I’ve hosted a writer’s workshop in our home. A writer’s workshop is a time for writers to gather together and share their work. Sometimes workshops hold a mini lesson and give participants time to write and some, like ours, encourages writers to bring pieces they’ve already written to be shared during the workshop. Our workshop is based on the model from the book Workshops Work by Patricia Zaballos.
Writer’s Workshop with the Workshops Work Model
The book explains the benefits of doing a writer’s workshop with kids along with the nuts and bolts of putting a workshop together. I was convinced from the moment I started reading the book and aimed to invite kids to join us this fall. We are a success!
The book is divided into two sections: The Workshop itself – how it works and what to do and The Toolbox- resources and information you can use during a workshop.
- The first half is all about what a writer’s workshop is and how this type of workshop is beneficial.
- Blueprint –Readers are given a blueprint or plan for how to carry out the workshop time and many tips for the facilitator.
- What to Write? There are ideas for what kids can bring to the workshop to share- everything from lists to short stories and things in between.
- Feedback– there is an entire chapter on teaching kids how to give feedback to their peers. As the facilitator, I try not to offer my feedback, especially not first but to help the kids give specific feedback to the reader.
- Details– Patricia offers ideas on details like how long to meet and where. Plus, she shares how to spend the time together and what kids should bring.
- Culminating Activities– After many months of meeting together, it is nice to have some way of wrapping up the year. I’ll be approaching my kids about this very soon so we have time to pull it together- whether we want to make a book of some samples of the kids who participated or choose another way to remember our time together along with our writing.
- Crash Course in Literature– just some reminders of what makes good writing to share with the kids and have on hand when kids need feedback ideas.
- Ideas for Explorations– Part of the workshop structure is to have a mini-exercise to split up the sharing time. The kids in my workshop LOVE the explorations. In fact, these kids love it so much they beg to take one home. Since it automatically provides a reading piece for participants, I give them the “homework” they ask for. The book provides a great starting place for ideas.
- Writer’s Notebook/Be a Writer– there is information on keeping a writer’s notebook throughout the book which is such a valuable piece to the book. I had my kids put together their writer’s notebooks on the first day. I have enjoyed watching them fill up with their own writing and our explorations. I have found that having meaningful conversations about writing happens when I write too. I do the explorations with the kids and I talk about my writing with them.
- Resources– Another wonderful chapter lists out reading material for the facilitator. I shared some of these resources at Blog, She Wrote. These are not to be missed if you have kids who love to write or are so-so. My own children love to pour through them.
Success with Writer’s Workshop
It only took a few meetings to see that our workshop was a total success. We meet on the first and third Wednesdays of each month and the kids pleaded to meet on the fifth Wednesday when they come up so they don’t have to go two weeks without meeting.
We have a group of about 8 kids ranging in age from 8-15 yrs old. They love to hear from one another. They encourage each other. Kids who brought one story will eagerly bring the next installment after being asked what happens next.
Not all of our kids are writing geniuses. Some bring mostly school writing assignments. Others are very talented and the other kids- young and old love to listen and learn from them. Some only bring a few sentences or a simple list to share and they are given specific, positive feedback from others which makes them want to come and read again.
This is a homeschool highlight for us this year. I can’t think of anything else I do that brings such a big return on such a small investment of time and energy.
You will find this book encouraging and empowering for work with kids and their writing. It has been worth every moment of my time investment to see kids excited to share their own writing and to hear them encourage their peers to write.
~ Heather Woodie: Blog, She Wrote
Originally published 2014