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Setting Up Writer's Workshop



I'm excited to share with you how I set up Writer's Workshop in my classroom! There are a few must have resources that are key to establishing a great start to the school year. I've broken it down into three main components. It's all about the creating the perfect space, setting up organization, and student partnerships!  

SPACE

By now I'm sure you've already thought about the best space for your writer's workshop materials and anchor charts. I believe writing and reading go hand in hand so I personally feel they are best next to each other. You may feel definitely of course and that's okay!  It's important that you have ownership over your classroom setup. Often times anchor charts correlate and it's beneficial to see them as one literacy space. Therefore, I have also positioned them perfectly in our classroom library. You'll want to ensure there is enough space for plenty of anchor charts.



In addition to ample space for anchor charts, I display writing process posters for my students. Our school uses a writer's workshop curriculum that is adapted from Lucy Calkin's.  These stages will align to that curriculum, as well as one that you may be implementing on your own. I have seen many variations of "writing stages" online and I found a system that works for me. Although students are working independently, we are moving through the writing stages together as a class. Therefore, we have one close pin that is clipped onto the name of the stage and we move to it. This allows students to know the status of the class during independent writing time.



The clip is moved during my mini-lesson. If you use a curriculum similar to Lucy Caulkins, please note that after choosing, we move back to revising and editing before moving to publishing and celebrating



The writing process posters come together in a bundle that includes many options to match your classroom color scheme. The black line version can be printed on colored cardstock. 


Lastly, I am sure to include a space for materials in a student centered friendly environment. You may notice the student writing choice papers and materials are located next to their book bins away from the classroom library. This allows for a smoother transition away from the mini-lesson space. Students can retrieve their materials on their way to the desks without having to step on any little firstie fingers or toes!


ORGANIZATION

Before the start of the year, I set up student writing portfolios. These portfolios are home to all of their published writing pieces. They are meant to be a tool in helping you communicate and share with families what we are doing in the classroom.

For our writing curriculum, we have a new unit each month. Students write ("collect") different pieces throughout the month during our writing process and then choose one to publish and celebrate at the unit. After the unit is completed, I place student writing pieces in their respective writing portfolios. 


In the editable document, you can add the unit title and month that correlates to your curriculum. Students can go home and share their published piece with their families. Parents are encouraged to write a message in the comments notes highlighting their student's successes. They will keep their writing in the folder and return it back to school until the next month.


You can use the student checklist to check when students return the portfolio in order to keep track of who still needs to return it before the next month. The sticker chart can be used two ways. Students can celebrate by placing a sticker in the sticker chart for each published piece their complete. Another option is one I choose to do each year. 


At the end of the year, we have a big publishing party by taking our writing portfolio and sharing it in partnerships. Students feel so proud of themselves after looking back on all their growth throughout the year. After reading in partnerships, students get to choose stickers to place in their "Write On" sticker chart before taking them home for the year.




These Student Writing Portfolios are available in color and black line versions in my TPT here. They in a Powerpoint document in order to add student names. They are stapled to manilla folders for use. 

STUDENT PARTNERSHIPS

Student partnerships play a significant role in the success of writer's workshop. After working independently, students meet with a partner to complete "partner writing." My first year of teaching, I gave student complete autonomy when it came to this stage of the lesson. However, I noticed that perhaps this structure was not supporting students to use this time to their fullest potential.
As a result, I created a resource that holds students accountable during writer's workshop, while still giving them a choice. My Partner Editing Checklist can be found in my store here. It includes two options, a vertical and horizontal version, as well as writing paper choices.

Each student has their own "Write On!" booklet of multiple copies of the partner editing checklist. The partners each take turns providing evidence of how they helping their writing buddy that day. The editing checklist provides students with talking stems to ensure positive and constructive feedback, as well as a way to differentiate for primary learners.


They keep this Write On! booklet in their Writer's Workshop folder and it quickly becomes a daily routine. Every once and a while I collect their booklets and use it as a way to assess and inform my instruction! I highly recommend this tool to boost partner writing in your classroom! 


I hope this post left you feeling excited about setting up Writer's Workshop in your classroom this year! Feel free to reach out if you have any further questions!



