Since we are now in the last week of August, most of the procedures and routines of writer's workshop have been set up. Many of the students have been introduced to workshop in their previous grade, so this launching process consists of getting used to the new procedures at this grade level and in this particular classroom. At times it seems a waste of time to go over and over just how to come to the gathering area or how to work quietly during the writing time. However, if these routines are set up now, it will make for much easier writing in the future. I can't emphasize enough how important the management of writer's workshop is to having successful writers.
Sometimes just the simple things get overlooked when setting up the workshop. One of those is how students come to the area and leave the area. One class I worked with last year was still struggling with that in May. When we got that procedure in place the whole workshop started off better and the children had more time to write. At that time we had to go over and over the procedure of coming to the area several times in one sitting! Don't be afraid to do that. It seems like wasted time, but actually it is time well spent!
How students sit at the gathering area is another simple idea, but not always clear. Many times children are told to "Circle up" when they come to the whole group time. This means they are to sit in a circle so everyone can see each other. This is great for class discussions. Each student can then see the person speaking as they turn to look right at the speaker. Another command that I have learned to love comes from a teacher I worked with several years ago. When coming back, the teacher would say, "Get in Mashed Potatoes today." That caught my attention right away. What was she talking about? The students would simply sit in a great big group with no particular order. It made more room and the students could see the teacher better in this position. What ever order you want your student in, you need to think it out first. What would be best to keep them engaged and make sense for their learning.
When students go back to their writing spaces to begin their process of writing, it is again important for them to know what the procedures are. Some teachers allow students to sit where they want. It could be on the floor, under a desk or in a corner. It just would depend on what helps that student to be a better writer. Most of the time, I would keep my students in desks or tables. Knowing your students and what works best for that group helps you make that decision. Some teachers have "No Walk, No Talk Time" for the first few minutes of writing. This allows the students to get into a writing mode and have time to think about their writing or go back over what they wrote before to get started. Some teachers use music to send them off to write. This inspires the students and allows them to get into the mood to write.
Sharing time is not to be forgotten or put off as not important. Writers write so others can read or listen to what they wrote. That is why you, as my readers, are so important to me. Students need an audience, someone besides their teacher. This gives them purpose and a reason to write. The sharing time is also a time to get the feedback from others. Again, authors do this all the time. Sharing time also needs to be thought out. A friend of mine used the 'whip share' in her back to school night with parents. She had each parent give their favorite sports team. That was just to show them one way their children would be sharing in her classroom. Think about what you want the children to get out of the sharing time. Is it a time to simply let someone hear what you wrote? Then a partner share would work. Is it a time when you want the mini lesson to be revisited? Then a "make them famous" share would work. Is it a time you want the students to get feedback from peers? Then an author share would work. Sharing time is important.
As you work through these last days of August in launching your workshop, take time to be sure the procedures and routines are in place. In May you will be so glad you did!