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Helpful Tips to Integrate Grammar in Writing Workshop

By Rhonda Stewart on January 24, 2014
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

The workshop model is based on the philosophy of the teacher being the facilitator. I teach (teacher demonstrates/models mini-lesson), we do (students practice the strategy with the teacher or with each other), and then you do (releasing the student to work independently). I am very comfortable with this model. My students have the opportunity to try out skills I taught with their literacy partners. While they are working in their partnerships, I can quickly assess through partner talks who will need my help when I release them to work independently. This allows for those who did not need my direct instruction to go off and work, while I re-teach a skill to those who may have struggled.

The Writing Process

The writing process has about five steps. The steps may have different labels such as:

  • Planning, Drafting, Revising, Editing, Publishing

  • Outline, Draft, Revise, Edit, Publish

  • Pre-Writing, Drafting, Revision, Editing, Publish

For those who are using the Teacher’s College (TCRWP) format, there are some differences. That process is:

  • Immersion, Gathering Entries, Choosing a Seed Idea, Developing the Seed Idea, Drafting, Revising, Publishing, Celebration

No matter which process you use, the common denominators throughout take you from drafting to publishing. There may be different labels, but the process and end result are the same: students must create a genre-specific writing piece with proficiency. 

 

Fitting In Grammar

There has been more than one occasion during my department meetings with my colleagues where we discuss the units of study. One of the” hot topics” that always leads to very engaging conversation is grammar. My colleagues and I are constantly on a quest to find the best way to integrate grammar into writing workshop. There is a school of thought that you should not teach grammar in writing workshop until the editing process. I think it would be impossible however, to teach all the rules of grammar if grammar were only taught at that point.

So where and how to maximize literacy instruction to include grammar is the burning question. I am still in search mode, but have found these to be extremely helpful:

Student Writing Conferences — This is where you can differentiate instruction to meet the student’s needs using their own writing. I use my student’s notebooks to get a sense of what I need to coach during conferencing. Take a look at my post on "Creating a Reader's/Writer's Toolkit" and then the one on using the toolkit to know what resources you should have accessible at a moment’s notice. If I notice that a majority of my students are having struggles with the same grammatical concept, it becomes a lesson for the entire class.

  

Sample resources I use during conferring.

Anchor Charts — A well-placed anchor chart reinforces instruction and promotes independence amongst my students. There are some anchor charts that can live in the classroom all year and there are some that are unit-specific. My students are encouraged to refer to the charts for guidance.

 

This lives in my classroom for each writing unit.

 

  

I borrowed this eye-catching chart from Chelsea Kimmel, who also teaches sixth grade in my building. It reinforces grammar rules and is a great resource for students to tap into without me having to re-teach. What a time saver!
 

Writing Center Resources — Students are able to access materials from the writing center as needed. The materials range from dictionaries, thesaurus, student writing samples, mentor texts, and our latest addition: bulletin board aids. 

                                               
 

Writing Partners — Students are given an opportunity to work with their partners to improve their writing as well as to assist one another. This process is an invaluable tool as there are some students who learn better from their peers.

My students are my writing partners. They get to observe my style/method of writing. I must admit, it is not pretty when I'm writing. I write with this frenzy to get the thoughts down. I'm so afraid I'm going to forget something. In this process my students have learned to be my editors. I often find that they are really thorough when it comes to reviewing my writing and I am often pleasantly surprised that they own what’s being taught. I just wish that they would be as thorough with their writing as they are with mine.

Do you have any tips that work well in your classroom? Please share!

 

Comments (2)

This post really speaks to me. I see, in so many schools, the desire to teach grammar and word study in isolation, but research supports doing it within a writing curriculum, a writing process. I'm drawn to teaching it throughout the process- embedding it within one Unit, and then across many. I really appreciate your ideas about using conferences and partnerships for some of this. I think partnerships are so underutilized in so many workshops... Keep these ideas coming!

I think the writing process is a curious concept which, for the digital age, needs a revision. Back in the paper and pencil days, the outline - draft etc process was a useful construct and widely followed. But, in the digital days, many of us (including me... now... as I write this comment) use the drafting process as part of brainstorming. I am most comfortable and efficient with these steps:
1. Typing/drafting out my initial reaction
2. Reviewing my writing for logic, flow, missing items, and unnecessary detail.
3. Sometimes, as this stage, I outline.
4. Revise though copy and paste
5. Review and publish

At Time4Writing (which I founded and run), we still teach students using the traditional five step model but we are considering an update. Have you seen anyone who has talked about how drafting and brainstorming on a word processor are a useful first step?

I like the TCRWP model but it seems more related to research-based writing and doesn't address how, I think, technology changes the writing process.

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