Writing Mini-Lessons: The Writing Workshop

Expectations for Writing Workshop

Rules for Writing Workshop

  1. Save everything: it’s all part of the history of the piece of writing, plus you never know what you might want to come back to later and use. On the computer, label and print a copy of each draft to save.
  2. Date and label everything you write to help you keep track of what you’ve done (e.g., plans, draft #1, brainstorming).
  3. Write on one side of the paper only. Always skip lines. Always print double-spaced. Both will make revision, polishing, and editing easier and more productive. Professional writers always double-space until the final copy, i.e., publication. You may wish to draft single-spaced on the computer, so you can see more text at a time, and then shift to double-space when you print, revise, and edit.
  4. Draft your prose writing in sentences and paragraphs. Draft your poems in lines and stanzas. Don’t go back into a mess of text and try to create order. Format as you go: real writers do this, too.
  5. Get into the habit of punctuating and spelling as conventionally as you can while you’re composing: this is something else real writers do.
  6. When composing on the word processor, compose in 12-point font, and do not change any fonts until the final publishing stage, and print a double-spaced version at least every two days. Then read the text with a pen in your hand, away from the computer. Consider and work with the whole text, rather than one part at a time on the screen.
  7. When composing on the word processor, spellcheck only once, at the very end, when you formally edit.
  8. Understand that writing is thinking. Do nothing to distract me or other writers. Don’t put your words into our brains as we’re struggling to find our own words. Instead, find your private, internal, writing place, lock the door, and listen to your voice.
  9. When you confer with me, use as soft a voice as possible: whisper.
  10. Confer with a peer when you have a reason to. Use a conference area and record pertinent responses, so the writer leaves the conference with a plan. Limit peer conferences to occasions when you have a specific problem that could benefit from a specific friend’s response.
  11. When you’re stuck or uncertain, use the resources available to you in this room, including your writing binder with mini-lessons and your writing territories. Tap the techniques you’ve been shown in conferences and mini-lessons.
  12. Revise often as you write.
  13. Self-edit as completely as you can in a color different from the print of your text.
  14. When a piece of writing is finished, clip or staple everything together, including drafts, plans, lists, editing checksheet, highlighting guide, rubrics, peer conference notes, and put it in your permanent writing folder, with the job chart and final copy on top.
  15. Write as well and as much as you can: work hard and make literature.

Writing Workshop Structure

  1. Daily Dialogue:  Read through the poem or text multiple times.  As you read, underline lines you want to talk about, lines you don’t yet understand, lines you can “see”/visualize, lines that surprise you, lines you think are the most important in the poem, lines that resonate for you as a reader and an adolescent. Record your thoughts and questions. When the piece is read aloud, follow along, and when the piece is read chorally, add your voice to the reading. Discuss the piece as a class, including volunteers talking about and reading aloud what they marked.  If an image is the subject of the Daily Dialogue, follow the same protocol, annotating the image to reflect your thoughts.
  2. Writing mini-lesson about topics, about principles of writing, about genres, or about conventions.  Take notes in your writing binder and keep an up-to-date Table of Contents of mini-lessons.
  3. Status of the class conference.
  4. “Off you go.  Work hard, and make literature!”  Silent, productive writing time.  During this time, conferencing occurs.
  5. Author’s Chair to share work.  This can occur during any stage of Writing Workshop.