Depending on your class situation and available time, Writer's Workshop activities can be a useful and meaningful extension to TeachersFirst's online instructional units. Writer's Workshop is a teaching technique that invites students to write by making the process a meaningful part of the classroom curriculum. In the Second Grade classroom students learn to write daily through varied activities. In Writer's Workshop, Second Grade students are exposed to the organization and thought required to create a story or write about a favorite topic and develop it into an understandable narrative with a focus.
Second Grade students shift from using pictures as a fuel for their stories, as in Kindergarten and First grade, to writing for the activity itself. Because they are allowed to choose the topic, students are motivated to create and complete works to read to classmates, in Second Grade peer conferencing can become a central part to the creative process. The Writer's Workshop format includes story planning possibly with peer conferencing, revision, teacher editing, and direct instruction in the mechanics of grammar. In the Second Grade this teaching technique allows students the opportunity to develop expression, revision strategy and skill in writing.
Second Grade students differ from First Grade and Kindergarten students. They become more aware of the audience they are writing for, and they will put more thought into the topic they choose to write about. Teachers will notice that independence and fluency is increasing, but a student may become more concerned about the final product rather than the actual process. In the Second Grade classroom the goals are to challenge the students to expand their ideas, to create focus within a topic, and to foster confidence at a time when self-consciousness may appear. The student naturally becomes more aware of correct spelling and punctuation. Skills will still vary and progress at different rates, but most Second Grade students who are familiar with Writer's Workshop enjoy the activity of independent writing, the power of their words to express thoughts, and the opportunity to describe experiences to classmates.
Writer's Workshop can be paired with reading activities to create a powerful motivating tool when teaching literacy. A teacher can quickly see which words and grammar rules a student 'owns' by what they write, a teacher can see how a child approaches organization of thought by how a student presents ideas in a story, and a teacher can see how a student's abilities grow through the year by the progression of plot and text in their writing.
The Writer's Workshop is typically a part of each day, however, for teachers with a schedule problem it can be a 3 day a week activity. Teachers may work within a set curriculum by using Writer's Workshop as an occasional extension activity for specific curriculum units. The main components of the Writer's Workshop include a Mini-lesson, Status of the class, Writing & Conferencing, and Peer Sharing & Author's Chair. Some of these components may already be a part of your classroom routine.
A Mini- Lesson is usually a 5-10 minute whole class activity and may be as simple as doing guided writing from a story. An example is to lay out a favorite story's events in beginning, middle, and end form, create an idea web featuring a book's plot, or formally present the use of ' mechanics' such as basic punctuation. A group reading activity such as a big book, or song or poem written on chart paper can introduce patterns in language and rhyming words, it could be used to search for vocabulary and spelling words, or even to recognize story plots and genres.
In Second Grade it can also be appropriate to model 'interviewing' in order for students to observe questioning techniques to use in their peer conferences. This is a direct teaching opportunity for teachers to formally present the information to a class, and to reinforce expectations. Some teachers require students to use the mini-lesson information immediately; other teachers will gently re-introduce information to students at the teacher conference sessions according to their individual readiness.
The Status of the Class takes about 2-3 minutes and provides the student and teacher with information about how the student's work is progressing. In Second Grade Classrooms it can be done with a quick handing out of the folders and a quick response from the students such as Conferencing, First Draft, Work in progress, Revision, Illustrating, Final Editing, Publishing, or it may be a bulletin board that has color coded cards. A written work must have the following format:
Writing & Conferring is ideally a 20 - 40 minute session. Second Grade students should be able to use the 40 minutes fully if they have been carefully introduced to the Writer's Workshop framework and they have a clear understanding of the expectations. Fluency increases for the Second Grade student, and because the student is more aware of the audience, deciding what to write about becomes a great concern. This can potentially be a great drain on the teacher's time. Here's where peer conferencing can be useful to the teacher. Often a discussion with another student can be enough to break through 'writer's block.' A good peer conference may also inspire students to include additional details in their writing.
The child receives a new page after he or she has met with a peer, written text with possibly a basic idea web, illustrated (if illustrations are part of the story) and reread the previous first draft page to the teacher. This is called the teacher conference; a teacher reviews the writing with the student. First drafts are very important, and initial corrections of standard spelling and punctuation may be overlooked in order to allow the student to focus on fluency of story telling and to build confidence in their topic choice. Editing is not the focus of this conference. Instead, the emphasis is on fluency of ideas, logical story ordering, and the connection of thought from page to page and the beginning awareness of plot development. Revision is a necessary skill for writers, students who expect to revise their work will develop the habit of proofreading.
In the Final Draft teachers should expect correct
use of basic grammar, spelling and punctuation with guidance. Teachers
may use the editing process to individually encourage students to revise
further and attempt more and more challenging writing and to guide students
to develop the plot and focus of the story. Teachers may keep a list of
words that are being misspelled and use those as weekly spelling words.
Some classrooms have word banks or picture dictionaries as references.
It is important not to place spelling in competition with content in the
First Draft. Experience and editing will help the child strive for publishable
quality material in the Final Draft. Students love to have their writing
typeset and "published" on the computer to illustrate, and teachers
can require student text be correctly spelled and punctuated before it
can be considered suitable for publication. Publishing is a great motivating
tool for all students, but great value needs to be placed on the process
of first drafts and revisions. This is where the real business of literacy
takes place and life long skills are developed.
Sharing and Author's Chair usually take 10 minutes and be done either by having the students read to the class a 'published book" or by children sharing their work in pairs. If peer editing is to be part of your classroom structure, careful introduction to a process such as TAG will be required. TAG stands for - tell one thing you liked about the story, ask one question, and give one suggestion. In Second Grade students may want to share a 'Work in Progress' or 'Revision' to get many different opinions for inspiration. Author's chair in the Second Grade Classroom is still important because stories will take longer to write and publish and the student's achievement needs to be celebrated.
Student Assessment is done by keeping a portfolio of revisions and copies of completed work.