Materials for my writers workshop are:
Stickers cut into groups of 4-6.
Craft sticks with numbers (one side red and one side green)
I start off by making journals for each of my students. I make a new journal each month and include enough pages to give us one page for each school day. My school buys a TON of primary lined story paper each year, so I use that with construction paper for a cover. I have created journal pages to make your own journals if your school does not provide lined paper. These are included in my PowerPoint Prompts.
While my kids are out at afternoon recess, I just open my PowerPoint Prompts. I have a prompt for every day of the month. I click on the number that matches the date. This ensures that I don't repeat or forget which prompts I have used. I have also included random prompts that go with holidays and themes during the month. I did this to make my journal prompts more versatile. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is January 15th, but you might want your class to write about it on the Friday before, the Tuesday after, or any other time it fits!
Another thing that I love about using PowerPoint Prompts is that they are much more engaging than a prompt written on the board. I have included a variety of topics and writing skills.
These PowerPoint Prompts also have built-in quiet music. You can choose to play the music or not. This is a totally versatile tool!
As soon as my kids get back in the room and see the prompt on the board, they know to take out their journals and get busy writing. This is a quiet, independent work time. They are not allowed to ask for help with spelling. Sounding words out independently reinforces phonics skills and makes them more confident writers. I encourage them to use their dictionaries, but they can't ask me or classmates for spelling help. I give my kids about 20 minutes to work on writing then they leave their journals on their desks and come to the rug.
I choose a stick from my cup and that student must share with the class. They bring their journal up and read it to the class. Next, I put it under my document camera and we critique it as a class. The document camera lets the whole class see the writing on the board! When I started this, I was worried that my beginning writers would be embarrassed or that kids might be mean to each other. I was really careful about how I set it up and just the opposite has happened. They are super supportive of each other and always proud to share. We always find some things we like about the writing and some things for the student to work on. This public sharing really motivates the kids to work hard and use their time wisely. Once I started using the document camera, I saw a HUGE improvement in their handwriting! They want to impress their classmates. Everybody gets positive feedback even if it is "I like your picture" or "I like the way you did a lot of writing". The kids are always kind to each other. I love the way that this brings the class together and helps us feel like a community. They see that they all have things to work on and things that they all do well. We each have our strengths and weaknesses and we can help each other. Some kids have incredible creative thinking skills, but need to work on using their dictionary for spelling sight words correctly. Some kids have beautiful handwriting but need to work on punctuation. I always guide the conversation and ensure that there is plenty of praise and just the right amount of critique needed to encourage and motivate without putting anyone down. The document camera allows the whole class to discuss writing in an authentic and purposeful way. It keeps the whole group engaged and participating - which means I am not trying to keep them busy while I work with small groups!
I have goals for writing. My school does report cards every six weeks. (BOO!) The first six weeks of school, I want them to master one sentence. Every day when we journal, their goal is one sentence. I want a capital, punctuation, and it makes sense. The second six weeks, we are working on two sentences. We continue increasing our writing goals until the end of the year when we are writing paragraphs with a minimum of six sentences. If the student who is sharing has completed our writing goals, they get a sticker on their journal. I will make corrections and write notes while we are critiquing under the camera. If students do an exceptional job, I call this "second grade writing" and they get two M&Ms.
More about the stickers -
The reason that I cut stickers into small groups, is because it helps me regulate how many students I am choosing. I tend to try to choose too many and they get bored with it. BORED = NAUGHTY! Don't make that mistake. By only picking 4, 5, or 6 students, they stay interested and look forward to our writing time.
I have had the same set of sticks for years and years. I wrote numbers on the sticks (my kids all have an assigned number). I painted one ond of the sticks red and the other side green. I start with all the sticks green side up, red side down. I remember that green means "GO". Go ahead and pick them! Red means "STOP". Stop you have already picked them! I pick a green and flip it over. This helps me choose every student every week. Once all the sticks are showing red, I flip them back to green and start over.
The student on the right is a more proficient writer than the one on the left. At this point in the year, we are working on three sentences, but I would consider this "second grade writing" because I would be happy to send this kid to second grade with these skills. While his writing is really good, we still find things for him to work on. This creates a feeling of equality in my little writers and helps prevent them from feeling inadequate or boastful. We said we liked the interesting words the student on the right used. He will "draw a master piece" and be "famous". We like how he chose to write the letters FUN in all capitals. It was a great opportunity to talk about why he chose to do this. When I asked why he did this, he said he liked how Robert Munsch used all capitals in some of his writing. What a great opportunity for the whole class to hear one of their peers say something so inspiring! This would not happen with my old small group writer's workshop. What does this kid need to work on? We gave him the goals of writing more! He is ready for more sentences! He had the word went instead of want and noticed this when he read to us so we also gave him reread as something to work on (the same goal as the first student).
This has been an amazing solution to writer's workshop. It is so easy to manage and allows me to meet with every student every week. The best part is, the kids love it! This is by far my easiest block of time each and every day. It allows me to assess my students and give them feedback with almost no prep! LOVE THAT! This year, I am creating four bundles of PowerPoint Prompts to use with writer's workshop.
Here are the links to the bundles I have in my store:
I have made a short demo video that shows how easy it is to use this resource:
Until next time,