Mentor texts should also readily be available for students to use along with the student logs for students to independently use as needed. Inquiry based learning should be evidenced through anchor charts and class projects that demonstrate learning across all content areas (Rief, 2014). Literature is brought into the classroom for a wide variety of purposes. Therefore, a well-stocked school library and classroom library are vital so that students have a choice in options of literature to explore. Picture books hold visual appeal with good high-quality illustrations including photos, pictures, diagrams, and charts (Hodges & Mathews, 2017). They come in various genres and can be readily used as mentor texts.
Independent writing time can vary with the developmental level of the students. Students often will be encouraged to self-select their writing topics, with guidance from the teacher (Calkins, 2013). Multiple forms of expression are possible especially during the early draft stages (Johansen & Cherry-Paul, 2016), including drawing (Fletcher, 2013) or digital forms of expression (Hicks, 2009; Leander, 2009). Teachers might move through the room to help students or the teacher can write while the students write. This models a love for writing. Writing time also needs to be accompanied with opportunities to share with peers and the teacher.
It should be apparent while conducting a conference that writing is understood as a process that involves continuous improvement. Anderson (2018) recommends three parts to a conference with a student during a writing workshop. First, encourage the student to talk about the writing. Second, once you find out what the student is writing and the process of decision making, determine what to teach during the conference. Conferences with students are opportunities to help with pre-writing or revising as well as with teaching of grammar in a meaningful context. Finally, end the conference with instruction that helps the student become an increasingly skilled writer. Notes kept from the conference should be specific enough to demonstrate that conferencing is being tailored for differentiation.
Critically, teachers need to be casual in tone, welcoming, and at eye level with students (Anderson, 2018) as well as present to the students through “the ability to respond with a considered and compassionate best next step” (Rogers & Raider-Roth, 2006, p. 266). During and after conferences, teachers can track patterns in the writing behaviors of students, track instructional scaffolding moves used to help a student such as guided prompts and cues or think-alouds, make goals, and plan for possible small intervention groups (Dorn & Soffos, 2001).
Figure 2: Books on display in a classroom
Teachers can have texts displayed in an engaging way, inviting student interaction. There should be co-constructed anchor charts that are developmentally appropriate in each classroom. Classrooms can be arranged to promote collaborative learning and problem solving as evidenced through literacy stations, group tables, and clusters of desks. Classrooms can have an area set-up for whole group instruction, a table to pull small groups, and either stations or student desks for independent learning in order to promote engagement in writing workshops. Classroom libraries should be organized in a developmentally appropriate and logical way that varies depending upon the grade level.
This article has described how teachers can foster the development of literacy skills through a workshop approach. We like to see a wide variety of books on display that teachers are using as part of their minilessons and that are available in the classroom libraries for students to enjoy. Workshops provide a way to address student interest and skill in writing. It takes careful planning to properly implement a writing
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Children’s Literature Cited
Baines, B. (2009). What’s in that egg: A book about life cycles. .NY: National Geographic Children’s Books.
Royston, A. (2007) See how they grow: Chicks. NY: DK Publishing.
Jennifer L. Altieri is program coordinator for the M. Ed. in Language, Literacy, and Culture in the Spadoni College of Education at Coastal Carolina University. Along with numerous articles, she has been the sole author of several books published with the International Literacy Association and Reading Science: Practical Strategies for Integrating Instruction, published with Heinemann.
*The author would like to thank both Amy Pierson, who is now a first grade teacher at Gold Hill Elementary School and Whitney Glenn, a second grade teacher at Pee Dee Elementary School for their assistance with this article.