Strategy

Writing Workshop

UDL 6.2

A Writing Workshop is a process-based approach in which students are provided ample, open-ended work time in which to engage in all aspects of the writing process (e.g., planning, drafting, revising, editing, publishing) and collaborate with the teacher and peers (e.g. through conferences or small groups). The typical flow of a Writing Workshop includes a mini-lesson to inform and set a task (e.g. a mini-lesson about creating a thesis statement; analysis of a model exemplar) followed by time for writing. During concentrated student writing time, students apply advice from the mini-lesson. The teacher provides timely feedback in response to questions or during short writing conferences. Optionally, writing can be analyzed by peers to provide feedback and develop a writing community. Peer feedback helps students learn from others’ writing and give thoughtful feedback. Finally, students will apply feedback received during teacher conferences or peer collaboration.

Implementation Tips

Set Goals
Ask students to set specific goals for Writing Workshop before work time begins, so they can progress toward self-directed learning and “own” the task for the day. Students can jot the goal on a sticky note on their desks for the teacher to see or use a goal-setting form.
Reflect Often
Embed Writing Workshops into the daily routine by having students reflect often, like to inform the day’s workshop. (e.g., “For today’s Do-Now, reflect on yesterday’s workshop: Were you productive? Why or why not? What was most useful?”). Students should save and refer back to their reflections.
Create Focused Tasks
Clearly specify the workshop task and make it measurable (e.g. “improve the relevance of the supporting evidence in paragraph 2” not “find good evidence”). Students stay focused and the teacher provides actionable feedback. Questions or sentence starters can be used to improve the focus and quality of peer feedback.
Student-Driven Assignments
Empower students to modify the given Writing Workshop task to better suit their needs for where they are in their writing process (e.g. “Today’s focus is on thesis writing and revision; however, if you thesis is complete, place a checklist of items you want to work on at the corner of your desk.”).
Criteria for Success and Self-Reflection
Establish a “criteria for success,” similar to a rubric but not grade-oriented, that is short and digestible so that students can check their work during or after they complete a writing workshop task. The criteria for a successful thesis would be: defensible, 1-2 sentences, and outlines main points.
Supporting Procedures for Independent Work
Establish procedures and routines that foster productive independent work. Try using an anchor chart that lists what students should do if they are stuck and the teacher is unavailable (e.g., designate a “peer expert” of the day, ask “three before me”) and provide graphic organizers and writing checklists as scaffolding.
Annotated Circulation Route
Print a copy of your seating chart, annotate it with check-in questions for students, and draw a map of who you will check-in with first, second, third, etc. A circulation route can be used for an academic or behavioral check-in, to support struggling students and encourage each student individually.

Examples

Time for Writing, Review, and Revision
The teacher begins class with a mini-lesson introducing a new writing project, focusing on a specific skill (i.e. introduction writing, creating logical essay structure) and task. The teacher introduces the task: “Your task today is to write a strong introductory paragraph with a thesis, a catchy hook, and short summary.” Students write for 10-15 minutes. The teacher announces, “Now you’ll review your writing with a partner. Exchange your work and use this revision form to guide your feedback.” Students apply feedback as they revise. The teacher circulates to answer questions or leads individual writing conferences.
Peer Review
A class is using Writing Workshop to review drafts that students have already written (e.g., short story, argumentative essay). First, the teacher introduces peer review (whole class, small group, or partners): “Today during Writing Workshop, you will read your first body paragraph to your classmates, then describe your strengths and growth areas. Your peers will provide constructive feedback.” The teacher or peer leader restates the writing prompt, then leads a structured discussion about the draft. Students use sentence starters to give verbal feedback. Students might also complete a written questionnaire to provide specific feedback on each draft.
Collaborative Researching
During a Writing Workshop for collaborative research, students construct a thesis in response to a research prompt and form topic-based groups (e.g., four students who are focused on climate change). The teacher says, “Today’s Writing Workshop is dedicated to collaboratively researching your common research topics. In the first 20 minutes of workshop, each person is responsible for researching 2-3 relevant, reliable sources. Write down the source information and a brief summary of the source in 2-3 bullet points. Next, share with your peers and take notes about the sources that will be most useful for your paper.”

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