Sunday, September 30, 2012

Launching the Writer's Workshop

My Kindergarten team is on our third year of using Lucy Calkins' Writer's Workshop program.  Not only do we love it, our kiddos fall head-over-heels for writing every year!  Their writing is also just incredible when using her system.
However, when I first "launched" the writing system three years ago, it was a little bit of a disaster.  Since it's just me with my 17 (which I realize is tiny compared to a lot of school districts) the kids and I ended up being incredibly frustrated when we would come back to the writing and have absolutely no idea what it said!  Lucy Calkins' suggestion of starting them drawing and labeling their experiences is great, but I found I needed a little more scaffolding.
I start the Writer's Workshop with a book called "My Friends."  It starts on the second day of school with the leader of the day being featured and the text, "This is my friend Amanda."  The students and I practice reading using a one-to-one touch on the words. We then discuss how the picture will match the words and I model drawing all of the body parts and real colors of the leader before giving them time to work.  While we work on getting through the class roster over the next few weeks, we talk about using the writing center for materials, storing writing in the folders, and adding details to their illustrations.  I interview the leader during the "meeting" part of the Writer's Workshop structure and we brainstorm ideas for details to add, such as the leader's dog, drawing her wearing her favorite color, using real hair and eye colors, etc.  Throughout the few weeks, we move away from drawing what I lovingly refer to as "spider people."  You probably see lots of "spider people" in the beginning of the year; those charming little people who have just a face, arms, legs, and possibly a Seussical hair or two. :)
I LOVE beginning my writing each year this way.  I realize it's a bit teacher-centered, but in the end, I feel like it's a solid, successful way to launch the workshop and gets a lot of them understanding the importance of adding details.  In the long run, I find their writing becomes more detail-oriented as well.
Take a look at our finished products! 

First pages

Final pages

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