Organizing Writing Workshop in Kindergarten

Writing is one of my favorite times of the school day.  It grants teachers the opportunity to  witness and support authentic writing, as well as incorporate phonics skills into the mix.  Organization for this time of day is critical in order for your time with students to be effective. This post focuses on the organization of writing workshop.

If you are not organized for your writing block, you are most likely searching for the tools and resources you need for students when you could be spending those precious moments instructing at your small group table.  Writing organization includes:
  • time management
  • being prepared each day -- stress free
  • how to store writing journals & papers
  • keeping track of writing assessments
  • having something for all the other kids to do while you work with a small group
  • managing supplies & resources
  • managing behavior
  • the list goes on and on  

Let's face it, conducting small groups of any type in kindergarten can sometimes feel as though you are herding kittens.  It felt that way for me, anyway.  That's when I came up with a stress-free solution that makes our morning writing routine run like a well-oiled machine.
At the teacher table; notice the heart words and color bins of writing workshop journals behind me.

Organizing the Time Frame
In my classroom, I have four to six students at my teacher table writing, and the rest of the class is off writing daily news.  That's it.  It's that simple.  I have a set amount of time for writing each day, and we all write at the same time.

Students at the teacher table are writing within the same genre that was selected by my teaching team (opinion, personal narrative, informational, persuasive), but students choose what their story will be about and continue writing that story until it's complete.  Some kids are done in one session.  Others are still writing the same story about Christmas break in early February.  Students not sitting at my teacher table are working at their own table space and writing daily news.  I've made sure to provide many, many, many resources for students so that I can work undisturbed with my small group.  From word lists to alphabet charts, students are able to independently write at their own level each day.

In my classroom, there is no "I'm done!"  We work on writing and illustrating until the timer beeps.  This grants plenty of opportunity to add more details to both the writing and illustration portions of whatever has been written.

Writing at the Teacher Table
Students at my teacher table are writing in their official Writing Workshop Journals.  Each journal has a little clip to save the page currently being worked on, and they look like this...

One little clip will keep students focused on their most current story.

I spiral bind the journals.  It saves us space at the table because we can fold the journals in half.

Students illustrate their story on the left side and write their story on the white lines over on the right.  The gray lines are for me.  I use underwriting until I can read the story AND students can read their own writing.  I realize there is a lot of debate about dictating directly on a student's work, and I don't care.  Doing so helps me see patterns in student writing and saves me time when assessing.  We write in these journals up to spring break.  From there, we move on and begin publishing a cookbook for Mother's Day.  After Mother's Day, we publish individual books.

In late January or early February, I start using self assessment charts with students when they write at my teacher table.  Students fill out the assessment as we read through the prompts and their work together.  The chart is FREE in my TPT store and looks like this...
Download this FREE assessment chart by clicking here.

What About the Other Students?
I want to be clear that writing in our official writing journals over at my teacher table might be the highlight of writing workshop for kids.  (For some reason, they simply LOVE writing with me!  Unfortunately, they only get to do so one day a week.)  The real star of the show would be the daily news writing that's taking place with the rest of my class while I have four to six kiddos writing with me.

Daily news writing during writing workshop is a HUGE chunk of organization for me.  It takes care of what the bulk of my students are writing during that time, and it gives choice in what students are writing about.  I have noticed much higher levels of student engagement when students choose their own writing topic.  

Because of the high level of engagement, behavior management is under control.  That was absolutely not the case before I began the daily news routine a few years back.  I tried hosting writing  It was too noisy in the room.  Students at my teacher table were too distracted by all of the fun happening around the room to get any writing done.  I also tried getting everyone to write in writing journals at once...failOh, my goodness!  That was a total hot mess.  There is one of me, and all I did the entire time was run from student to student.  It was just too frustrating for everyone involved.  Writing daily news was my saving grace!  Plus, I adore reading about what they plan on doing at recess, what happened when Grandma visited, and how their dog ate something he shouldn't have eaten.  They are driven to write news because they so badly want to tell their story.

Anyway, to read more about how I use daily news writing as a way of encouraging authentic writing each day, head over to my friend Nellie's blog.  I wrote an entire guest blog post on the topic.  Basically, kids write about whatever type of news they want to write about.  That's it.  That's the hook.  I don't give them a prompt or tell them what to write.  When I let them write from the heart, they write the most amazing news stories!  I provide news writing papers that usually tie into whatever seasonal theme we have going on in the classroom.  However, I always offer news writing paper that is family and school oriented.  Again, head over to Nellie's blog to read more about daily news writing.

Our daily news options are ready for the day!

Organizing Allllllllll Those Writing Papers
I keep all papers for writing workshop organized in file jackets.  They kind of look like a file folder, but they are seamed up both sides (like a pocket).  I use these little file jackets to store each student's writing there is one for each kiddo. I also use them to store our daily news writing paper options.

Each news paper theme has a file jacket.

Here's a writing journal in a file jacket.

You might have noticed I tape a mini version of the daily news paper that lives inside the file jacket on the front.  This keeps kids from rummaging through the jacket looking at all the papers.  All they have to do is look at the file jacket and take the page they want.

The jackets that hold each student's writing journal also has my assessment chart on the front and an alphabet chart on the back.  I learned this trick from retired kindergarten teacher, Julie Lay, and it has been one of the most helpful classroom tips ever!

Having an alphabet chart on the file jacket is a HUGE time saver for students.  I do have an alphabet chart in the front of each journal, but it's totally useless.  Plus, we clip the pages to the most current writing sample, which REALLY makes the chart inside the journal inaccessible.  When kids need letter support, they spent most of their writing time flipping through their journal to access that page.  It was mind numbing to watch.  They always have their file jacket in front of them while they are at my it makes sense to put something useful on it.  I created an "important words" list off to the side of the alphabet chart to write family member names, words kids write about over and over, and a few Secret Stories phonics reminders!

I created the assessment chart to cover all of the standards I can assess from student writing journals, and I printed them at 80% so they will fit on the front of the file jacket perfectly.  Having the chart located on each file jacket keeps the assessment and grading system together.  This is a fabulous time saver for me come report card time!

I staple the assessment and alphabet charts on with my long arm stapler.  Because I am the only person taking them in and out of the small group bins each week, stapling the charts on is more than enough. 

Writing Supplies
My students have their own pencil boxes full of the supplies they need to be successful.  If they are at their own table space, they use their own pencil box.  If they are writing at my teacher table for the day, they get to use my super-awesome, special, magical writing tools (black felt tip Flair pens and scented crayons).

Writing Resources & Supplies
Some of my favorite writing resources are free, while others are not.  Typical, right?  Here are a few of my favorites, along with links to the supplies I use to prep all of my writing workshop stuff:

Wrap It Up
To sum up a really long story, we basically need either our writing journals or news papers to pull off writing workshop.  We get right to work, it's stress free for me, and it's predictable for my young learners.  For students to become independent during writing, your classroom will require a few key resources, such as sight word lists and alphabet charts. Make sure to print enough that every student can access one when needed!  Laminate them and keep them in your writing station for easy accessibility.  Post seasonal words and vocabulary words that children can find without your guidance.  Everything else falls into place super quick due to the high amount of buy-in that revolves around writing news and stories that are exclusively theirs.  

Do you love writing time...or are you looking for a new way to start the school year?  I didn't wait for a new year to begin. I kept trying until I found a system that worked for me and my students. I am so glad I found a system that has continued to work for the past three school years.  Here's to using it again!


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