Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

Improving the Flow of Writing Workshops

Writing is hard work, but setting up a routine and maintaining the right atmosphere makes a difference.

North American June 14, 2017

Writing is hard work, but setting up a routine and maintaining the right atmosphere makes a difference. These strategies have helped me accomplish better flow in my writing workshops.

  • Post a list of clear steps that move students through the writing process. Something general could be re-used many times, but then you have to fill in specific project details in another way.
  • Provide multiple opportunities for reflection. Students can check their work alone, then with a partner, and last with a teacher, making adjustments between each meeting. A few ways to handle this process are:
    • Have the student use one rubric to track all feedback. Have the student grade themselves with pencil, blue pen with a partner, and highlighter from the teacher. Final grading can be done in another color.
    • Use a checklist for each step of the process. There can be columns for each stage on one checklist or students could use a new blank one for each level of conference.
    • Try Rainbow Editing. It slows kids down in the editing process by using a different color to mark different elements: a red arrow for indents, orange underline on capital letters, yellow circle on punctuation, green underline on transition words, blue circle on questionable spelling, and purple circle on good word choices. Kids can do this independently, then check with a partner.
    • Teach the Feedback Sandwich for revision. The bread of this sandwich is something positive and the filling is an idea for improvement. Students can label their feedback with icons to show what they love (a heart), what could be better (a delta or a mountain), and what will leave the writer with a smile to keep working (a smiley face). A handout with sentence frames for each part facilitates respectful conversation. Tons of modeling and practice are required to get this process to a meaningful level.
    • Match students efficiently by posting two blank lists: Peer Conference and Teacher Conference. When students finish their draft, they add their name to the peer conference list. The first person waits. When the next student adds their name to the peer conference list, they cross off both their name and the one above it, and presto, a partnership is formed. After they complete their conference and makes changes, they add themselves to the Teacher Conference list. The teacher calls on students to meet from this list and then crosses off their name.
  • Plan work for students waiting for a partner or teacher conference. They can complete work that relates to the project like drawing an illustration or doing part of the publishing step, like making a title page. If computers are available, typing practice or grammar practice are good choices.
  • Include all student work in the teacher conference. Make the graphic organizer, draft, checklist, rubric, feedback notes, etc., a meaningful part of the discussion. Then, pick just one or two next steps and set a goal. Send the student away with something to do and a way to re-enter the classroom flow.

Happy Writing!

Note: Article written and posted in English


Rachel Fetroe

Rachel, MFA, is a third grade teacher in the Mountain View Whisman School District, USA. She has served as a classroom teacher for almost a decade. 

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