photo of teacherLiving the Life of a Reader and Writer

, Barrett Elementary
Morgan Hill, CA

Setting Norms: Rituals and Routines to support the Workshop Approach Readers and Writers Workshop Touchstone Texts: Revisiting Favorite Books for New Lessons

Where do I teach?

What are my students learning?

Teaching Practice
What's my approach?

Student Work






In writers workshop, Noyce has given us the national standards, and there are certain genre studies that we have to have published for the portfolio, and that we turn in. For second grade, I need to have them publish a narrative, a procedural piece, a functional piece of writing, which can be like letter-writing, an informational piece, and a response to literature. Noyce wants us to do that for the portfolios that we submit to them at the end of the school year.  We also have three on-demand pieces of writing.   This is just for second grade.

Then we have the national standards, and the national standards show each genre study. If they want to be meeting grade-level standards, their narrative needs to have a setting, characters, shows movement through time, they have to use transitional words or phrases, all of those things must be in place.  My mini-lessons are built all around those national standards. 

I know a lot of people say, standards to them is kind of a “bad word” almost.  But for me, I’m able to do readers and writers workshop, and be creative in my mini-lessons, and meet all of the second grade standards, as well, embedded in there.  That is really what drives our instruction.  But through the way, we teach them how to be thinkers.  It’s not like, we’re giving them “drill and kill” worksheets (as we call them.)

Let’s say that one of the standards is “You need to have a setting in your story.”  For my student who maybe is below grade level, maybe for them their setting consists of one word—“the beach”—“I was at the beach”—in their story. Or maybe, for my kid who’s above grade level, in my conferencing I can move them into giving more specific details.  I struggled with this for a long time because I have a huge number of second language learners in my classroom.  And I came to my principal and I said, “These standards are ridiculous for kids who are just starting to learn our language!”  and it was then that she said, “But don’t you know that we have the second language learner standards as well.” And I didn’t know that.  So there’s another set of standards: they’re very similar, but at the same time, depending on their SEP level, if they’re right there, then I know, that’s where I need to take them. If they need to be pushed, then I push them.  And that’s the beauty of the workshop, is I’m able to push them, conference with them one on one, so not everyone is.. even though we’re in a genre study, if I showed you the different levels of writing they produce, it’s amazing.  And what’s on grade level for one, might not be for the other. But that’s okay, because it’s what they can do.

When I look at the standards, I include the national standards, the California standards, and then maybe even our report card standards, and then I can plug in a genre study that my team and I have created together based on those standards.  I don’t look at the standards and say, “Okay.  Setting, plunk, here.” That’s not the way it works. We created these units, these genre studies, with an order. Sometimes, though, we’ll plan together and we’ll say, “Okay, we’re going to be working on this this week, with five mini-lessons,” and then the team will meet back together and we’ll say, “wow, our kids did really not do well crafting a story, focusing in on a small moment.  They really are struggling with that. So you know what, I need to spend another day or two on that.”  That’s what I like about the workshop format.  Because if you need a little bit more time, it’s really geared for the kids’ needs.  So I’m not on a particular page on a particular day, it’s “This is where we are in the workshop right now, and they need to get here, so and so’s struggling, he might need to spend another day on it, and that’s okay.” 




Site last updated November 3, 2005