Launching the Writing Workshop Elementary Curriculum Coaches Monthly Writing pd

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Launching the Writing Workshop

  • Elementary Curriculum Coaches

Monthly Writing PD

  • One Tuesday each month 3:00-4:30
  • 1st Tuesday-alt. loc.(AES, SES)
  • 2nd Tuesday-alt loc. (McD, MES)
  • 3rd Tuesday-CBMS (BFES, PHES, KES, PES)
  • 4th Tuesday-at WIS (WIS, WES)
  • Will earn 60 renewal pts. for attendance.

Pause and Ponder

  • Take a few minutes and write about your experience in writing instruction as a child. Were you explicitly taught writing? How was it done? If not, how did you learn how to write? What is your comfort level as a teacher of writing? Write for 3 minutes without lifting your pen from the paper.
  • Turn and talk

Today’s Agenda

  • Essentials of Writing Instruction
  • Detailed Look at Writing Process and Workshop
  • Read and Interpret the Common Core State Standards for Writing
  • Lucy Calkin’s Writing Frameworks

What if…

  • Someone took the time to look at the characteristics of teachers and classrooms across the country who consistently manage to get the highest levels of literacy achievement for their students year after year regardless of socio-economic background, prior achievement, or ethnicity?

What if…

  • After closely examining hundreds of these classrooms in different schools in different districts in different states across time, the folks doing the looking were able to tell the rest of us what the common characteristics of these classrooms are that set them apart from typically-progressing classrooms?

And what if…

  • The foundational element common to all of these classrooms was something so simple and so obvious that it seemed almost too fundamental?
  • Putting this one foundational thing in place classrooms would significantly improve literacy achievement…especially for struggling learners?

What is foundational in all of these classrooms?


Facilitating Change

  • For a typical 120 minute ELA block, your goal is to have your students engaged in reading, writing, and researching at least 75% of that time.

CCSS: Tremendous Emphasis on Writing

  • If we were asked to describe the two or three most striking features of the Common Core State Standards, one of the things we’d say straight away is that the standards place a tremendous emphasis on writing.
  • …writing is treated as an equal partner to reading, and more than this, writing is assumed to be the vehicle through which a great deal of the reading work and reading assessments will occur. The CCSS, then, return writing to its place as one of the basics of education.
  • Calkins/Ehrenworth/Lehman in Pathways to the Common Core

Backwards Planning

  • Where do we want to go?
  • Read exemplar writing from your grade level and make notes of what had to be taught in order for that child to write that piece
  • How do we get there?

A Guide to the Common Core Workshop

  • Take about 20 minutes and read closely chapter 2. Highlight, underline, make notes of things in the margins that stand out to you.
  • Decide for yourself the point of having writing workshop
  • Questions? Reactions? Things that stood out? Did you find out anything new? What didn’t you figure out?

Written Conversation

  • Write a letter to the person to your right about any of the following:
  • Things that stood out, your reaction to specific things, an aha moment, something you really liked, questions you still have. Begin it just like a letter…Dear Pam,

Essentials of Writing Instruction

Managing Writer’s Workshop

  • Mini-lesson 10-15 minutes
    • (Connection, teaching, active engagement, link. This is best done with class gathered on carpet and you with easel for demonstrating. Partners)
  • Writing 30-40 minutes (shorter at beginning of year. Will build stamina for this)
    • (Teacher conferring ind/sm group)
  • Share 5 minutes
    • (partner/sm group, 1-2 students aloud)

Needs to be taught like any other skill-explicit instruction and ample opportunity for practice every day. Requires more than turning down the lights and playing music.

  • Needs to be taught like any other skill-explicit instruction and ample opportunity for practice every day. Requires more than turning down the lights and playing music.
  • Tell yourself you will teach writing as many times a week as you do math, ELA, etc.
  • Allow children to choose topic most of the time.
  • Should be able to look at a child’s writing and know immediately whether they are being taught writing or just “doing” writing.

Provisioning a Writing Workshop

  • The Meeting Area: A space for gathering close together, sitting beside partner: easel with chart paper to create charts, “author’s chair,” markers, pointer, exemplar texts and examples of student work on bulletin boards or nearby to refer to, meeting place near the promethean board/document camera so it can be easily used when needed. May only bring the students in back of room to front
  • Mini-lesson 10-15 minutes taught here
  • Charts
  • Writing Partners
  • Word Walls, Dictionaries, and Thesauruses-high frequency words may be posted to a word wall. Add five new words to wall each week, deleting a few that no longer retire attention.
  • Pencils or pens?


