Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1

UPDATE: We have moved to homeschoolden.com. You will find the other posts in this series there.

For the past six months, I’ve been alluding to the fact that we have really changed the way we approach writing.  Part of me has been wanting to write a post for ages, but I just wasn’t quite sure where to start.  Time to jump in!

First, a little background.  LD has always been a reluctant writer. When he was K-1, we worked a lot on handwriting and copywork. We also did some narration, but he was very reluctant to write much.  We dabbled with some well known (homeschool) writing curriculums, writing prompts, but none of that really worked. I’d still hear, “I don’t know what to write. It’s too hard. I can’t think of anything.”  We found a spelling program (called All About Spelling), that really helped. We’ve also done a fair bit with writing mechanics, grammar and things like that. But, we still hadn’t found our groove with writing itself.

The change in our approach all started when I read No More “I’m Done” Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades by Jennifer Jacobson.  The opening described a classroom writing scene. Students were given a writing prompt… “Describe your pet” … Jacobson then described the chaos that ensued. Someone didn’t have a pet. Someone wondered if they could write about a pet they wished they had. Someone couldn’t find a pencil. It took a long time to settle in. They wrote the minimum and then there was a chorus of “I’m done!!” I had honestly been there in our homeschool writing… the whining of not having any clue what to write… taking 10 minutes to drag themselves across the room to find a pencil…

Then Jacobson went on to describe a workshop model… starting with a mini-lesson and then moving on to writing time where the students reread yesterday’s writing, made additions and corrections or added more material or began writing a new piece.  The kids picked up where they had left off the day before and the entire class wasn’t doing the exact same thing.

“AH-HAH!” I shouted in my head. This is what I need… especially since I have such diverse ages.  I have a 5 year old that is just barely learning to write. A 7 year old that loves to write. And a 10 year old that doesn’t like writing and is struggling to find his own voice. It sounded GREAT!  Tell me more!!

So, I reached out to learn from other experts in the field… veteran writing teachers who had been in the classroom for years! Thank goodness they’ve shared their expertise with all of us!!!  I have spent the past six months reading (and reading and reading) and learning from those teachers — Jennifer Jacobson, Ruth Culham, Melissa Forney, Barbara Mariconda and others.

Now, some of you may have heard all this as common knowledge, but I hadn’t heard of many of these ideas/techniques for teaching writing before…

The 6+1 writing traits…

The six writing traits were developed by some classroom teachers who looked at the skills students need to learn and improve upon as they learned to write. These are some of the characteristics of writing and they provide a framework for assessing and teaching about writing.  What are they?

  • Ideas
  • Organization
  • Word Choice
  • Voice
  • Sentence Fluency
  • Conventions
  • Presentation
Here’s one of the charts I made for our writing workshop (it’s laminated and I refer to it pretty regularly). I’ll be sharing a huge 20 or 30 page packet of various writing materials I’ve made for our writing workshop in another post.

Why are the 6+1 Traits useful? Well, you can touch upon mini-lessons… and then encourage the kids to incorporate that into their current writing project. That in combination with using “mentor texts” in our writing workshop time has provided the framework for our writing time.

 I have so much more to write, but will have to save that for another post!

Other Posts in this Series (We have moved to homeschoolden.com):

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  1. [...] writing resource books — I also have a whole bunch of new resource materials that I keep on hand and refer to or re-read pretty often. Again, there’s so much to say about those that I will save that for another post. So there we go… I think I’ve said about as much as there is to say about creating our homeschool writing workshop space and gathering the materials we need each day.  The last thing to add is that this has made a HUGE difference to the way writing goes.  Once we enter that space, we all know it’s writing time and somehow we center down and get to the task at hand. The next post will talk a bit more about the actual rhythm of our writing workshop… what we do each day… and what some of the mini-lessons entail.  And, I promise there’ll be a post about the writing resource books I have read (and recommend) and also a post to share the various writing workshop materials I made (a packet of 25 pages or so).  So, it looks like there are at least 3 or 4 more posts to come in this series! Don’t Miss the Previous Post in this Series: Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our wri… [...]

  2. [...] In the first post in this series, I explained how we had dabbled in writing, but had never found a “program” or curriculum that worked well for us.  I found some expert advice from primary classroom teachers, though, and set about creating a workshop that works for our family. I learned about the 6+1 writing traits (the basic qualities that make writing work) and about using mini-lessons to cover some of the basic writing characteristics (which include: ideas, organization, word choice, voice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation).  I read through a lot of books written by experienced teachers who shared some of the Mini-Lessons and writing ideas that worked for them in the classroom.   [...]

  3. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop — Post #1: How and Why We Got Started with a Workshop Model. [...]

  4. [...] LD jumped right in to writing this week… not a complaint or a groan.  :) This is a big step forward even from the beginning of the year. The writing workshop model works SO well for us now!! (If you want to read more about that you can read my series: Creating a Writing Workshop.) [...]

  5. [...] can read this series on Creating a Writing Workshop to see how/why we came up with this model and how it works in our [...]

  6. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop Add a Comment [...]

  7. by Writing Workshop: Dr. Seuss Style | The Homeschool Den

    On January 17, 2014 at 5:16 am

    [...] on to read the other four stories in that book.  For our writing workshop (see more about our homeschool writing workshop here), I had the kids try writing in the style of Dr. Seuss. LD groaned and said he can’t rhyme [...]

  8. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing pro… [...]

  9. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing pro… [...]

  10. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing pro… [...]

  11. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing pro… [...]

  12. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing pro… [...]

  13. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing pro… [...]

  14. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing pro… [...]

  15. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – Post #1 — How/Why we needed a change in our writing pro… [...]

  16. [...] area.  (The kids and I write together every day… and you can see pictures of our “writing workshop area at the bottom of this post.). This wood forward facing book display was about $55 from Amazon. [...]

  17. [...] talk about some of the things we covered this year… everything from really diving into the Writing Workshop for the first time to our huge units on India, Gandhi, the Civil Rights Movement and China… [...]

  18. [...] About Spelling: Even though ED has been writing with us for the past year in our homeschool writing workshop, I held off from starting a formal spelling program until this semester.  Once we started, though, [...]

  19. [...] your own writing workshop: A series I did about how and why we started using a writing workshop format. Click here to see some of the Writing Workshop Lessons we [...]

  20. [...] Creating a Homeschool Writing Workshop – This is the first in a long series (of about 10 or 12 posts) about how our homeschool writing workshop works. [...]

  21. [...] talk about some of the things we covered this year… everything from really diving into the Writing Workshop for the first time to our huge units on India, Gandhi, the Civil Rights Movement and China… [...]