Launching Writer's Workshop in the Primary Classroom

Teacher Truth- I used to despise teaching Writer's Workshop. I understood the structure of the workshop model and the focus of each grading period, however, I didn't really know WHAT to teach each day during my mini-lessons. Fast forward a couple of years, and I had an amazing opportunity to visit an amazing teacher's classroom and observe her in action and I fell in love with her writing instruction! And then the next year, my amazing team and I decided to each tackle one subject and share our plans. I chose writing (even though it still wasn't my favorite) so I could spend more time learning about teaching writing and *hopefully* fall in love. It worked!

Now that I LOVE writing, I wanted to share what I currently do to launch Writer's Workshop! I've taken pieces from what I love from different resources to make what works for me and my students. This post is a little peek into my mini-lessons, anchor charts, and mentor texts that I love! I posted them in the order that I usually teach each lesson, however you can change them around to make it work for you and your group of writers! For each lesson I shared an example of an anchor chart! In my classroom, I always prepped the anchor charts with the title and an image first, but added the content WITH my students during the mini-lesson!  The books that I have posted are linked to my Amazon affiliate store. If you purchase them through the link, I will receive a small commission!

This might just be one of the most important lessons to launch Writer's Workshop because it explains exactly what it is and what students can expect from their teacher and their own expectations. This is always the very first lesson that I teach when beginning Writer's Workshop and I love using the pie chart as a great visual! I begin this mini lesson using the book Arthur Writes a Story to get my little writers thinking about writing! 

After we complete the large anchor chart together, my students completed their own mini-anchor chart to glue in their writer's notebooks! I love using these mini-anchor charts because my students can reference them at anytime, even if the large anchor chart is not visible in our classroom anymore! 

After this lesson, I continue to follow this model for our writing instruction each and everyday! The independent writing time is always the most important and longest part of our writing time! 

For the next mini-lesson, we discuss WHAT writers actually write! Some groups do a great job at brainstorming different types of writing, while others need a little push! This would be a great mini-lesson to bring out different types of writing to show your little writers! Think cookbooks, Christmas cards, printed e-mails, grocery lists, newspapers, magazines, etc. You can put all these items in a basket to have your writers explore independently, or pull them out while you are making your list as a class! 

After creating a list as a class, students can either create their own list OR they can simply glue in a similar list into their writer's notebooks or folders!

This is another important mini-lesson! It really allows your little writers to think about WHY writers write and why they should write!  I love using the book Author A True Story by Helen Lester because it is a story from an author's point of view and allows writers to hear why an actual author chose to write!

In my experience, sometimes writers have a difficult time determining WHY they write and might need some guidance to brainstorm ideas for the anchor chart!

This particular mini-lesson sets up your expectations for HOW students behave during Writer's Workshop. Using the book Ralph Tells a Story, you can show students what not to do during writing time. This really allows them to brainstorm ideas of what they should be doing during writing! 

I always teach this lesson right after the {What Good Writers Do} lesson because it always focuses on writing behaviors. For this particular lesson, I reference back to Ralph Tells a Story to help my writers determine what writing should look like, sound like, and feel like in our classroom! 

For this mini-lesson, I always ask my writers what our classroom would look like, sound like, and feel like if one of our administrators walked into our classroom during writing time. Depending on your class and group of writers, you could complete this in one lesson or split it up into three different lessons! 

This particular mini-lesson discusses the tools that writers need in order to write. I'm going to be honest, if I'm struggling with time this is probably the first lesson that I would cut out because you could also discuss it in the What Good Writers Do mini-lesson. But, this is a good lesson to go over all the tools that your students can use in your classroom and your expectations for using them. Writing journals or folders? Pencils, erasers, pens for editing? Extra graphic organizers, writing pages? Writing prompts? Word wall or personal dictionaries? There are TONS of writing tools for the writers in your classroom! It's really important to talk about your expectations and even discuss with your writers how they should set up their writing journal or folder! It's common for little writers to not able to keep their belongings organized, so this is a great lesson to really focus on that! 

Using the book The Day the Crayons Quit is a fun book to use for this lesson because you talk about what would happen if you didn't have access to certain writing tools! 

"Mrs. Dills, I'm done!" If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that statement, I would probably own my own island! I don't know what it is, but at the beginnin writers always think they are completely finished as soon as they finish with one writing piece! This anchor chart stays up in my classroom for a very long time and I reference it A LOT! 

This book is a great story to read for this mini-lesson because they are SUPER short stories and allows you to discuss how writers could add lots of details to complete their story!. 

Then, you could discuss what else writers could do when they think they are done! Because of course, they've really just begun! 