  • Some charts one to two day charts
  • Others are “anchor charts.” Represent cumulative teaching points across a unit and are added to over time
  • Make sure the heading names a big skill/goal so students know purpose of the chart
  • Use visuals (photos, exemplars, etc.) to allow children to get a lot of info at a glance.
  • Keep charts current and up during time students need them
  • Make charts interactive. For ex. Students add names (on sticky notes) next to strategies tried.
  • Reread/refer to the charts often with whole class, small groups, or partnerships
  • Periodically revise or retire them

Mentor/Exemplar Texts

  • Effective writing curriculum includes immersion in reading texts/stories like the ones you want your students to write
  • Length
  • Need to study them closely, not just graze, revisiting them time and time again
  • Same text can be used to teach leads, dialogue, character development, showing-not telling, etc.
  • What are you reading that is like what you’re writing?
  • Can use past students’ writings as mentor text
  • Lucy Calkins kits include 3-4 mentor texts to support instruction

Sentence Stalking

  • She reads, gardens (successfully), and uses her time wisely.
  • I rearrange books, sharpen knives - the ones I am certain not to use- and change knobs on dressers and cabinets…..
  • Why did the author use this punctuation? We can begin an anchor chart of craft moves.

Writing Folders/Notebooks

  • Each student will need a notebook and a 2 pocket folder
  • Specific type you use matters less than THAT you have a notebook that makes sense for you and your students. Marble vs. 3 ring binder vs. spiral
  • Number of sections/tabs you use matters less than THAT you show students how to use a consistent and manageable organizational routine.
  • Sections may consist of:
    • Ideas Section (short writes, lists, sketches)
    • Toolbox Section (High-Frequency word lists, personal spelling list, notes on punctuating dialogue, handout with examples of strong leads/conclusions, etc, examples of various uses of the comma, revision/editing checklists, ways to add voice
    • -Drafting Section
    • -Handouts Section
    • -Goal Setting Section
  • Don’t get too bogged down with notebook design. Purpose-for support
  • During first week or two of a unit most writing done in notebook/can travel home
  • Allow child to personalize his notebook-emotional attachment
  • Write on right side of page/leave left side for revising
    • Date all writing-can readily see amount of writing done in day/week
    • Folders can hold drafts/mentor text exemplars that students have decided to revise and work on more-taken from their notebooks

Volume and Stamina Matter

  • Students need to write for long stretches of time 30-40 minutes. 3rd graders should be able to produce one half a typed page at a sitting, 4th graders are expected to produce one typed page in a sitting; 5th graders two typed pages
  • Can have students graph number of sentences they write in a sitting—keep daily or weekly records
  • Can’t teach them to write better until they’re writing more

Building Stamina

  • Writing time generally 30-40 min. but you’ll need to build up to this
  • Start of year shorter writing sessions. Just don’t let these sessions become the norm. Children will never write well if they are accustomed to writing briefly.
  • Set a timer and gradually increase the amount of time students write. Put on board so students are aware of this.
  • “I’m finished.” Doing everything but in an underdeveloped way. Will need to give mid-workshop teaching points to sustain them for several short intervals.
  • If a student finishes, he can read writing exemplars that you have given them that are like what you’re asking them to write.
  • Students make a goal for their writing each day. Sometimes it takes a while to get the words on the page. “May have to rearrange day so they get a chance to write. “ (recess, etc.) Go after this goal with tenacity!

While They’re Writing

  • During first week or so of school-walking around encouraging
  • Compliment the students on things they’re doing well.
  • Ask questions to help them get more detail.
  • If you see some common mistakes, do a quick mid-workshop teaching point of about a minute or so. “Excuse me writers, I see that some of you are getting stuck with spelling. You can circle the word and keep going so you don’t lose your train of thought, then come back later to your circled words. If you don’t know what word to use, draw a line and fill in the blank later. “
  • Before long, this won’t be enough and you’ll start the individual conferences.


