Hopping Into Writers' Workshop this Fall July 17 2009

Teaching writers’ workshop and life cycles (frog, butterfly, bird or plant) is a great way to begin or solidify your instruction of writers’ workshop. This fun class project will clarify your students’ understanding of the writing process, the elements of a story and the life cycles.

The Experts & Free Printouts

Many teachers are already aware of the wealth of knowledge in the book, Scaffolding Young Writers by Linda J. Dorn and Carla Soffos. This book can be a valuable resource for your instruction.  As you skim this article, you'll notice 4 free printouts under "Getting Started & Supplies List".

[caption id="attachment_946" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Download our free Life Cycle of a Frog Printout for your kids to decorate or use as an overhead transparency!"]Download our free Life Cycle of a Frog Printout for your kids to decorate or use as an overhead transparency![/caption]

Creating Your Own Writers' Workshop Design

When I first started teaching, I began to compile all the information (books and the wisdom of teaching colleagues) I learned about writers' workshop. As you know, all teachers have their own style of teaching writers' workshop.  Here's a quick overview of a fun and exciting way to begin your instruction of writers' workshop this fall.

Back-to-School Surprise Pet

If you begin your project in the fall, you may enjoy having a surprise classroom pet arrive. I had the students write in their daily journals the morning before the surprise pet arrived. “I think that our surprise classroom pet will be…”


The anticipation and excitement will build overnight and they’ll be thrilled about the lesson the next morning. I also told my students to search our classroom website for clues. For my clue, I put a frog jumping across the top of each page of our classroom website. www.teacherweb.com has an animated graphic of a jumping frog to use, if you choose to get a website from them. An alternative is to send home a classroom newsletter with a frog or tadpole on it.

When I surprised my students with frogs the next morning to jump start the writers’ workshop lesson, they were thrilled and ready to learn. It’s possible to find frog eggs in ponds over the summer and save them for the fall in a large glass aquarium. If the tadpoles emerge it will still be fun to see them go through metamorphosis as they become frogs. I bought the tiny, aquatic African frogs from the pet store for my class.

This summer, I used a large net to fish tadpole eggs out of a pond and the tadpoles are now beginning to get large enough to see. The eggs may be a bit boring, so I think it might be more fun to start with either tadpoles or frogs. Starting with larger tadpoles or frogs can work out really well. The little frogs may even create a batch of eggs.  (This activity can also be done without the classroom pets.)

Getting Started & Supplies List

1. Set aside at least 45 minutes each day for writers’ workshop.

2. Make overhead transparencies, a classroom bulletin board and or copies of the following:

3. Students organize writers' workshop materials in a large book pouch.

Each student will need:

  • Book Pouches (Large) used to hold all writers' workshop supplies
  • Pencil, eraser and sharpener
  • Writing Words Books
  • Economy Exercise Workbook
  • Construction Paper (Staple the workbook pages inside the construction paper when the story is complete.  2 per student.)
  • Binders (To fill with each of the above handouts, drafts and completed stories.)
  • Classroom Word Wall

4. Create a lesson each day using each one of the free printouts (see #2 above) as a flexible guide.

For example, your teaching plan could look like this:

Day 1 – Introduce classroom pet and review the Life Cycle of a Frog handout/coloring page. Children study and color the handout after you explain it on the overhead. Introduce new words to the word wall (egg, tadpole, frog and any other you find necessary.)

Day 2 – Explain classroom procedures during writers’ workshop. Show students the writers’ workshop bags & supplies. Explain the classroom procedures for using the word wall, writing words books and briefly overview the writing process.

Day 3 – Students compile all supplies into the writers’ workshop bags (book pouches).

Day 4 – Give a lesson on the Writing Process. (See handout as a guide.)

Day 5 – Briefly review the Writing Process again. Give a lesson on the Elements of a Story (See handout as a guide).

Day 6 – Introduce the Story Writing Prewriting Web on the overhead. Fill it out while looking at the Life Cycle of a Frog. Number each line and explain that each line will be one page in the book that they make. Each page will have writing and a picture.

Day 7 – Students write a draft of their story in their workbooks. Each student will have one page of text and a picture for each line of the story web. Making a copy of the workbook page and creating an example of the first page of the book will help the students understand what to do on their own. Explain that after you see their draft you want them to ask a friend to proofread it. After a friend proofreads the story, you will also proofread it. After all corrections are made they can copy their draft onto a new paper and begin the book making process. They will use the same type of workbook paper.

Day 8 – It will take several days for the students to complete the draft. During this time you may want to give a lesson on how to edit and proofread work. The rest of your writers’ workshop lessons depend upon your teaching style and the needs of your students.

Sharing Your Writers' Workshop Ideas

Please share any ideas you have about writers' workshop below.

Extension Activities

  • Spring - You can have butterfly larvae arrive in time for sunny weather.
  • Winter - Students grow and measure their own bean plant.  This can be done at any time of year.
  • Technology - Students bring their finished books to the computer lab and make a slide show presentations of their books (e.g. Kid Pix). Parents will love to see these slide show presentations during Open House or parent/teacher conferences.

Copyright 2009, Teaching Resource Center

Designed by Carol Brooke