What does a successful elementary writing workshop classroom look like? It’s vibrant and evolving: sometimes bustling with activity, other times quiet and contemplative. Generally, there’s an underlying buzz!
Most writing workshop instruction aligns to a 3-part lesson structure.
There’s a combination of whole-group, small-group, individual, and 1:1 work occurring each day.
With approximately 30–45 minutes dedicated to the independent writing of the daily lesson, there’s plenty of time for writing and conferring/small-group instruction during the independent writing component.
The sections below explore two key parts of writing workshop that usually take place during independent writing time.
Learn more about the role of the teacher and the student in conferring, different types of conferences, and how to conduct conferences within a workshop lesson.
Small groups make a big difference! Maximize group instruction by identifying shared areas where students need improvement.
Minilessons and sharing reflecting provide the bookends to the daily writing workshop lesson. These are whole-class, shared experiences that help to reinforce the spirit of community within your writing workshop classroom.
Writing workshop minilessons are an opportunity to use the mentor text/read-aloud time to introduce the day’s topic—whether it’s suggesting a new grammar concept to explore or highlighting a craft move to try.
Sharing/reflecting is the time to wrap up the day’s workshop on a positive note. Ask one or two students to share a highlight from that day’s workshop session! When establishing your workshop practices/processes, you can introduce prompts to inspire participation.
Many teachers find that using the same physical space for the minilesson and sharing/reflecting elements of the lesson signals the beginning and end of workshop time. It helps students transition mentally from one area of focus to another. For more about the importance of physical space for establishing a positive writing workshop experience, see
Building Your Elementary Workshop Classroom.
Writing conferences—often called conferring—are a key part of the writing workshop experience. Not only is it a time to assess each student’s writing, but it’s also a chance to get to know them on a personal level.
What Does Conferencing Look Like During Writing Workshop?
Conferences are an opportunity to provide support and build confidence while offering specific, targeted feedback. It’s a great example of using formative assessment to inform instruction in writing workshop.
Learn about the importance of one-on-one conferences for students and teachers, how they are structured, and six tips to get you started.
Listen in as teacher and student discuss what is working and what to focus on in this one-on-one writing conference.
Watch as two workshop teachers (including curriculum author Lynne Dorfman) talk about giving students time to think and work before conferencing.
Ask any successful K–6 writing workshop teacher and they’ll mention effective—and efficient—classroom management is one of the keys to their success.
Small-group instruction is a great way to ensure things keep humming along smoothly while meeting students’ needs.
Teach (or reteach) a concept or strategy to a select group of students who need reinforcement/remediation.
Assign students at a similar skill level or writing stage to work together.
Pair students at different levels/abilities to provide peer tutoring or mentoring.
Challenge students to work as a team to focus on a specific task or purpose.
Encourage interactive discussion around targeted questions or topics to provide a new learning experience.
Build community by mixing up small-group assignments.
During small-group instruction, students discuss what to look for and how to avoid run-on sentences in their writing.
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Interested in learning more about Jump Into Writing! writing workshop curriculum for grades 2–5?