  • The HEART of your writing workshop will be conferring with the students—the hardest part—but you won’t get the best results if you don’t include this.
  • Remember: What gets monitored, gets done. If you don’t monitor their writing, then the writing becomes something they do, but no drastic improvements will take place.
  • Will need a notebook, clipboard or some method of taking notes on each student
  • Try to meet with every student once a week
  • Don’t need to have read their writings ahead of time to conference. Conferring has a somewhat predictable rhythm to it but will detour as you see that student’s needs. (More on this later)

What ifs…

  • “I left my writer’s notebook/folder at home.” If you comfort them “That’s okay, just use this paper” you will find that many will begin to do this and not take writing seriously. Make this a capital offense! Ask the class to focus all eyes on you and discuss this. “Should we call your mother at work? Does she get a mid-morning break?” You aren’t really going to do this but you want to communicate that’s it’s a big deal to forget it. People can be lined up the next morning to ask that student if he remembered the notebook. The bigger accomplishment? Now the whole class will understand this matters.
  • “My talking partner is absent.” Join a nearby partnership.
  • “I don’t know anything to write about.” Look in the Idea section of their notebook. Look at the charts on the wall for ideas. Review their goal.
  • “I’m done.” There is no such thing as being done in writer’s workshop. If a student finishes a piece they can study a few exemplar leads and try some of their own. They can start another piece using ideas from their notebook. You want them to make these decisions on their own instead of needing individual jump starts. You can do a mini-lesson on what to do when you feel stuck, don’t know how to start a writing, etc.

Upper-Elementary Grade Writers and the Writing Process


  • Pre-writing
    • Gathering Ideas-wide awake way of living. When writers notice something they jot it in their notebooks so they don’t forget it. In time, students come to writing workshop already knowing what they want to write about. (great garage sale of junk to spark ideas)
    • Determining which structure to write in- How does the content I have fit into this structure, or another, or another? Boston Tea Party…chapter book? Subtopics? Do I have enough info for a subtopic on…?
    • Organize ideas into an outline, web, etc.

Drafting- Take the pen and write-Make a movie in your mind and keep your eye on the movie. Fast and furious writing that will be revised later.

  • Drafting- Take the pen and write-Make a movie in your mind and keep your eye on the movie. Fast and furious writing that will be revised later.
  • Revision- Pretend to be a stranger to your draft, spying on it to imagine what the reader’s reaction will be. Are there sections that are unclear? Do I see the qualities of writing that I was trying to practice?

Editing-Postpone this until the text is ready for publishing/the main structure and content has been revised. Will have editing mini-lessons and also within mid-workshop teachings, share sessions, and homework assignments. You will probably want to teach your students to read each revised draft successive times, each time with a new lens. (spelling, use dictionary/thesaurus, end punctuation, verb tense agreement, variety of sentence structures, precise words, pronoun references clear) At the beginning of the year may only edit for high-frequency words, end punctuation, and paragraphing. By March, checking for clear pronoun references and varied sentence structure.

  • Editing-Postpone this until the text is ready for publishing/the main structure and content has been revised. Will have editing mini-lessons and also within mid-workshop teachings, share sessions, and homework assignments. You will probably want to teach your students to read each revised draft successive times, each time with a new lens. (spelling, use dictionary/thesaurus, end punctuation, verb tense agreement, variety of sentence structures, precise words, pronoun references clear) At the beginning of the year may only edit for high-frequency words, end punctuation, and paragraphing. By March, checking for clear pronoun references and varied sentence structure.
  • Make decisions on what conventions to teach your students in their independent conferences. Can’t tackle them all and not everybody needs the same convention lessons.

Publishing not all writings students create will be taken to the publishing stage (performed in front of an audience). In fact, most won’t. You may not publish but a couple a month but make a big deal out this when you do.

  • Publishing not all writings students create will be taken to the publishing stage (performed in front of an audience). In fact, most won’t. You may not publish but a couple a month but make a big deal out this when you do.

Common Core State Standards for Writing

CCSS: Threads for Writing

  • Text Types and Purposes
  • containers for our writing
  • Production and Distribution of Writing
  • the process and the product
  • Research to Build and Present Knowledge
  • writing supported by research
  • Range of Writing
  • ample time for writing widely with a sense of varying audience

The Four Sections of the Writing Standards

  • Standards 1 through 3 deal with three umbrella modes and purposes for writing: narrative, argument (opinion), and informational/explanatory.
  • Standards 4 through 6 deal with “production and distribution” of writing—using writing process to create and publish your work.
  • Standards 7 through 9 deal with “research to build and present knowledge.” This covers exploring ideas, gathering information, and synthesizing that information in a way that makes large volumes of information shareable.
  • Standard 10 deals with the “range of writing”—calling for students to write in two very different contexts, both spontaneously or on-demand (such as procedures in a science experiment or writing assessment) and over extended time (as for a journal article, research project, or book).
  • How are these standards different from our past standards? Turn and talk.

CCR Anchor Standard 3- Writing “ Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well chosen details and well chosen event sequences.”