Hosting a Back to School Night


Back-to-school night can be one of the most nerve wracking events of the school year! There's a classroom full of parents waiting to meet you and you're doing your best to make a great first impression! I'm sharing with you some inspiration and tips to host a stress free back-to-school night.

TIP 1: PREP WORK

I find that if I do as much prep work in advance as possible, the least amount of stress and pressure I am feeling the day of back-to-school night. Once I get my class list (usually not until at the very end of the summer), I am busy updating my files with new names and years. While I am working in my classroom during during the summer, I copy, label, cut and sort for the big night!

Each year I have distributed informational flip-books to families. I find it to be very effective. They are eye catching, while also secretly storing a large amount of important information! I use the flip-book product from Learning In Wonderland. You can find more information on where to purchase it and how to set it up here.  Maria Gavin also has shared a free template to create your own personalized flip-book. You can find more information about it on her blog here



However you choose to organize and present your information, a great tip is to print it on various hues of bright colored paper. This will grab the parent's attention and it will be harder to lose the most important information in the "back to school" shuffle of papers. 

I find Astrobrights to have the best color combinations! Keep an eye out for low prices all summer long on Amazon.  You can find this assortment pack of 150 sheets on sale now here



In addition to the flip-book, I provide families with a 2-pocket folder found in a pack here on Amazon. During my presentation, I encourage parents to keep this folder in a special safe place in their home. I explain it is intended to be home to any papers that leave their child's take home folder. Therefore, parents can keep all our classroom information that comes home in one safe place. 

In the picture below, you can see all materials are also labeled with each child's name. Often times parents can feel a little crowded in our classroom space and may move their child's materials to a different place in the classroom during the presentation. I wanted to be sure there was no mix up between materials. As I mentioned before, I have a file for my class list labels that I update as soon as I get my class list each year. Another tip: I print many extra copies of the class list on labels at the beginning of the year, that way I always have extras on hand if any child comes in with supplies without their name. They are printed on Avery 5160 labels found here



TIP 2: PERMISSIONS & SIGNATURES

I can imagine that parents often times feel overwhelmed if they are given too much information sent home in their child's backpacks at the start of the year. I try to send home just enough information the first few days for parents and students to feel comfortable and confident for a great start to the school year! 

At back-to-school night, I do my best to thoroughly go over the routines and procedures for both the students and parents during my presentation. This addresses everything including homework, birthdays, notes, dismissal... you name it! This allows parents the opportunity to ask questions if needed. 

While parents are in your classroom, it's the perfect time to get their prompt response. I set out any important papers that need to be filled out, signed and returned. By doing this at back-to-school night, I usually have a 100% return rate by the end of the night! This includes parent volunteer forms, classroom permissions, etc. 

You can find these forms and more in my Back to School Forms and Letter pack on TPT here

TIP 3: CLASSROOM COMMUNITY

Establishing a positive classroom community with parents is just as important as establishing it with your class. At back-to-school night, I welcome parents with a fall themed display and mints as a thank you for their com-"mint"-ment. There are so many great ideas online and on Pinterest! You can find the "Thank you for your com-"mint"-ment" printable here



This display is usually in front of our "Classroom Promises." I like parents to feel the comfort of our close knit community as a class. It's also super cute to see their portrait creations. :)



Last year, I chose to have an "apple themed" back-to-school night. I turned the apple craftivity from First and Kinder Blue Skies into a card that students wrote for their parents. Jen is fabulous, I love all her stuff!! 


Inside the apple, they each wrote the most precious note to their parents. I loved reading all their sweet responses. As I write this post now, it reminds me of how long and hard they have to work in order to complete just this one simple craft. They grow so much in first grade and it's amazing to remember how and where they started. 


This letter has my whole heart! :) 

     
I also display a "giving tree" for parents to pull an "apple of the tree" as a way to have supplies donated  to our class. I attempted a "chalk board" look for the apples to match the com-"mint"-ment sign.  You can find these Giving Tree printables for free in my store here.  I also display it with the book "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, which happens to be a gift from a family in the years past. This year I hope to make a more detailed tree with paper and laminate it for the future. Drawing a tree with Expo marker is more difficult than it looks. :)

I hope this post inspired you to prepare for a stress free back-to-school night! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post below. Good luck this year, you will be great!!