The study involved twenty-one first grade students. At the end of their study they stated, “As students began to gain an understanding of the purposes of writing and became more comfortable with the process of writer’s Workshop, their enthusiasm grew (Jasmine & Weiner, 2007). Using this evidence, it is viable to suggest that Writer’s Workshop has the potential to postively impact students at all grade levels. It is a task for teachers in today’s schools, especially upper grades, to get their students enthusiastic about anything; therefore, Writer's Workshop provides a means for motivating young writers (Jasmine and Weiner, 2007).


1st grade example: 


Resource URL: http://personal.nbnet.nb.ca/lawstnap/writer.htm 






VI. Writer’s Workshop Material list

    Ages 3 through First Grade (ages 6 and 7)


·        writing tables and chairs

·        computer

·        clipboards with pencil attached by string

·        white boards or chalk boards

·        displays of children’s work

·        all sorts, shapes, and sizes of paper

·        all types of writing and mark-making instruments                                                                  

·        scissors and glue

·        stickers and rubber stamps with ink pad

·        paper clips

·        tape

·        cut out letters


Added material in kindergarten

·        journals

·        Picture books


Added material in First Grade

·        pens

·        Literature books (used by students for ideas, or inspiration)



VII. Activities for Reluctant Writers


  At times, a teacher might have to find creative methods to get the reluctant writers to write. Writing can sometimes cause anxiety for young children and a way to ease the pressure is to have them draw first. Caggiano (2004) used a method in which she writes the children’s journals entries at the beginning. One child draws a picture and dictates sentences to the teacher and the teacher writes. After a few practices the teacher gradually releases responsibility to the student. The student begins to take notes and write about his illustration. After a few more practice sessions, the teacher then asks students to switch pictures with each other and write about one another’s illustrations. The illustrator is careful to draw enough details so that the writer will be able to clearly understand the events in the picture. The method encourages children to draw in detail as well as write descriptively. Caggiano (2004) advises to break down writing into manageable tasks.


A.  Use of technology to engage reluctant writers



Internet Resources (Caggiano, 2004):

Topic: Picture Talk


1 Draw a Story: Detailed lesson plan for K-2 using pictures

to create a wordless book. Use the interactive ReadWriteThink

Printing Press to create a newspaper, brochure, flyer or booklet.

2 A Picture's WorthGuidelines for writing a photoessay with a gallery of examples for students to read and discuss.

Students can submit their own photo and essay to share online.

3 Comic Creator: Students can compose their own comic strip for a variety of contexts.


B. Warm-up Activites 


Schmidt (2004) also encourages several warm up activities: 

Handwriting-Not the normal pencil to paper handwriting, rather it is an imaginary writing students can do on their hands. This method alleviates insecurities about spelling because no one can see what the writer actually wrote. The method is described in detail below:

Suppose you want your students to write about the amazing rainstorm that drenched your city last night. Simply ask them to picture the storm and "write" with their finger one word on the palm of their hands thatdescribes it: clouds, puddles, or thunder, for example. Because students write the word with their finger, it's invisible-no worries about spelling or penmanship. Have students hold up their hands for you to see. Scan their invisible words and respond with comments like, "That's a great word! Would you read it to the class?" or, 'I love that word! Tell everybody what you wrote." Once your students grasp the imaginary nature of this game, they'll probably feel brave enough to scribble more sophisticated words that have made it into their listening and speaking vocabulary but not yet into their writing (Schmidt 2004).


Steps to help the students begin their handwriting piece: 

  • Empty Your Head-The teacher draws a picture and the students fill in any words that come to mind. The students then circle the most interesting words and proceeds to formulate sentences. 

  • Listen and Draw-Students draw what they visualize as the teacher reads a story aloud. Afterwards, the student can make a border of words the author used to frame their picture.

  •  Writer’s Hat-A child can bring a hat to wear during writing time as a playful way to ease anxiety.

  •  Annotated Drawing-Rather than brainstorming using words the student can brainstorm by drawing pictures that relate to the topic they are asked to write about. In the end, the child will have a “thought diagram” that can be used to begin a first draft.


    Another method to get kids motivated to write is to read aloud books that evoke mental imagery and ask questions such as (Schmidt, 2004):

  • What pictures did you see in your head?
  • What words did the author use to make those pictures?
  • What was your favorite part? Why?
  • What was a great word that you heard?
  • What phase or sentence did you love?


     Encouraging students to share their emotions may also help in getting students to write. Bring in real world objects that will evoke feelings that involve the senses: smell, sight, touch, hear, and taste. Oliver (2008) suggests that this simple kinesthetic activity will also bring out a child’s creativity and suggests using nature such as flowers as motivation, rename a task (If you're studying adventure stories, call the task a "mission"), and use music to set the writing environment.