  • What do you notice? Same across grade levels 3-5, action verb “write,”descriptive details, clear, logical sequence of events.

Turn and talk about the changes you notice with standard 3.a. This standard talks about the way you start your story.The term orient in 4-5 means you don’t just launch right into your story but introduce your character, setting, and the problem.

Read over standards 3b-3e and highlight changes/make notes to the side and share with your partner. What do you notice? There are more sophisticated levels of description, going from literal to abstract.

CCR Anchor Standard 3- Language “Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.”

  • Appendix C- Exemplars of Students’ Writings
  • Found on State Dept. website

Lucy Calkins Writing Kits

Overview and Content All kits contain these 8 resources

  • 4 grade specific Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing-each containing 18-22 sequential sessions subdivided into 3 to 4 bends
  • Book of If..Then Curricular plans for whole class and individual/small group differentiated instruction for alternative shorter units. Each has about 5-8 units of study to teach before, after (or in-between) the core curriculum based on your students needs.
  • Resources for Teaching Writing CD
  • Writing Pathways (rubrics, exemplars, student checklists, etc.)
  • A Guide to the Common Core Writing Workshop
  • Set of Trade Pack mentor text books

3rd Grade:

  • 3rd Grade:
    • Unit 1 Crafting True Stories (extends students work with personal narrative while engaging them more fully in the complete writing process with emphasis on drafting/revising their work
    • Unit 2 The Art of Information Writing (students write chapter books on their own topics synthesizing a wide variety of info and learning to section into topics/subtopics)
    • Unit 3 Changing the World: Persuasive Speeches, Petitions, and Editorials (rallies kids to gather and organize info to persuade people about causes the children believe matter-bullying, recycling, saving dogs, etc.)
    • Unit 4 Once Upon a Time: Adapting and Writing Fairy Tales (uses familiar fairy tales to explore techniques of fiction writing such as writing scenes, getting an omniscient narrator to orient readers, how to create tension, using figurative language to convey mood)
    • 4th Grade:
    • Unit 1 The Arc of Story: Writing Realistic Fiction (develop believable characters with struggles/motivations and rich stories to tell)
    • Unit 2 Boxes and Bullets: Personal and Persuasive Essays (students learn the value of organization and form as they gather evidence to support and express and opinion on topics they know well)
    • Unit 3 Bringing History to Life (tackles historical fiction research in which they collect evidence and use details to describe people/events long ago and far away
    • Unit 4 The Literary Essay: Writing About Fiction (builds on their learning on writing fiction and applies it more sophistication to a unit on literary essays
    • 5th Grade
    • Unit 1 Narrative Craft (helps students write more focused personal narratives)
    • Unit 2 The Lens of History: Research Reports (Westward Expansion-students draw inspiration from mentor texts, historical accounts, primary source documents, maps, timelines to write focused reports)
    • Unit 3 Shaping Texts: From Essay and Narrative to Memoir (teaches students how to write memoirs with rich details and insights)
    • Unit 4 The Research-Based Argument Essay (students learn to build powerful arguments that balance evidence and analysis to persuade readers)

Generating Personal Narratives-5 Days

  • Generating Personal Narratives-5 Days
  • Lesson 1 Teaching Point: Start with Turning Point Moments; create chart “Strategies for Generating Personal Narrative Writing”
  • Lesson 2 Teaching Point: Writers generate ideas by thinking of places that matter to them and the episodes that occurred in those places. Also, before the writing, you’ll teach them to re-experience the episode, relive it so that readers will be able to experience it. Will add to yesterday’s chart; create new chart “Techniques for Raising the Level of Narrative Writing”
  • Lesson 3 Teaching Point: Writers read great stories in order to write great stories. In other words, writers allow another author’s words to spark ideas of their own. Have a memoir text to share. Chart from yesterday.
  • Lesson 4 Teaching Point: Build on earlier lesson, reminding students to experience the moment as they write so readers, too, can experience it.
  • Lesson 5 Teaching Point: Writers sometimes pause to take stock, using a checklist to assess their own growth and set new goals. Copy of Narrative Writing Checklist/Poster size, too. Copy of Goosebumps for each student/poster size, too.

