While balancing the structure of Writing Workshop is often a focus in the the early stages of becoming a workshop teacher, teachers need to next look next to the intention behind their instruction during the independent work time. This is where your strongest tools- conferring and small group instruction- are being used. It is during conferring and small group instruction that we are differentiating instruction and preparing writers to grow their own writing skills and craft because we are teaching them the strategies they need now and can draw from not just in one piece of writing but any time they write.
Think about this time with writers while conferring and pulling small groups as providing the right kind of support for individuals. The skills taught with your own writing in the minilesson are on or even slightly above grade level. It provides opportunities for exposure to higher level skills and rigor. But expecting mastery or even growth from this level for every student is unrealistic. They still need the exposure to the on grade level work and rigor, which is why the minilesson is such a small chunk of time. Once they move to the independent work time, they need differentiated instruction and time to practice and grow from that place. Think about it in terms of weight training. If doing curls with say 25 pound weights is considered “on grade level” does that mean it’s appropriate to hand 25 pound weights to every student and say, “Have at it!” Of course not. Some will need to start with learning form and building up from 5lbs, others, 8lbs, others 10lbs, and some may even need 30lbs. That is the power and beauty of conferring and small group. It is meeting writers where they are and providing the specific instruction they need to grow from that point.
.What does this look like and how do teachers prepare for this work? These two videos focus on bringing intentional instruction to conferring and small groups.