     Writer's workshop is a great activity for any age. Writers are provided with the motivating luxury of formulating their own ideas and writing about what they know. Teachers provide responsive teaching practices because the mini-lessons are non-scripted and catered to the needs of the students. The writer also has the opportunity to work through the stages of the writing process at his/her own pace and without the unrealistic pressure to publish weekly or on the same schedule as the rest of their classmates. Writer's workshop guides writers through the natural process of writing. It lays out the writing process in a way that helps the writer become an author.

Research has shown that children: 


  1. Have the ability and motivation to write and they possess the knowledge, interests, and experiences to write about (Graves; Harste, Woodward, and Burke as cited in Avery, 2002).
  2. Need a safe, structured, private, unobtrusive, and literate environment that enables the natural writing process to occur (Emig as cited in Avery, 2002).
  3. Need to practice writing in context and with purpose (Pradl, 2004). "The system comes first, and the parts are an outgrowth of using it" (Gentry, 2007, p. 63)
  4. "Need frequent opportunities to practice writing, many of these playful" (Emig as cited in Avery, 2002, p. 66).
  5. Benefit from having opportunities to use exploratory talk as a means for deepening their understanding and furthering their learning (Gilles and Pierce, 2003).
  6. Benefit from taking an active role in their learning; teachers take on the role of a fellow practitioner (Jasmine and Weiner, 2007; Avery, 2002). Example: Students respond to each other by listening, telling back, and asking questions to help each other discover meaning and build on what they know (Atwell as cited in Jasmine and Weiner, 2007).
  7. Need the opportunity to write for various audiences (Pradl, 2004).  


     Through the research presented on this wiki, it is evident that Writer's Workshop is a powerful means of meeting each of these implications for students' growth and success in writing at all stages of development.








Avery, C. (2002). …And with a light touch: Learning about reading, writing, and teaching with first graders (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Blackgrove, J. (n.d.). [Table of the stages of writing development with student work samples]. Stages of writing development. Retrieved from http://www.sedubois.k12.in.us/~jblackgrove/stages_of_writing.htm


Caggiano, L.M. (2004). The writer within. Teaching PK-8, 35(3), 54-55.


Cress, S. (1998). A sense of Story: Interactive Journal Writing in Kindergarten. Early Childhood Education Journal, (vol.26, No. 1). 


Dorn, L., & Soffos, C. (2001). Scaffolding Young Writers, A writers Workshop Approach. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers.


Gentry, J. R. (2007). Breakthrough in beginning reading and writing: The evidence-based approach to pinpointing students’ needs and

     delivering targeted instruction. New York: Scholastic Inc.


Gilles, C. & Pierce, K. M. (2003). Making room for talk: Examining the historical implications of talk in learning. English Edcuation, 36(1),



Jasmine, J. & Weiner, W. (2007). The effects of writing workshop on abilities of first grade students to become confident and

     independent writers. Early Childhood Education Journal, 35 (2), 131-139.


Lance, W. (2005). Teaching writing: Preschool, Kindergarten, & First grade. International Children’s Education.


 McCarrier, A., Pinnell, G. S., Fountas, I. C. (2000). Interactive writing: How language and literacy come

          together, K-2. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Oliver, S. (2008). Show your emotions. The Times Educational Supplement, (4794). 30.

Pradl, G. M. (2004) Nancy Martin and James Britton: The language work of democratic learning. Language Arts, 81(6), 520-525.


Richards, R. G. (1999). The source for dyslexia and dysgraphia. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems, Inc.


Samway, K. D. (2000). Writers’ workshop and children acquiring English as a non-native language. In A. Grognet, J. Jameson, L. Franco, & M. Derrick-Mescua (Eds.), Enhancing English language learning in elementary classrooms: Study guide (pp. 86-117). McHenry, IL: Delta Systems Co., Inc. (Original work published in 1992).


Schmidt, L. (2004). Is there a hemingway in the house? Educational Leadership, 62(2), 42-45.


tlmorrisvt. (2008, May 24). A day in the life of our writing workshop [Video file]. Video posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPRM2ZXyrS0


WGBH Educational Foundation (2002). Basics of writing. In Misunderstood Minds. Retrieved from



White, H. (2005). Developing Literacy Skills in the Early Years. London: Paul Chapman publishing Company.


Meacham (2008). Classroom Snapshots. Writers Workshop Mini-Lessons. Retrieved from http://www.jmeacham.com/writers.workshop/writing.mini.lessons.htm 








Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.