In my first and second grade classroom, it was very common for my writers to freeze when they couldn't spell a word correctly- especially at the beginning of the year! Some would ask how to spell the word and some would just sit there and not write anything else! This mini-lesson really focuses on stretching out their words the best that they can instead of focusing on spelling the word perfectly. For this mini-lesson, I don't read a mentor text but instead I really focus on modeling how to stretch out words by listening for each sound and then writing them down. 

I go over each step with the students and then model writing my own story using this strategy. 

There are times that my writers still have a difficult time stretching out words for their writing, so during this lesson I also give them a personal dictionary. I didn't have a word wall in my classroom, but instead each of my students received a personal dictionary to keep in their desks. I like printing this 2 pages to a sheet and allowing them to keep it in a pocket in the back of their writing journals or folder! 

And FINALLY, it's time to really dig into story writing! I absolutely LOVE hearing from my little story tellers and I really look forward to teaching them HOW to write a story! This can definitely be broken into multiple days if you want to focus on modeling each step! However, it can easily be taught in one lesson! A Squiggly Story is such a fun little book about a little boy that is learning how to express himself, just like your writers as they learn how to write a story! 

This is another important anchor chart that I refer back to a lot during my writing instruction. A lot of times writers want to skip right to the writing part, but it's important for them to realize that there is a process! This is a great introductory lesson to the writing process for your little learners! I model this a lot in my classroom! 

This lesson really focuses on allowing students to come up with their own ideas for writing. I teach this after the {How to Write a Story} lesson because then I can really focus in on the first point, which is thinking of an idea! I like to reference the book Ralph Tells a Story again because the character in that book really struggled with thinking of an idea to write. The character in The Best Story has a similar problem, but she figures out that she should write from her heart! 

After reading the book, we talk about what is in our heart. Then, we talk about maps and their purpose. It would be really great to show students a picture of an actual map during this lesson! Then, I begin creating my own heart map and have students create their heart maps to keep in their writing journals to use throughout the year! 

Oh my goodness! I always, always, always have writers that get stuck or frozen and just don't know what to do! Stuck is the cutest book about a little boy whose kite gets stuck in a tree and he is determined to get it out! 

For this mini-lesson, I really like having my students brainstorm ideas for what they can do when they get stuck during writing time! So the anchor chart will look different each year because it really depends on the ideas that the group comes up with! Then, during independent writing time my students get to practice using those ideas if they get stuck! 

This might be one of my FAVORITE writing mini-lessons, which is crazy because not a lot of writing actually takes place! This mini-lesson shows the importance of illustrations and having them match your words! All of these book options are great because they have very little or no words at all, and students have to look at each illustration to tell the story. 

For this particular mini-lesson, I did not create an actual anchor chart with the students. Instead, I drew a simple picture and had students tell me what was happening in MY story! Then, my writers had to do the same thing! I had their return to their desks and they drew a detailed illustration. Afterwards, in pairs, students had to look at each other's illustrations and try to explain what was happening just from their drawings. This really helped them see the importance of their illustrations! 

To introduce the Writing Process, I like reading the book Rocket Writes a Story and discussing each part with my writers.  Of course, this is truly just an introduction and students will not go through the entire writing process in one lesson! However, it is good that they have an understanding of each component and are aware of the process as they begin their writing units! 

I allow my writers to glue this mini-anchor chart into their writing notebooks so they always have a visual reminder of the writing process even if it is not currently displayed in our classroom!

After students have an understanding of the writing process, we spend more time on how writers can fix or "fancy" their writing using the book Fancy Nancy

Although we go over editing and revising in a mini-lesson, this is definitely not the last time that my writers are introduced to this concept. I model editing and revising throughout the entire year and they have A LOT of practice working independently, with writing partners, and during writing conferences! 

For these lesson ideas in one easy FREE document, click here or the images below!

For the mini-anchor charts click here or the picture below!

For the personal dictionary click here or the picture below!

For the FREE writing notebook cover and dividers, get the password to my Resource Library here! Or click on the image below to get the password emailed to you!

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    For all of the subject covers click here or the image below!

    For the books click here or the image below for my Amazon Affiliate storefront!

    How do YOU launch Writer's Workshop in your classroom!? I hope this post gave you some ideas for your classroom! 

    If you want to save these ideas for later, make sure to pin the image below!


    1. Excellent! A clear sequence and excellent resources. Thank you!

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    5. Hi! Thank you so much for this useful blog! I bought the mini anchor charts from tpt and love them so much. :) I was using the free writer's workshop folder covers but they won't download now. :( Is there a way to get those so I can give my kiddos fresh copies?! Thanks!!!

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