Launching a Writer’s Workshop

Change … ahhhhhh!

It’s never easy when a supervisor or colleague asks you to change the way you teach a concept. It feels embarrassing as if you are not completing the task in the best interest of your students. However, the reality must come into play — teachers do not know everything! There are other ways to teach.


Writing has always come easy to me and teaching it is the same. I create magnificent, in my opinion, lessons which allow students to mimic styles of great writers until they form their own styles. The resources come from a plethora of locations, but it has always been me teaching at my students.

However, this week changed!

I took the “road less traveled” by teachers, and I wrote with my students as opposed to showing them writing pieces. My hope is to move them to become independent writers.

Laying the Writer’s Workshop Foundation 

I shared with my students the phrase “Writing is Hard” and “Writing is Personal.” Many of my students admitted not enjoying writing because they were not good at it and did not want to take the time to make their writing great. Unfortunately, many students I have come in contact with over the years echoed the same sentiment. Pessimistic vibes encouraged me want to have students take ownership and embrace the challenge of writing.

Personalize Writer’s Notebook. Since I knew students were going to be writing personal anecdotes and ideas in their writer’s notebook, I wanted it personalized to display their personality. The voice of writing always shine in student writing whether it be frustration, compassion, or distraught feelings. I brought a ton of photos and modeled my personalized writer’s notebook and explained to students why it was those images were important to me.

WN Personalized

Pictured is the front and back of two separate student’s writer’s notebook.

Setting up the Pages.  Everyone has a different format and pieces which are valuable in a writer’s notebook (here is a great resource I utilized). However, one of the pages I insisted on having was a dedication page for students. I wanted them to dedicate all of their hard work in the writing process to someone, similar as you would see in a novel.  In addition, other sections included: writing ideas, my writing, mini-lessons on self conferencing and peer conferencing, hooks/leads, and conclusions.  It was time consuming to setup the notebook, but it is well worth taking the time.

WN Dedication

One student dedicating her writing to her parents.


Set Goals. Writing is grueling and many students avoid it at all costs! However, I want my students to acknowledge their weaknesses and make goals to improve individually. This is why I reserved the final page of their notebook for Writing Goals. These are goals which vary by student. I have read all of their goals and discussed their goals during our mini conferences. Together, we are attempting to improve upon each goal one term at a time.

 Writer’s Notes / Mini Lessons. This section begins at the second to last page of the book and works “backwards.” Writers will fill in their My Writing as the year progresses, but we need to improve upon those goals still. Through out the year, I will include mini lessons (i.e. hooks, introductions, thesis statements, self-conferencing, peer conferencing, etc.) which are tailored to their goals. Each day is dated and references the skills needed for improvement; each student will partake in all the mini-lessons.



Conferencing. Conferencing is a major attribute throughout the Writer’s Workshop. Sometimes during the process I’ll allow students to “Make an Appointment” with me to talk over their ideas, and where they are going with their writing. I limit each conference to two minutes and never read their writing initially. My goal is to move them towards becoming an independent writer and when I read student writing sometimes I overtake it (unintentionally).


My co-teacher conferences with one of my struggling writers during our Writer's Workshop.

My co-teacher conferences with one of my struggling writers during our Writer’s Workshop.

Here is a great video of Writing Workshop guru Nancy Atwell facilitating some mini-conferences with students.


About briancookeducator

Husband, Daddy, teacher, #Mountaineer, coach, and aspiring school leader | Thoughts are my own.
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