SOL 2016 Day 4: The Magic of Writing Workshop

This March, more than 300 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even some students), visit

“Writers, off you go.” These are my favorite words of writing workshop, the signal for young writers to leave the meeting area and return to their own notebooks. When a class is going well, and students excited about what they are writing, it is just magic. Yesterday Mr. Hagen’s sixth grade class was just such a moment.

As soon as he said those words, every student – and I mean every one – rushed back to their desks and bent low over their notebooks, pencils flying. I walked around, asking“What are you going to work on today?” Some wanted to start a new piece, others to finish up what they had already started.  But everyone was writing, writing, writing.

As an instructional coach, I’m privileged to observe in many different classrooms. This year our district is rolling out writing workshop for all grades, kindergarten through eighth grade. Coaching teachers to help them improve their writing instruction is pure joy for me. What an exciting time in my job. 

Most teachers in our district have jumped at this opportunity to change their practice, but not all. In one of our district training sessions, a teacher, skeptical that writing workshop would be better than her usual writing instruction asked, “So, you’re saying the fact that kids get a choice in what to write makes workshop so motivating?”

I wanted to exclaim, “Well, good lord, yes!” Of course, I gave her a more professional response, but was emphatic. Choice is exactly what her students would love, what they need.  It seems so obvious: let kids write about what is important to them, not to us. How can something so human and simple be so revolutionary? 

I wish that doubting teacher had been in Mr. Hagen’s sixth grade class yesterday. I’m glad I was.