Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beginning of the Year Writer's Workshop

Being a kindergarten teacher is like giving birth I swear. We ALWAYS forget the process that gets them to where they are in May. It's sometimes scary when we are confronted with where they came from (in August/September)......If we remembered what they were like at the beginning of the year - we probably wouldn't agree to teach it again! Just kidding!! :0)

I'm always in shock every year to see where we are beginning. "I know we will get there! I know we will get there!" is what I continuously repeat to myself. I do love, however, hanging their writer's workshop pieces outside in the hallway. It's easy to lose sight - so I have to really focus on the work they are doing.

During writer's workshop I stop by a few children and listen to the stories they are telling. It's so important to treat everything they attempt as writing masterpieces and the most interesting stories EVER! ........"Oh my goodness - you got to cook dinner with your mom? That is so cool. I bet it was fun!" Once you add in that kind of enthusiasm, they will expand upon their current stories and all stories they draw/write.

Notice that we have not begun to talk about labeling their pictures yet. We will start that this week....EEEKKK!!! I'm excited for that!

But for now I will relish in what they ARE capable of doing! Those pictures tell us so much about what the kiddos can do AND how they see the world! It will be an exciting year!

*Currently we are still sitting at our table seats and using communal crayons and pens during Writer's Workshop. We also have our Writer's Workshop folders and continue practicing using those.

*Beginning this week - we will begin to branch out to other places to write in the room. Before I do this - they will have to have their own crayons and pens. So many routines and procedures still to learn.

I love teaching the kids how to choose a quiet place to work. When they sit at their tables it tends to be noisy and their attention isn't always on their work as you can imagine. But as we learn how to choose our writing spots - the room quiets to calm hum and we get alot more writing work accomplished!

I have also prepared my students' writing portfolios and we've already put in their first writing pieces!! Here is my Writer's Workshop Portfolio. Click Here to check it out!

This portfolio is a great way to organize a writing portfolio throughout the year by months and to keep fantastic documentation on kids' writing progress.


  1. We put out our first writing last week in honor of Labor Day just in time for Open House. The sentence started "When I grow up...", then I wrote the words "I want to be a" on the board for the students to copy. Then the hard part started. They had to write what they want to be when they grow up. It was magical to hear some of the students using the phonics we have already learned to try to write the letters in "ninja" and "princess". What was hard for me to understand is why the pictures didn't always match what they said they wanted to be. I guess this too will come in time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I'm a first year Kindergarten teacher and reading your comments as well as others are very re-assuring to me! Thank you for the great ideas!! Keep them coming!!

  3. I homeschool my son for first grade this year, but I love reading about this. He's a reluctant writer (especially just handwriting) and reader. I think I'm going to intro writer's workshop this week and see what he can do. Please keep posting what you guys are doing!

  4. I always say the same thing about how the beginning of the year is like childbirth! Lol! I too have to take things slow and remember that they will get there. I love your idea of finding a quite place in the room to write.

  5. Amen sister! It's amazing how much they grow in a year's time. I just repeat this mantra "baby steps" to get through this time. I'm ok by November.

  6. I really like this post. This is youngest group of kids I've done writers workshop (I teach K-2) and I was struggling with where to start. I chose shared writing with predictable charts using our weekly sight words such as "I can ___" Then I had the students dictate their sentence to me and I wrote it for them. Next they copied the words and illustrated a picture. My little ones don't have the confidence for inventive spelling yet and actually cried when I asked them to just try to spell a word because they don't know how to write any letters other than their name (sort of). I like your idea of labeling, that will be next on my list!

    The Lower Elementary Cottage

    1. Lisa...I begin with WW with storytelling, and I intersperse it with drawing lessons. The invitation to write is always given. Most of the kids don't try it until I begin my labeling unit. I

    2. ...too, used the Lucy Calkins units, until I made the Writer's Workshop my own. But they gave me structure. Another important read for me was the Matt Glover text, Engaging Young Writers, as well as the Katie Wood Ray text, Already Ready. Give yourself time, work hard, and you will ROCK the workshop! Sharing time should reflect on your mini-lessons, especially early in the year. The temptation is strong to skip it--don't. This is a vital part of workshop!

  7. We've been using Lucy's series for awhile and I would never go back to any dictated sentences, etc. It's a bit painful to watch all of the coloring happening at first, but it is amazing later when the kiddos begin to label, and then write sentences (or paragraphs)! I like the quiet writing area idea. I may have to try this!

  8. Coloring and drawing are vital ways 5 year olds share ideas, but after seeing what kids "grow into", with respect to their writing, it is weird, going back to square one. Again, Matt Glover's text, Engaging Young Writers, is such a fun, easy-going, yet enlightening read, I strongly recommend it. It helped me to see that, "If you can say it, you can draw it. If you can draw it, you can write it". The steps of storytelling and drawing are vital--if a child can't tell a story, he certainly can't write a story. So start at the very beginning, and you will be amazed at where they go by May!

  9. I totally hear you. I was talking to my team member about this just today. Last year a majority of my kids came in not knowing a whole lot of numbers, letters, & colors- but their fine motor skills were amazing! This year is total opposite. A good number of my kids came in knowing their letters and numbers- but tracing, coloring, and cutting are horrendous! Sigh.

    Color Me Kinder

  10. Linda - I totally agree 100% about sharing - don't skip sharing time - it is sooo important..... I do begin writer's workshop with kids drawing their stories....We don't even mention labeling (unless the child is obvious already there) until after the first 2 weeks of school...

    those drawings are a critical part of the storytelling process. When you skip drawing, kids become tempted to count how many words/pages they write and write sentences like "I like_____." Not for me....I have incredible stories that show through those pics. With the next week we will start labeling and writing beginning sounds. :0)

  11. I've heard it called "selective amnesia." I can totally relate, but they do manage to get to where they're supposed to be by the end of the year even though it's painful at times. :)
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  12. I just wrote a post on our Day One of Writing Workshop so it was serendipity when I went to read your blog - and there was your first day of Writing Workshop post. I was so happy with their sharing! I even remembered to get a few photos.

  13. DO you give them a topic or prompt? Or do they write about whatever they want? I'm new to writers workshop! I would love ideas.

  14. Hello!! I am soo interested in writer's workshop. I am very familiar with the structure but am having trouble finding time in my daily schedule :/ I do daily five which takes up a good deal of time and teach at a parochial school so have religion as well.