Getting the Writing Workshop Area Ready
One of the things that jumped out for me from all the reading I was doing about writing workshops is that it is important to have a space, routine and materials completely ready to go. We had always fit in writing pell-mell whenever it fit in to our homeschool day. I wanted there to be a designated space (both physically and mentally) for our writing time. There is one section of our homeschool room that was a dumping ground for “stuff” ever since we moved in. It was an area hidden behind the chair next to our bookshelves that was hidden from view of the entrance area. There was unsorted stuff there still from our move from Australia as of this summer!! As I looked and assessed where the writing could take place, that area seemed natural. If I cleared it out… then there was some place to “go” — I could move a book display shelf there to house some of the mentor texts we’d borrow from the library, plus there would be plenty of space for my newly acquired writing resource books (more about those in another post).
This summer I showed the transformation of that space from a huge disaster (made worse of course as I sorted through things–picture on the left) to an actual usable space (on the right).
Another important point that jumped out from my readings was that materials all needed to be ON HAND. No searching for pencils, no hunting for an eraser, colored pencil or writing paper, writing journal and so forth. So, I gathered all the necessary supplies — and even though there is a spot for these materials other places in our homeschool room, I made sure that we had another set of writing supplies fully stocked in that area. We always need 4 pencils since ALL of us write… so I stocked it with 20 sharpened pencils!! (The pencils ALWAYS walk away, so I keep a close eye to make sure there are more than plenty of pencils at all times!)
My homeschooling friend and I were in deep discussions about the writing workshop this summer (she bought that same book I mentioned in the first post — No more “I’m Done”) and she didn’t create a physical space as I did, but created a portable writing caddy that really works well for her family.
So what do we have in the writing workshop area? I’ll list them all out, even if it seems pretty obvious:
- colored pencils
- post-it notes – I have these on hand so we can easily mark pages we want to refer to… or passages in mentor texts that we want to highlight (an especially descriptive passage or whatever).
- a date stamp — I had NO IDEA how incredibly important this would be!! The kids always date their work with it and it really helps organize their work. My youngest (age 5) would definitely not have written the date each and every time. It takes that hassle (of getting them to date their work) out of the equation… and its’ fun! We got a self-inking date stamp. (affiliate link) It’s easy to change the date (you press it down to flip it over and see what date it reads). Anyway, I don’t know much about date stamps but we’re happy with the one we got!
- writing journals — Many teachers suggested using plain notebook paper, but it really works better for our family to have those cheap marble writing notebooks that you find in Target or Walmart. ED (age 5) has a primary writing journal that leaves a large space at the top for her to draw pictures. It keeps our writing all together. The papers don’t get torn out of a 3-ringed binder and they kids spend a lot of time re-reading their own stories.
- scrapbook drawers — I came upon some scrapbook bins at Joann once that seemed like they’d be useful. They snap closed and slide back into place. These were perfect for our writing workshop area because there are three drawers and three kids and they don’t take up a lot of room. The kids have several notebooks in there — their writing journals and their spelling notebooks. It also has dividers on the top where I store the pencils, date stamp, post notes, etc. I looked and looked for a link to give you, but couldn’t find anything. I got our bins 50% off a year or two ago, so maybe the colored cases were discontinued?
- writing workshop materials — I spent a lot of time reading, researching, taking notes and finally compiling a set of materials to use with the kids. Some of the sheets I laminated and slid under the bookshelf for easy reference… like the 6 writing traits, what to do when you’re stuck… and I put the entire set of materials into a notebook for easy reference. I find that making my own materials helps me put everything together in my head. I did not use these materials from the first page to the last, but pull things out as I need them. It has been a work in progress (thus, my reluctance to share it on the blog since I was continually adding things, changing things up… I guess I’m more or less ready to share it… and then update it perhaps in the future as things change. I’ll save that for another post, though, so I can explain in more detail what I made and why.
- language arts books we use (and have in our writing workshop area) — All About Spelling (spelling), Editor in Chief (editing work for punctuation, capital letters, etc.), Write Source Workbooks (grammar) and various literature books (see more at this language arts post)
- Banish Boring Words (affiliate link)– I got this a while back and I’m so glad I did! The kids refer to this pretty often. It’s essentially like a thesaurus… to help them find better words that “went” or “said” and so forth.
- writing resource books — I also have a whole bunch of new resource materials that I keep on hand and refer to or re-read pretty often. Again, there’s so much to say about those that I will save that for another post.
So there we go… I think I’ve said about as much as there is to say about creating our homeschool writing workshop space and gathering the materials we need each day. The last thing to add is that this has made a HUGE difference to the way writing goes. Once we enter that space, we all know it’s writing time and somehow we center down and get to the task at hand.
The next post will talk a bit more about the actual rhythm of our writing workshop… what we do each day… and what some of the mini-lessons entail. And, I promise there’ll be a post about the writing resource books I have read (and recommend) and also a post to share the various writing workshop materials I made (a packet of 25 pages or so). So, it looks like there are at least 3 or 4 more posts to come in this series!
Do you want to learn more about starting your own Homeschool Writing Workshop? Here are some related posts:
- Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing program
- 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.
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!
We’d love to hear what you’re doing for writing and what works well for you.