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Recipes for Effective Literacy Instruction

Writers' Workshop

Want to increase student motivation and confidence in writing?  Trying to move students past producing bland prose in a variety of genres?  Wondering how to integrate reading and writing instruction more effectively?  Writers’ Workshop is an instructional model that can transform your classroom. 

Of course, as with other instructional models, some people don’t know how to use it and they wonder if it really works.  Katy Wischow, who taught 5th grade in Newark and who consults for ">Teachers College Summer Writing Institute, helped me design this page and contributed most of the materials here.  Thanks, Katy!!! 

Common Misconceptions about Writers’ Workshop:


Writers’ Workshop is totally free-form. There are CURRICULUM OPTIONS.
Writers’ Workshop takes time away from the required curriculum. Most of the things we need to teach about writing can be taught through Writers’ Workshop.
Writers’ Workshop is chaotic and hard to manage. If you have classroom management problems, you will have them all day long and should address that first.  However, if you are able to establish effective routines, Writers’ Workshop can be easy to manage.
Kids don’t like to write.  They will hate Writers’ Workshop. Not so.  If you expect that students have a lot to say and give them opportunities to express themselves, they will rise to your level of expectation.
Students already understand the writing process, and if they don’t follow it, they must be lazy. Students need to be taught strategies and how they are applicable to different forms of writing--i.e., strategies they can use again, not just at that one moment.  Teach the writer, not the writing.
Adults and children need to use different strategies as writers. They don’t.  We just need to know how to teach adult strategies to children.

A Small Sample of Useful Professional Texts:

  • Units of Study for Teaching Writing, Grades 3-5 by Lucy Calkins et al.  Published by Heinemann.  This comes with a great CD/DVD resource.  Despite the title, it is also useful for older grades, and there is a K-2 set published by Heinemann as well.
  • The Writing Workshop: Working Through The Hard Parts (And They’re All Hard Parts) by Katie Wood Ray and Lester L. Laminack
  • Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom by Katie Wood Ray
  • How’s It Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers by Carl Anderson
  • The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins


Sample Lesson Plans (a work-in-progress): 2nd Writing Workshop Lesson Plan-How-to Essay (Thanks to Jennifer Choi!)

Online Resources:
Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project  (professional development, resources, and useful links) 

The National Writing Project 

Two Writing Teachers: This is a very useful, inspiring site run by two writing teachers.  They frequently update the site and blog with lesson plans, ideas, useful texts, links, etc.  Katy checks here almost daily and has found terrific ideas to use. 

http://zzwriter.com/ Another writing-teacher blog full of resources and links. 

IN THE DOWNLOAD ZONE for Writers’ Workshop:


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