The writing workshop consists of a daily hour of writing instruction and practice, presented in a workshop model. The hour is structured to provide maximum opportunities for the teacher to provide rigorous standards-based writing instruction to the whole class, and differentiated support to individuals and small groups. The writing workshop is most effective when coupled with an hour of reading workshop, and supported by skills development during the 30-minute separate skills block.
As shown in the diagram below, the workshop hour begins with a ten to fifteen-minute mini-lesson presented to the entire class. The content of the mini-lesson consists of writing content such as genre elements or craft, rituals and routines for the workshop classroom, or skills lessons. The writing content is focused on moving all students to meet grade-level standards in writing.
The mini-lesson is followed by a forty-minute writing block in which individual students pursue their writing, participate in writing conferences with the teacher, and confer with other students about their writing in response groups or partnerships. During this writing block, the teacher utilizes the time to provide differentiated instruction to individuals and small groups and to maintain an on-going sense of her students’ progress and instructional needs.
The workshop hour culminates with a closure activity for the whole class. This final ten-minute closing activity is the teacher’s second opportunity to provide whole group instruction. Often the closing piece will return to the objective of the mini-lesson by sharing examples of student work in which students have successfully incorporated the new learning from the mini-lesson into their writing.
The structure of the workshop hour is highly important, since it provides a predictable opportunity for the teacher to differentiate instruction for a diverse group of students, while also pursuing attainment of grade-level standards by all students. The content of the mini-lessons is driven by the grade level standards, as well as the teacher’s daily observation of students’ work. While students have a great deal of choice about topic selection, all students are expected to master three genres of writing at an appropriate level for their grade – narrative, informational and response to literature. In addition, they are expected to incorporate grade-appropriate conventions into their writing.