So maybe you love workshop, and you did it all the time back when life felt normal, and you miss teaching through workshop now in your hybrid or online setting. Or maybe you’ve heard about workshop and always wondered if you’d like teaching that way. Well, good news! Today on the pod I’m welcoming Amanda Werner, workshop pro, to teach us how to use workshop to keep things simple, give kids choice, and allow for a consistent working structure online. You’ll be amazed at just how easy it can be to implement digital writing workshop with Amanda’s tips.
Listen in on the player below or on your favorite podcast app of choice. Or, read on for the written highlights.
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The Basics of Workshop Structure
Writing workshop is highly student-centered. It allows for lots of student choice, and in many ways, it’s the simplest way to go about teaching English, ideal for this present moment.
Here’s how a class is generally laid out:
1. Mini-Lesson (10 Minutes): introduce the topic of the day, share mentor texts and writing activities.
2. Work time: students write with you alongside them conferencing and helping when they need you.
3. Wrap-Up / Closure: bring everyone back together, potentially have students share some work or let them know next steps.
An Easy Transition to Digital
It’s a great time to be teaching workshop and giving students choice. And workshop translates beautifully online.
You can easily pre-record your mini-lessons to share with students. Then you can keep things simple and predictable for everyone’s sanity.
After they watch your mini-lesson, give students lots of different options for what to write. Set up a Google Slide with different options for brainstorming or diving right in, and then link digital mentor texts for students to explore before they begin writing. As they approach the workshop segment of class, they get to choose what to write, how to write it, and how carefully to examine mentor texts. That’s a lot of choice!
Try using Google Forms to check in with students at the end of class. Have kids share a favorite part of their writing or answer an open-ended question as they finish working. Then they have a chance to reflect and share, rather than just document that yes, they did the work, to check off a box.
Amanda recommends the book, Point-Less, by Sarah Zerwin, for helpful ideas on feedback and check-ins for student writers.
Digital Check-Ins & Conferencing
Everything right now is an experiment! Be honest with students about this. Try out new systems and you can always change them if they need tweaking.
It’s not easy right now to have small group and one-on-one meetings. But you can let kids come to you with things they want to work on. Use consistent rubrics from the beginning of your workshop units so that when kids come to you they can point to something specific they’re struggling with and need help with. This will make your conferences more productive.
You can also check in with students via their Google Docs, watching their writing process live and commenting back and forth. Teach them not to hit “resolve” on comments so the conversation continues.
Finally, you might try assigning writing partners who can work together and share ideas during the writing process.
Trying out Workshop without Switching Fully to the Method
You can use a lot from the workshop method whether or not you want to become a fully workshop teacher. Try quick recorded ten minute mini-lessons. Or choice writing boards with linked mentor texts. Or digital notebooks for regular writing. So many choices! Or you can jump in and try workshop for a full unit and then take what you love about it and tap back into that as you move forward into other types of units.
Connect with Amanda Werner of Amanda Write Now
Learn about mentor texts, mini-lessons, workshop set-up and much more on Amanda’s Website.
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