Writing Workshops with fabulous kids!

Yesterday Ms Deb ( professor extraordinaire of English) and I had the best time leading writing workshops with two groups of great writers…K-2’s and 3-5’s at Herrick  District Library in Holland, MI. The workshops were part of the library summer reading/writing events for kids. The theme was Every Hero has a Story. We focused the theme on super heroes. We chose books appropriate for each age group: 

K-2 group

This choice was a hit. Some of the kids knew of this book series and of this particular title. Lots of fun talk during and following the reading. The K-2 group came to the workshop already fired up about super heroes and there was no shortage of writing ideas. They were off and running. So many wonderful drawings and stories. The sharing session was the most fun. K-2’s are rarely shy– that writing editor has yet to perch on their shoulders.  They were proud writers!! Below are images of their fabulous works. 


For the 3-5 group we chose an ABC book, shown here: 

ABC books provide expansive room for creative thought. This book had an added delight of alliterative sentences and a couple of the kids wrote an ABC list of their super hero qualities. This book choice also proved to be perfect for motivation, imagination and productive writing. With the exception of one fabulous soon to be a 6th grade writer, the share session began a bit slowly. This was an expectation of mine. The editor is firmly perched on the shoulders of this group and they are reluctant… At first. Once the sharing “ice was broken” they delighted us with their stories. Some chose for me to read for them. Others chose a friend to read. This is so natural. No matter how their works were shared they too were proud writers. Here are their works:


What I know about teaching writing that is always confirmed through experiences such as this:

Teach the writer not the writing: 

Through encouraging talk let them believe that they have everything they need to write–imagination and will. Invite them into their own worlds of thought rather than have them wondering what final product might be an expectation. When they think there is a specific product they focus on nervousness and experience writing blocks and fears. Provide a mini lesson that has a divergent quality–motivate them with your curiosity about what amazing works you know they will produce. 

Begin with where the learner is:

Some of the kids came already as writers, bringing their writer’s notebooks well into progress. Others were unsure of what to do, where to start. Honor your writers by approaching each with where they are in their concepts of themselves as writers. Give space where needed. Give suggestions where welcomed. 

Always share:

Even the kids who were reluctant at first were motivated by the sharing session and Deb and I believe all left with beaming senses of pride. Sharing gives closure to all that hard thinking and bravery to put thoughts to paper. 

Share your personal writing practices and ideas:

Talk to them as writers. Tell them what seems to work for you. Let them know that you experience the same things they do– a friend to support, a friend to listen, a motivating idea. Interject what you know about the writing process wherever you can but don’t preach it. Be interested in their individual works and talk about writing in an organic manner—as opportunities present. 

Great day for writers!!! 

Requested thoughts on writing workshop with earliest writers

Not my usual age group on this blog, but at my workshop last evening my friend (DVD) said that she has a friend who teaches first graders and she hoped maybe DVD would learn some helps for that age group. Well, it’s not likely that she did, but I do have a tried and true suggestion for K-1’s when you wish to have a writing workshop structure. In the case of the process I suggest a picture is truly worth 1,000 words, so I am adding pics as I go along. I got into old files and luckily found “Corey’s Writing Folder.” Corey was enrolled in a summer lab program that was taught by my preservice students. I wanted my students to lead writing workshops, so I launched this idea and it took off like wild fire–with all of the kids. I have since suggested it many times over the past decade.

Corey attended the lab in the summer prior to first grade. Still at the stage where his drawings tell his stories. But, during share time, his verbal skills were amazing and his stories, fascinating–and long.

So that he (and the others) would participate in an authentic writing workshop structure where the teacher time to launch the workshop is minimized and the majority of the time is spent with student engagement in authentic writing–followed by sharing sessions.

The teacher provided Corey with a two-pocket folder (no prongs). And, a stack of blank paper and writing/drawing utensils. Corey was asked (over the first few days of writing workshop) to draw one picture a day of something he loves/really likes. The teacher brought a picture she drew to begin each session. During share time, Corey and the others shared their picture of the day and told stories about their pictures. Each picture went into the left side pocket of the folder. After a week, when writing workshop began Corey was asked to remove ONE of this pictures from the pocket, close his folder, place his picture in front of him and use as much paper as he needed to “write” some story about that picture. The finished story (stories) went into the right side pocket. During share session Corey shared that story of the day.

Included below are pictures and I notate each one:


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These are the things Corey loved: sea creatures (esp sharks and dolphins), dinosaurs, his Gramma’s 3 cats and 3 dogs, the entire insect world, and going to his Gramma’s farm where he got to feed the chickens and play with all of the animals. These pictures went into the left side pocket. Corey wrote MANY stories for each picture over the course of the summer. I had to beg and wheel and deal to get him to let me have two stories. He allowed the original Dolphin story you will see below, but would only let me copy the dinosaur story, which was so elaborate! Back then, no color copiers so my copy is black and white and not so great. He let me have his original pictures–said he could draw more–but he was really proud of the stories and wouldn’t part. Awesome. So–below you will first see the dinosaur story in sequence. If it shows up please note that he has noted Beginning, Middle and End! A short dolphin story follows. Though only two pages, the story was quite elaborate.

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Corey’s open folder:


Structured in this way, the earliest writers can learn the organization of a writer’s workshop. I’ve never seen this process NOT work over many years of introducing it to teachers.

Wonderful evening with great folks

Had the honor of leading a writing workshop with a Mother-Daughter book club last evening. So inspiring for me to listen in to all the wonderful words written and shared. If you follow this blog you know who you are and thanks so much for the gifts of hearing your words. Write On!!