Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writers Workshop Lab and the Common Core

Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in a readers workshop lab (you can check out those posts for more info!). This year our district is focusing on boosting our writing and alignment to the CCSS. Today, we got together to unpack the new standards and look at our students' current narrative writing samples. Here are some of my "ah-ha" moments....

How do we educate parents about the CCSS writing expectations?
-Show writing samples at Curriculum Night (just like we do for reading expectations).
-Standards are similar throughout grades, they "grow up" with each grade level adding more depth and scope (explain the over reaching goalsi
-Shared responsibility (every teacher is a writing teacher).
-Strong emphasis on opinion/ argument writing.
-This is not all-encompassing, there are only 10 standards (holes will need to in, based on teacher judgement). Some districts may add specific goals for each grade to address).
-Shared research and writing experiences (under the guidance of adults).
-Focus on the process, not just the content (stronger emphasis on revision).

Katie Wood Ray's book About the Authors is a GREAT resource to add to our Writers Workshop units that are given to us!
About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers
Find it on Amazon.com
What we can expect from First Graders for revision ...

Side note... Create this anchor charts together, using actual class writing, each year.
(charts are complements of Annmarie Johnson, Independent Consultant)

There are three types of writing in CCSS: opinion, informative/explanatory, and narratives.

In order to complete the above sort, we looked at the 5th grade standards in order to gain a broader perspective. For fun, we argued our opinions :). Those argument notes should fit into an opinion/narrative/explanatory column.

That was all before 10am!  Whew!

We then went to see my friend, Holly, teach her writers workshop for 1st graders....

She was thinking aloud.... not really a bad photo :)
Classroom observation (my quick notes)...
Mini-lesson: We can add precise words to our writing. (How To books) 12 minutes
-"Show me, don't tell me, what writers need"
-focus on planning (remember how we were planning...)
-defined plan for the day and defined "writerly words" as she taught
-mentor text
-whole group model of writing (as they learn the techniques)
-turn and talk
-connection to current work (link)
-students re-read what they wrote last session

Conferring with students: (individual conferences) 25 minutes
Reinforcing the set lesson reflecting the individual student's piece.
-reviews what student has been working on
-compliment to student
-jumps to the focus of the mini-lesson, "Where can we add precise words to you work?"
-student reads as teacher attempts to follow the how-to directions (finds vague areas together)
-student tries technique
-re-reads with the new words added in to piece

Actual student work
Share: brought closure to the original mini- lesson
-Students shared their work with a buddy (calling attention to the precise word that they added today).
-As a whole group, they added to their anchor chart on precise words.

Awesome Management....
-Holly takes a lap of the room in between each conference.
-Holly is a master at "starting slow in order to go fast". You can tell that her students are secure in the workshop model and the expectations. They get right to work and are on task ( as much as possible with first graders!). This is an ongoing area for me to be working on... My class tends to be a bit chatty this year!
-While all of this was going on, students were able to quietly reference the mentor texts that Holly had front loaded the unit with during an immersion stage.


We also spent a good amount of time analyzing writing samples from our students. We each brought our best sample, then a sample from a struggling student. We compiled the attributes of the best. This became our goal papers and an example of what is possible for our first graders right now in our process. Here is what we found....

This was our top selection from our group:

On the flip side, we went through the strugglers' samples and figured out what the conferring goals are going forward for that student.

The ultimate goal for all of these samples is to create a binder that we can use as mentors for our conferences. Like a published author, the students can see how REAL first graders can write. I'm thinking that at some point, I will have tabs so it can be referenced more easily.


  1. At the risk of self-promotion...can I recommend my Personal Narrative Writing Workshop Unit for Common Core on TpT? It's been getting some great reviews and is applicable for 1st-2nd & possibly 3rd grade...Susan Moran (from the fab blog TGIF) even gave it a shout-out on her blog! http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Personal-Narrative-Writing-Workshop-Unit-for-Common-Core

    I do love following your blog, girl!
    Growing Firsties

  2. Thanks for sharing all this great info!!
    Connie Anderson:)