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Introduction to Writing Workshop

Writing WorkshopThe idea behind workshop teaching is simple. We know the best way to learn something is to practice it. For example, when a coach wants to teach his players how to get better at shooting a basketball, he provides them with lots of time to practice shooting. The same is true for writing. If we want students to be good at writing, then we must give them plenty of time to write each day in school. Writing workshop is based around this idea of practice (workshop literally means to work or practice). Writing workshop was developed in the 1980’s by two lead researchers: Donald Graves and Lucy Calkins. Graves and Calkins created this approach as a means to gather research about their student writers and writing workshop as a teaching method was born.

Writing workshop is distinctively different from other methods of teaching writing. The following list highlights some of the key points that make writing workshop unique:

  • Writing workshop occurs every day (beginning the first day of kindergarten).
  • The workshop block lasts for about 45-60 minutes a day.
  • Students choose their own topics to write about each day. They are not assigned topics or story starters.
  • Students are encouraged to write about things they know and have lived.
  • Throughout the year, writing is taught through units of study. Units of study commonly focus on the various writing genres such as personal narratives, informational writing, opinion pieces or poetry.
  • Units of study last approximately 4 weeks and take students through the whole process of writing (immersion, idea generation, rehearsal, drafting, revising, editing, publishing and celebrating). Lessons on improving the content of writing (craft lessons) make up the bulk of the minilessons taught.
  • Workshop instruction is based on The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model of Instruction (Pearson & Gallagher 1983).