Monday, January 24, 2011

A Peek at our Writer's Workshop

When I was teaching, my favorite part of the day was writer's workshop. The hum of a busy classroom focused on writing is beautiful to me. Writer's workshop in my room was pretty standard fare: students in small groups were looking at mentor texts, students were preparing and choosing what to write and how to write, students were writing (and writing and writing and writing... I usually had the problem of my students wanting to write too much rather than nothing at all), students were sharing with one another- editing and revising, and students were creating and publishing. At the end of writers workshop each day, a student or two would have a chance to share a piece in progress or a finished piece. Sharing seemed to be a theme of writing time.

As I was watching my boys play today with crayons and paper, it reminded me a little of the business of writers workshop. I don't actually do writer's workshop with a 1 year old and 2 year old- nor do I advocate that ww is appropriate for the typically developing toddler/preschool group- but I did make some observations about the futures of my little writers and I thought I'd share. I thought it was interesting that many of my observations lined up with Marie Clay's observations of young writers in a book that I've been reading, Writing Begins at Home. I've included some quotes from her book.
Here are our products from "writer's workshop today".

Sure, this looks like a "craft". So why don't I call this "arts and crafts time". Take a peek in with me and I think you'll understand.

Writer's workshop is about the process. It's about learning skills that will transfer into better writing in the future.

My baby was making scribbles on a page. He is learning that his movements can produce a mark.
Someday he will learn that those marks can convey a meaning.

 My two year old spent his time writing lines and crosses. None of them were actual letters but he carefully dictated his movements to me. His conversations went something like this, "See, momma. I draw the line down and I cross it. And then you make a line over. You know how to do this? I show you."
"Scribble takes many forms. Out of those first explorations come some forms that the child can recognize. Movement and form come together here. Perhaps the child can now anticipate, 'If I do that I will see a circle or a streamer or a line." (Clay, p. 9)

He "wrote some letters." They didn't look like letters to me but he told me, "I wrote a T... for Tyson."

He has been interested in writing his name lately so I put out this sheet with his name written in highlighter as well as the letter "L" written in highlighter. Sometimes he likes to trace these and try to write his name. Today he wasn't interested and that's ok.
"Spontaneous exploring like this should be what 'writing' is about in the preschool years." (Clay, p. 8)

He spent a lot of his time just scribbling or putting stickers on paper but in the midst of that play, he was learning something about real writing.
"Out of scribble there usually emerges a distinction between writing and drawing. The distinction may be hard for adults to explain. Somehow the preschooler discovers the difference." (Clay, p. 12)

What does "Writer's Workshop" look like at your house?
To see other great writing ideas, come check out Writer's World on April's blog: Giggles and Crayons


  1. Great post! I am thinking a lot lately on how to encourage my reluctant writer. I have several thoughts that I might share later this week.

  2. Thank you for all of the time you spend writing these informative posts.

    I stapled some booklets together and my daughter has been filling them up with scribbles, stickers, letters, dots, and marks. They are a big hit.

    Thanks for linking up, I am sure everyone is going to love it.

  3. Your children are so lucky.

    Hopefully your post encourages some parents to let their children explore writing early. Writing develops just the way you explained. Love the quotes from Marie Clay.

    I've made a few posts on my blog about writing. I'm planning some new ones. Look for a link to this post on my blog soon.

  4. Great post! My son was once reluctant to write. I made him a cool writing center, and gave it time. Now he LOVES to write! You can see the writing center I made for him (and for several friends as gifts) here: