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Writing Workshop: Practice & Processes for Grades K–6

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!

Planning, Thinking, Drafting, Editing, Publishing

Most writing workshop instruction aligns to a 3-part lesson structure.

  • Minilesson
  • Independent Writing
  • Sharing & Reflecting

There’s a combination of whole-group, small-group, individual, and 1:1 work occurring each day.

Independent Writing in Writing Workshop: What’s REALLY Going On?

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.

  • Students are working independently in their chosen writing locations.
  • Teachers are rotating around the classroom to meet with students or hosting 1:1 conferences at a fixed spot.
  • Small groups of students are meeting to discuss shared issues, evaluate progress, and revisit mentor texts.

The sections below explore two key parts of writing workshop that usually take place during independent writing time.

Child writing on board

Conferences and Conferring
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-Group Instruction
Small groups make a big difference! Maximize group instruction by identifying shared areas where students need improvement.

  • Those new to writing workshop will find actionable tips to incorporate these elements of instruction into your classroom.
  • Experienced workshop teachers might find some new ideas to reenergize your current approach and enjoy input from fellow workshop practitioners!

Minilessons & Sharing in Writing Workshop: Whole-Class Instruction

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.

Keep an eye on the clock! While it’s tempting to spend a lot of time on the minilesson, it’s just an opening to transition to writing workshop and set the expectations for the next 40–50 minutes.

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.

Teacher in classroom
Today During Writing Workshop, I... Felt comftorable sharing an opinion. Found a new way to apply a craft move. Brainstormed some great ideas. Used proofreading marks. Solved a problem with my piece. Participated in a small-group conference.

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.

Conferences and Conferring During Writing Workshop

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?

  • Teachers and students talk 1:1
  • Students can introduce a particular topic
  • Teachers can ask about progress
  • Teachers make notes for students to revisit after the conference

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.

Writing on whiteboard

The following assets provide practical advice for getting the most out of small-group instruction in writing workshop. Be sure to check back for additional resources.

Small-Group Instruction in Writing Workshop

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.

Check boxes with words next to them. Voice. Ideas. Conventions. Organization. Word Choice. Sentence Fluency. Presentation.

5 Ways to Use Small-Group Instruction in Writing Workshop


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.

The following assets provide practical advice for getting the most out of small-group instruction in writing workshop. Be sure to check back for additional resources.

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