Launching Writers Workshop so Students Don't See Writing as a Chore

Have you experienced students who see writing as a task or chore that must be completed for school purposes? Are you dreading another year where students don’t “buy in” to writers workshop? Another year where your students STRUGGLE to become independent writers who trust themselves to come up with ideas, push through the hard parts, and get excited about what they are creating?

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It can be tough to change students’ attitudes about writing, especially if they have had bad experiences in the past. But, I believe that you can create positive attitudes about writing from the start—-and if you set aside the time to do so,  getting more of your students to write and enjoy it will be less of a struggle.


I launch my writer’s workshop with a unit called “Penciling in a Worthwhile Writing Life.” It is designed exactly like my Building a Reading Life unit for Reader’s Workshop. During this unit, I include read alouds about the writer’s life, quotations that show students how other writers feel, and journal prompts {like the one I’m sharing with you today} that prompt minilessons and class discussions that allow me to gain insight into students’ experiences and attitudes towards writing.


In the teacher's note in "Penciling in" a ^Worthwhile Writing Life, I share the main endeavor of this unit:

"You might be wondering how you can inspire your students to believe they are writers this year, and in turn, help them become invested in improving their writing abilities. First, I want to remind you that for some of us, writing can be difficult depending on what our worries are. (Who's going to read this? What will they think about it? Am I spelling this right? Does it sound good? What will someone think of me if I actually write this down? Does this only make sense to me?--any of these questions might make a young writer freeze up before getting out their wonderful ideas.)

We can help students by teaching them that writing is a gift. Writing has something to offer me in my own life.

Just like jogging or walking (where I receive a positive way to deal with my stress, create more work-life balance, and reap health benefits), WORTHWHILE writing provides positive benefits. Not to mention, being able to look back on something we have written is a gift to our future selves.

This is the LOVE of writing perspective that we can express to our students. As a safe love of writing grows, other aspects will surely grow too--grammar, spelling, neatness, etc.—”

It is so important that we set the foundation for students to see writing as a GIFT, a good use of our time, and something that we WILL HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE ABOUT THIS YEAR!  

How do I launch this LOVE of WRITING unit to help students see that having a wonderful writing life is WORTH their time?! 

With a minilesson focused on “What Writing Gives Us”! The purpose of this lesson is to set the stage for motivating students to have a new (or even better) relationship with writing. I ask them to develop an attitude that writing is worthwhile. What better way to do that then to spark their ideas about how writing can be a gift!

Materials

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  • Anne Lamott quotation poster, “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises….the act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

  • Anne Lamott quotation cut out for student journals

  • “Writing Gives Us” Journal Prompt and Anchor Chart

NOTE: I think it’s important for you to personally think through why writing is meaningful, worthwhile, and important to you before leading this lesson; what does (or could) writing give YOU? Being able to answer this will allow you to be more passionate as you have this discussion with your students. {But if you are in a time crunch, I’ve shared some ideas on the sample anchor chart—you can just add new ones that come to mind!}

The Minilesson: What Writing Gives Us

1) In readers’ workshop, we are learning how to build our “best reading lives.” Did you know that we can decide to “build the best” of anything we want to in our lives? We can think about what we love about a topic or thing we have to do, think about the struggles and challenges we face when trying to do that thing, and we can decide that we will care about having that thing in our lives. We can decide that we will put our best effort into making it the best it can be.

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2) Well, writing is something that I LOVE to teach and really enjoy doing. But I know it is not always this way for everyone. Today, I just want us to take some time to consider why we might want to focus on having a love of writing this year.

3) One of my favorite adult authors (who has also written a lot about how to be a writer) once said “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

4) Can you believe that? Anne Lamott thinks that writing has something to GIVE US! She says “the act of writing” is it’s own REWARD! Wow! It sounds like she has a good relationship with writing and being a writer.

5) You know what? I really enjoy writing too! I can think of many positive benefits that being able to write with enjoyment gives me. Let’s spend some time today thinking about how this can be possible. How is it possible that writing is a gift?  What does writing give us? What could writing give you? What has it given you in the past?

6) Give students 5-10 minutes to brainstorm their thoughts in their journals using the “Writing Gives Us” journal page.

7) After students brainstorm in their journals, ask volunteers to share their thoughts as you record them on the class anchor chart titled “Writing Gives Us…”

8) Tell students they’ve just created an amazing list! You can see how writing can be considered a gift and you can tell from their ideas that they can see it too. You’ll want to refer back to this chart throughout the unit and see if students have any new ideas to add.

Sample Responses for Anchor Chart

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In your free download, I’ve included sample responses to “What Writing Gives Us…” You can use these to spark your own ideas and have them handy in case students get stuck when sharing theirs.

We must urge students to see writing as less of an assignment or chore and instead see how it can provide a meaningful outlet for coping with life’s difficulties, how it helps connect us to the world around us, how it serves as a way for us to discover our identities, allows us to capture memories and feelings, to make sense of our world, celebrate important moments, to express gratitude, and to share our knowledge with others.

It’s as SIMPLE as running this minilesson to launch your “Penciling in a Writing Life Unit” (or just your writer’s workshop in general) with your mind set on inspiring your students to take on a love of writing this year!

A few more reasons you want to implement this lesson and a “Penciling in a Worthwhile Writing Life Unit”

While it is important for students to see the value in writing from an academic standpoint, it is important for me to help students to realize the role writing can play in their social and emotional development, self-expression, and creativity.  It is also a wonderful subject to use to help them develop perseverance and a growth mindset as they see their talents and abilities grow throughout the writing process and across the year.

Writing, in another sense, also gives us AMAZING stories and literature to read and nonfiction texts to learn from. Don’t forget to make the connection that in order for us to be readers, we must have writers!

Can you tell I get PASSIONATE about writing?? And, I actually enjoy being a writer myself (even if it’s just creating blog posts!)

So, I aim to help my students see that writing is a gift to them too--like being able to talk, taste food, have a heart do the beating for us, lungs that breathe in fresh air, to hear the sounds of music or laughter, to feel the warmth of a handshake, writing is one of our human abilities that we are lucky to have!

Having my first units in writing and reading workshop really relieves the stress of planning my minlessons for the first few weeks of school. I hope this post has inspired you to set aside time to help your students to BUILD and PENCIL IN a worthwhile writing life this year!

As I get to know my students, I can pick and choose the minilessons, journal prompts, and quotations that will be most beneficial for my students as we establish our academic expectations and community.

Don’t forget to grab your free download of this minilesson, the quotation, student journal prompt, and anchor part chart! The work is done for you!

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You can grab the full “Penciling in a Writing Life” kit for launching writer’s workshop in my TPT store. I’ve also got a complementary unit for reading called “Building a Reading Life.” Both of these can be grabbed as a set in the bundle or with other literacy resources in the mega bundle! Click any of the images to check them out!