3 EASY Ways to Stay to Organized During Writer's Workshop in Grades 3-5

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Gearing up for the beginning of the school year always gave me pause to reflect on what went well and and I wanted to tweak from previous years.  I spent 10 years in the classroom, primarily in a literacy collaborative school.  I have tried (and failed) many times when it came to KEEPING UP who needs what and all the OTHER things that were thrown in the mix. Team collaboration helped me bounce off ideas with colleagues, which followed closely with try and reflect.  After years in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades, here are 3 ways that worked for me to stay organized during Writer's Workshop:

#1:  Organize Thoughts:  Each Student Needs a Writer's Workshop Notebook & Collection Notebook  

I was definitely one of those teachers who went to the big name stores to purchase notebooks and folders at the beginning of the Back to School season so all of my students had the same composition notebooks and 3-prong folders in the same colors.  When they walked into my classroom on Open House, notebooks were already organized and labeled in each desk.  (I chalk it up to either OCD or Control, although let's be real; it's probably a mix of both.) 

For writing, each student had a Writer's Workshop Notebook- a 3-prong folder, and a Collectors Notebook- a black and white composition notebook.  These were stored individually in "book boxes," from Lakeshore.  (The boxes usually contained:  Writer's Workshop Notebook + Collection Notebook, 1-2 sharpened pencils, sticky notes, 1 independent book, reading log, + guided reading book and Reader's Workshop Notebook)

Collection Notebooks are student-created reference guides.  They're made as students take notes during Writer's Workshop mini-lessons.  At the beginning of the year, the collection notebooks are covered with photographs of themselves and flat items that reminded them of personal memories.  (I used clear packing tape to tape to secure.) 

Inside the Collection Notebook: 

  • The first 4 pages are left blank to server as a Table of Contents.
  • During Mini-Lessons, students keep seed idea lists in the Collection Notebook.
  • Notes about writer's craft- voice, organization, hooks/endings, types of sentences, parts of speech, using dialogue, etc., are all kept here.
  • Writing Plans to turn into drafts are stored here as well.

Writer's Workshop Notebooks are used for writing rough drafts.  Rough drafts are always double spaced and are written in pencil.  Students reference their writing plans in their collection notebooks as they write.  

Inside the Writer's Workshop Notebook: 

  • All of their rough drafts from throughout the year are inside their Writer's Workshop Notebooks. 
  • Students will revise and edit their drafts independently and with partners using these notebooks. 
  • Teacher-student and student-student led writing conferences will be held using the writer's workshop notebook.          


#2:  Status of the Class:  Create a Movable Chart of The Writing Process

When starting a new writing piece, everyone in the class is in the same place.  If you've spent more than a week teaching writing, you know that soon you'll have students all in different phases of the writing process!  It can be mind boggling to keep up with everyone's needs and what they're working on during independent time.  A former colleague showed me how she kept up with this, and with the additions of the of what students should be doing in each step and the arrows, I adapted her plan to work in my classroom! 

How It's Used:
  • At the end of independent time, I took a status of the class.  At this time, students moved their clip, if necessary to the next phase of the writing process. 
  • Students can reference the chart if needed to help remember what they planned to do that day during writing workshop.
  • This information can be used to pull specific students in small group. 


#3:   Visualize Writing:  Red Revise and Green Edit

Looking through student writing can be overwhelming when they begin to revise and edit.  Let's be real- it can be ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE.  I love pens of all colors.  To keep it fun, (and organized), I started using Red to revise and Green to edit.  Purple, orange, black and blue could be used too- if I wanted my students to add something specific to their writing as they revised.  (examples:  add personification, compound sentence, a lead, etc.)

I'm also a fan of alliteration, so Red Revise makes sense to me.  I can take a look at their writing and see exactly how they revised their work.  I can also easily see that students went through both editing and revising by seeing two colors on their rough drafts.  

Are your interested in learning more about establishing Writer's Workshop through Personal Narratives?  This resource uses the Mentor Text:  Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by: Mem Fox.  Click here to check it out!   

What have you found to be an easy way to help organize writing in your classroom?  I'd love to hear! 

Until Next Time...

by Spivey Sparks

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