Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: How to Start Writing Workshop at the Beginning of the Year

How to Start Writing Workshop at the Beginning of the Year

Lessons to help you implement writing workshop at the beginning of the year. Free lesson plans and anchor charts!

Teaching writing using a workshop model made my instruction so much more meaningful! You can read about my typical day of writing by clicking HERE. Getting the writing workshop started at the beginning of the school year can be so daunting! It doesn't have to be! Let me help you to get started!

I have some crazy BIG announcements and freebies at the end of this post- so don't skip that!

Your first week (or possibly more) of direct writing instruction should be spent teaching procedures. Before you can jump into the curriculum, you need to teach the routine. This is time well spent because it will give you more time to focus on helping your writers during the rest of the year.

Here is a look at how you can break down your first week of writing lessons.

Day 1: What will writing time look and sound like?

On the first day of writing workshop, I bring my students to the floor and I explain the three parts of each of our writing workshops: mini lesson, student work time/conferences and share time. We talk about what students will be doing during each of these times and what the teacher will be doing. Together, we make an anchor chart about what it will look and sound like during writing time. 

essons to help you implement writing workshop at the beginning of the year. Free lesson plans and anchor charts!

To keep kids engaged during this lesson I like to do lots of "turn and tell your partner...." and have them create their own anchor chart in their writing notebook.

Day 2: Writing Materials

This lesson might sound a little silly to you, but trust me on this one! When you go to grade papers or write in your planner or your journal- do you have a special type of pen that you like to use? Personally, I am obsessed with Flair pens. Most of us have a type of utensil that we prefer. So do kids! 

They will be so much more engaged and interested in writing if you give them some choice when it comes to writing utensils. So put a collection of different pens and pencils in your writing center or in community supply bins. During this lesson, give students a scratch piece of paper and have them try out the different pens and pencils until they find the one that writes the best for them. Make certain that students know where to find their materials and any rules you might have.

Day 3: Finding a Place to Write

I used to think that students needed to be at their desk when they wrote. Boy was I wrong. #again I am not all that creative when I write while sitting in a plastic chair. I prefer to write on the couch or in my bed. We can't have our class writing from bed, but we can offer them some choice.

For this lesson, decide where students can write in your classroom. Ideas include: their desk, another desk, a table, the floor, on the carpet, in a bean bag chair, etc. Do you need rules for choosing a location? Maybe there is limited space and you need to specify how many students can write in each location. I also spend time talking about how the perfect location is never right next to their best friend. That is just way too much temptation! It is also a good time to talk about what transitions will look and sound like.

essons to help you implement writing workshop at the beginning of the year. Free lesson plans and anchor charts!

I have students wader around the room and try the various spaces. They will choose the one that they like the best. Then, we practice getting our writing materials and getting to this place quickly and quietly. 

Day 4: Using Your Writing Paper

This is another one of those lessons that might make me look a a little crazy. But, this lesson will save you some headaches later in the year and just help your students to keep their drafts as neat as possible. So yes, you should teach them how to use their paper. 

Once you get the workshop started, students will do an initial draft of their piece. Then, they spend time doing revisions and edits. There has to be a place for them to put these revisions and edits. Sometimes, they are adding multiple sentences! So we need to teach a good procedure now!

I teach my students to skip lines on every draft. I also have them draw a vertical line down their paper at about 2/3 of the way across the sheet. This gives them a column to use for those future additions. 

essons to help you implement writing workshop at the beginning of the year. Free lesson plans and anchor charts!

I tell students my expectations and then I have them practice. They set up their paper and then draft a short story about something they did over the summer. I am less concerned with the story and most concerned that they get in the habit of setting up their paper be fore every draft. 

It is also a good time to practice getting their materials and getting to their chosen writing space again!

Day 5: Solving Problems

During student work time, you will be having writing conferences. It is imperative that your writers are able to work independently so that you are not being interrupted. So, on day five, I like to answer every question that they are likely to need answered later. 

What if my pencil breaks or my pen runs out of ink?
What if I can't think of anything to write about?
What if I don't understand something?
What if I have to go to the bathroom?
What if my device or computer isn't working?

essons to help you implement writing workshop at the beginning of the year. Free lesson plans and anchor charts!

Answer all of these questions now so that students are equipped to be independent problem solvers. I like to create an anchor chart and have students write the answers in their notebook too. There is no excuse for interrupting me. Unless there is a fire. That is a good reason. 

essons to help you implement writing workshop at the beginning of the year. Free lesson plans and anchor charts!

Next Steps

These are the five lessons that I start my writing workshop with. Please know that every class is different. These five lessons, may take us just five days. Other classes may need an extra day to practice getting writing materials and moving to writing places. This is fine! Take as long as your students need. Once the procedures are established and practiced, you will be able to focus on writing skills and strategies!

After you teach these routines, you are ready to start teaching actual writing mini lessons. Please note that students will still new to these routines. I recommend waiting to start writing conferences for another week or two. This gives you a chance to walk around and remind students of procedures that they may have already forgotten.

If wishes were fishes...


PSSST...This is where it gets real good!

Wouldn't it be great if someone would just take all of these ideas and write them into lesson plans? Wouldn't it be awesome if these anchor charts were pre-made so that you don't have to add one more thing to your huge back to school to do list? Wouldn't it be amazing if your students had printables for their notebooks so that they don't forget all of the procedures you are teaching? Yes, yes and YES! And that is why I did all of this for you! #yourewelcome

essons to help you implement writing workshop at the beginning of the year. Free lesson plans and anchor charts!

By signing up for my FREE writing email course you will receive lesson plans, anchor charts and student notebook printables for your first week of writing workshop. It is perfect for grades 2-4. Did I mention that it is all FREE?!

PLUS, you will get five FREE lessons on implementing a writing workshop in your classroom. This could be the year that you are the bomb digity writing teacher! Subscribe below and I will send everything to you!


You know what would be really amazing? It would knock my socks off if someone would just write all of my writing lesson plans and create all of my anchor charts and student printables. Heck, I don't even want to have to buy books to use as mentor text. I just want EVERYTHING done for me! Is that too much to ask for?

NOPE! It's not too much to ask! I've got you covered! 

My writing units include:
  • lesson plans
  • anchor charts
  • student printables
  • original mentor text passages
  • rubrics
  • exclusive videos
and a whole ton more!











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Have Not So Wimpy day!