Lesson 6: Flash-Drafting

  • Lesson 6: Flash-Drafting
  • Lesson 7:What’s my story really about? Draft revising. Create chart “Thinking Up a Whole New Way to Tell a Story”
  • Lesson 8: One way to revise is to bring out the story structure. Already prepared chart “How Stories Tend to Go.” Book Peter’s Chair. Story Mountain charted out.
  • Lesson 9: Elaborating on Important Parts. Create chart “Strategies for Elaborating on Important Parts.”
  • Lesson 10: Adding Scenes from the Past and Future
  • Lesson 11: A final revision strategy; writers don’t just end stories; they resolve problems, learn lessons, and make changes to end them in a way that ties back to the big meaning of their story. End of Charlotte’s Web pre-written on chart paper
  • I think it's really important to "root" yourself in WHY you're doing something. This chapter (the whole book is great, but we're going for biggest "bang" for your buck, here) does a really good job of explaining some of the shifts for writing in the Common Core standards, and uses those shifts to really drive home how important writing instruction is in the classroom and throughout the school.
  • One of the that’s really important is the idea of protecting your time. Sometimes teachers feel like they don't "protect" their writing time in the same way that they protect math, reading and science/social studies time. What I mean by that is that when there are interruptions, they’re far more likely to bump writing and make sure they get to the other subjects. You may want to make it a school rule something along the lines of - "I will commit to direct instruction in writing just as often as I have direct instruction in math and reading." Boom. Move writing on up that list.
  • I'm telling you, this series is a wealth of knowledge. One of the things that I love are the rubrics, exemplars and continuums. Having a common "bar of excellence" is so important for norming across classrooms and even across grade levels. I recommend "tabbing" {I used post-its, but I'm sure you can come up with something cuter} each of these resources for each of the different types of writing {informational, opinion and narrative}, so you'll have it to refer to late. I've included a brief description of each below.
  • The learning progression explains how kids should progress from K to sixth grade {imagine that} in each of the rubric areas {overall, lead, transitions, ending, organization, elaboration, craft, spelling and punctuation}. Super helpful for identifying where kids are and what they need to learn next.
  • Each type of writing has an on-demand prompt that you can use for pre- or post- assessment. They are general enough to be used as many times as needed - and you don't have to think them up!
  • There's also a student checklist for each type, with the standards for that grade level. I love that ALL grade levels are included in this book, because I know I'll have kids above and below grade level. I plan on laminating these for my kids to keep as a reference. That way when it's time to conference with me for the final time, I'll have them self-check and tell me if their checklist lines up with what I think about that writing piece, and I'll know if they're understanding how to develop each row on their rubric.
  • PERFECT for using as an exemplar as we write. I know I'll be storing these either on my computer to project, or possible in hard copy to refer to as we write.
  • Teacher-created exemplars are a really neat idea. Basically they took the same topic/prompt for each of the three type of writing, and wrote exemplars for every grade level and annotated how each section of the rubric was shown in that piece of writing. So, there's a persuasive piece about football at recess written as the "perfect" K, 1, 2 ... through 6th grade sample. That way we know what to look for in every piece. LOVE IT.
  • The CD is awesome. It has so many resources - they're all in the book, but they're conveniently in one place where I can print from my computer and/or project without having to lug the book around and scan it.
  • You also HAVE to have the CD to access the online resource, which I think is interesting.
  • Resources are organized by type OR by unit of study.
  • Now it's time to dig in to the real "meat" - the units of study. It'd be crazy to think you could read each one, but a quick perusal will be helpful. I think one of the most important sections is located right inside the front cover of each book. It's a description of each of the three "bends" for each unit as well as a list of what each part of the lesson will focus on.

How Do I Begin?

  • Plan to teach management lessons on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Give the On-Demand Assessment Friday and score it according to the rubric found on your CD. Record scores on data sheet that will be emailed to you.
  • On Monday, begin the first lesson in Unit 1 of your Lucy Calkins kit

On-Demand Assessment

  • (see handout)
  • Need to capture what your students can do at the beginning of the year. Cannot teach well unless you take the time to learn what they already know.
  • Use this in October parent-teacher conference to show student’s growth in writing to a writing they have done just prior to conference.

“Cliff Notes” version of some of the lessons in Unit 1 Narrative to help get you started

  • “Cliff Notes” version of some of the lessons in Unit 1 Narrative to help get you started
  • Read the first lesson in Unit 1 along with the cliff notes version located on the P drive in folder labeled Writing Resources


  • Our next session in September will be on conferring and record keeping.
  • Read chapter 8 of A Guide to the Common Core Writing Workshop and be prepared to share your successes/struggles/needs in this area.
  • Bring your management notebook or method of record keeping. We will learn and get ideas from each other.
  • Bring 2 writing samples from your On Demand Assessment


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