Writer’s Workshop Ideas- Fun, Engaging

A colleague in my K- 5 school asked for a few ideas about making writer’s workshop fun and engaging.  I love those questions because it allows me to be creative and gather ideas.  Here are a few ideas to get started… (If you have more please add them!)

  • Be passionate- write in front of the students and let them see you write and talk out loud about your process, about spelling, …
  • Draw pictures to go with the writing
  • Write stories to go with the pictures
  • Make comic books
  • Re-write comic books (the one you just made or one that was professionally made) into story format with dialogue and description
  • Let students write what they want- lists, stories, opinions, how-to, all I know about…, non-fiction or fiction, poems, … play with words
  • Find a real audience- another classroom, the hallway, a classroom in another school or another city, country, a blog, …
  • Design/ diagram something invented and explain how it works
  • Read/ tell the beginning of a story and have the students continue/ finish it
  • Act out a story and then have the students write the script
  • Write a script and then have the students act it out, or with puppets, or as a podcast or …
  • Writing prompts
  • Connect writing closely with reading or science or social studies
  • Shared writing
  • Do you have a class mascot (stuffed animal, live animal, …)?  Write the stories of the mascot- where from, past adventures, include pictures,
  • Class blog on kidblog.org
  • Add podcasts of students reading their writing on your page of the school’s website
  • Check out blog posts such as: http://tunstalltimes.blogspot.com/2014/08/engaging-writing-activities.html
  • Stick with the standards but let your mind wander and your creativity soar

Differentiated Instruction

Yes!  Differentiated instruction is important.  Students need the opportunity to learn and show their learning in ways that are appropriate and motivating for them.

For a humorous take on differentiated instruction, watch this video:

The Basics

I have been volunteering at a wonderful school in Lima, Peru and am reminded of some universal basics in education:

  • Have an objective;
  • Teach to the objective- use a text, activity, … to teach the objective remembering that the text is not the objective;
  • Evaluate whether or not the objective was met;
  • Reteach or move forward depending on the assessment.

When teaching I need to let the students do the work- talk, write, create, use the information- so they can show what they know and are able to do.  I love the workshop model where I give some input for no more than 15 minutes and then have the students use the information.  Then, I can provide more input.  Build up scaffolding and then remove it when it is no longer necessary.

I also like to backwards plan my units where I decide what I want the students to know and be able to do by what date.  Then, I backwards plan the lessons necessary to get them there.  And of course, relationships are key.

¡Feliz día del maestro amigos peruanos!  Happy Teacher’s Day to my Peruvian friends!

Time Spent Reading

From http://www.devstu.org/research-individualized-daily-reading

Have you seen this?  Amazing!  Let’s read more!

“Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988) led one of the most extensive studies of independent reading in which they investigated the relationship of reading time to reading achievement. The study found that the amount of time students spent reading independently was the best predictor of vocabulary development and reading achievement gains.

“The research indicates that independent reading is probably the major source of vocabulary acquisition beyond the beginning stages of learning to read. Students who read more can learn the meanings of thousands of new words each year.

“The chart below shows the high impact of independent reading time to word exposure and the percentile of reading achievement.”

Percentile Independent Reading
Minutes per Day
Words Read
per Year
98 65 4,358,000
90 21.1 1,823,000
80 14.2 1,146,000
70 9.6 622,000
60 6.5 423,000
50 4.6 282,000
40 3.2 200,000
30 1.3 106,000
20 0.7 21,000
10 0.1 8,000
2 0 0

Amazing!

Homework

Did you see this article in the New York times about homework?

If not, make sure you read it and start applying what it says.  For homework to be effective it must not be long or short but smart.  The author offers 4 ways to make homework smarter:

1.  Space Repetition;

2.  Retrieval Practice;

3.  Cognitive Disfluency;

4. Interleaving.

Read the article, try the techniques and improve student learning!!