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Writing Workshop

The Essential Guide

Writing Workshop reveals what a potent tool the writing workshop can be for empowering young writers, providing everything a teacher needs to get the writing workshop up and running. In clear language, Ralph and Joann explain the simple principles that underlie the writing workshop and explore the major components that make it work.

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Full Description
Is the writing workshop the only way to teach writing? No. There are a variety of approaches or programs, but none of them matches the writing workshop when it comes to growing strong writers. That's why, despite the pressures of testing, the writing workshop has endured and even flourished in thousands of schools across the country.

Today we face a time when as many as ten million new teachers are entering the profession. It is for these teachers, and others who are unfamiliar with writing workshop, that Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi wrote this book—as a way to introduce and explain the writing workshop . . . to reveal what a potent tool the writing workshop can be for empowering young writers.

Above all Writing Workshop is a practical book, providing everything a teacher needs to get the writing workshop up and running. In clear language, Fletcher and Portalupi explain the simple principles that underlie the writing workshop and explore the major components that make it work. Each chapter addresses an essential element, then suggests five or six specific things a teacher can do to implement the idea under discussion. There's also a separate chapter entitled "What About Skills," which shows how to effectively teach skills in the context of writing. The book closes with practical forms in the appendixes to ensure that the workshop runs smoothly.

Fletcher and Portalupi's twenty-plus years working with teachers have convinced them that there is no better way to teach writing. This important book is the culmination of all their years of effort, a synthesis of their best thinking on the subject.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


1. The Writing Workshop
2. The Essentials of Time and Space
3. Short-Term Goals
4. Launching the Workshop
5. Conferring with Young Writers
6. The Writing Cycle
7. Literature in the Writing Workshop
8. What About Skills?
9. Assessment and Evaluation
10. Troubleshooting
11. Yearlong Horizons
12. A Few Last Words
A. Unfinished-Writing-Folder Form
B. Unfinished-Writing-Folder Alternate Form
C. Unfinished-Writing-Folder Conference Notes Form
D. Unfinished-Writing-Folder Alternate Teacher's Notes Form
E. Finished-Folder Contents Form
F. Finished-Folder Self-Evaluation Form
G. Books to Read Early in the Year
H. Strategies for Teaching Spelling
I. Record Sheet Form
J. Read-Aloud Response Form
K. Editing Checklist Form
L. Skills to Include on an Editing Checklist
M. Assessing Growth in Primary Writers
N. Assessing Growth in Elementary and Intermediate Writers
O. Self-Evaluation Form
P. Quarterly Inventory Form

In Depth

Instead of trying to write an encyclopedic, everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know book about writing workshop, we have worked hard to boil the subject down to the essentials. We wove in theory when it seemed appropriate to explain the roots of a particular idea. But we kept our focus on writing the practical book that would clearly show how any teacher could implement this approach.

In the first short chapter, we bring in several different examples to give you the feel of a writing workshop. After that we slow the book down and provide chapters that give an in-depth look at particular aspects of the workshop – time and space, writing conferences, the writing cycle, and so forth.

It is instructive to take apart a watch and closely examine all those shiny gears and springs. But there is always the danger that you’ll never be able to get all the pieces back together again. Our goal is to leave you with a sense of the writing workshop in its entirety, ticking, humming.

The writing workshop is not foolproof. Unless you are very luck, chances are you will run into particular bogs or glitches as you get started. We troubleshoot these potential potholes in Chapter 10. The Appendixes consist of a number of practical forms and other resources that we have found useful in making the workshop run smoothly.

Is this book “workshop in a box”? Yes and no. We have tried to provide the most important tools you’ll need to get your workshop up and running. But there are a few ingredients we cannot provide, and the most important one of these is you, the teacher. Your passion, patience, humor, your faith in the writers you work with, will be crucial to making your writing workshop come alive.

Writing is tremendously important. Every one of our students will need to travel down the long road of written communication as we enter the twenty-first century. Our twenty-plus years of working with teachers has convinced us that the writing workshop gives our students the very best tools to move confidently down that road. This book is the culmination of our efforts, a synthesis of our best thinking on this idea. We invite you to travel down the road with us as we explore together a potent tool for empowering young writers.


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Email if you would like to contact Ralph Fletcher directly about professional development support.


Email if you would like to contact JoAnn Portalupi directly about professional development support.