Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1
For the past six months, I’ve been alluding to the fact that we have really changed the way we approach writing. Part of me has been wanting to write a post for ages, but I just wasn’t quite sure where to start. Time to jump in!
First, a little background. LD has always been a reluctant writer. When he was K-1, we worked a lot on handwriting and copywork. We also did some narration, but he was very reluctant to write much. We dabbled with some well known (homeschool) writing curriculums, writing prompts, but none of that really worked. I’d still hear, “I don’t know what to write. It’s too hard. I can’t think of anything.” We found a spelling program (called All About Spelling), that really helped. We’ve also done a fair bit with writing mechanics, grammar and things like that. But, we still hadn’t found our groove with writing itself.
The change in our approach all started when I read No More “I’m Done” Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades (affiliate link) by Jennifer Jacobson. The opening described a classroom writing scene. Students were given a writing prompt… “Describe your pet” … Jacobson then described the chaos that ensued. Someone didn’t have a pet. Someone wondered if they could write about a pet they wished they had. Someone couldn’t find a pencil. It took a long time to settle in. They wrote the minimum and then there was a chorus of “I’m done!!” I had honestly been there in our homeschool writing… the whining of not having any clue what to write… taking 10 minutes to drag themselves across the room to find a pencil…
Then Jacobson went on to describe a workshop model… starting with a mini-lesson and then moving on to writing time where the students reread yesterday’s writing, made additions and corrections or added more material or began writing a new piece. The kids picked up where they had left off the day before and the entire class wasn’t doing the exact same thing.
“AH-HAH!” I shouted in my head. This is what I need… especially since I have such diverse ages. I have a 5 year old that is just barely learning to write. A 7 year old that loves to write. And a 10 year old that doesn’t like writing and is struggling to find his own voice. It sounded GREAT! Tell me more!!
So, I reached out to learn from other experts in the field… veteran writing teachers who had been in the classroom for years! Thank goodness they’ve shared their expertise with all of us!!! I have spent the past six months reading (and reading and reading) and learning from those teachers — Jennifer Jacobson, Ruth Culham, Melissa Forney, Barbara Mariconda and others.
Now, some of you may have heard all this as common knowledge, but I hadn’t heard of many of these ideas/techniques for teaching writing before…
The 6+1 writing traits…
The six writing traits were developed by some classroom teachers who looked at the skills students need to learn and improve upon as they learned to write. These are some of the characteristics of writing and they provide a framework for assessing and teaching about writing. What are they?
- Word Choice
- Sentence Fluency
Why are the 6+1 Traits useful? Well, you can touch upon mini-lessons… and then encourage the kids to incorporate that into their current writing project. That in combination with using “mentor texts” in our writing workshop time has provided the framework for our writing time.
I have so much more to write, but will have to save that for another post!
Do you want to learn more about starting your own Homeschool Writing Workshop? Here are some related posts:
- Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #2: Creating a Writing Workshop Area and Materials to Have on Hand
- Creating a Writing Workshop Post #3: This post is about Mini-Lessons during writing time, mentor texts and includes reviews of 8 or 9 writing books that you might find helpful.
- Writing Resource Pack: This is a post about the 30-page pack I made for our writing workshop. Reference pages on the 6 +1 Wri ting Traits, Mini-Lessons, the types of writing, creating a powerful beginning, techniques for ending a story/paper, and so forth. (These writing resources are free to download.)
- Writing Workshop: Dr. Seuss Style: The kids and I had fun writing in the style of Dr. Seuss!
- Biography Research Paper Resource Pack
- Practical Pointers for Working with a Reluctant Writer (or any Writer)
- Writing Activity to Spark Kids’ Imagination!
- 40 Journal Writing Prompts (Free Printable)
- Animal Portfolio Project: writing, art and geography activities that go with any animals… With many activities to choose from. Writing activities include both fiction and non-fiction suggestions such as
- Write a speech or a letter to the president on why your animal needs protection in the wild.
- Menu: Create a humorous menu at a restaurant where your animals would like to eat.
- WWII Portfolio Project
- Writing Workshop: What We’re Doing for Writing this Fall
- Writing Workshop Rules! Why the Writing Workshop continues to work so well in our homeschool.
- Writing Workshop Discussion Questions: Last spring I had the kids think about some fundamental questions about writing and we had a wonderful discussion about writing in general. We went over lots of literary terms like similes, onomatopoeia, allusion, idioms… I go into more detail at that blog post and you can grab the free printable there:
Mini-Lessons to Use in a Writing Workshop:
- What makes a good book or story?
- Make your story come alive with details and description.
- Creating Interesting Characters
- Story Openings: Set the mood or feeling of your story
- Gathering story ideas from your own life
- Alliteration and more
- MiniLesson – Describing in Detai- – Additing Details Exercise – Fun Activity!(Don’t miss this one, the kids LOVED this activity!!)
- Writing Workshop: Conflict in Literature (Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, etc)
- Writing Workshop Mini-Lesson: Rules for Writing and the Story Writing Process
- Writing Workshop Mini-Lesson: Rules for Writing and the Story Writing Process — Have your kids read the Plot Chicken? We started our Writing Workshop this year off with this book. What a great buk, buk!! In fact, I liked it so much that I created a chicken writing rules printable to go along with the book!