"I can't write because I don't have a pencil."

It's that time of year. It's time to revisit, revise, or maybe even reinvent your writing workshop procedures. I actually love this time of year. I like getting back into the meat of workshop. Right now, I'm feeling a bit annoyed with elaborate units of study. Especially when it feels like the teacher, myself included, is talking a lot and the kids are writing too little. 

In one classroom I'm working in, the teacher and the kids redesigned the writing center. New paper, pencils, sticky notes, and stapler. The students, along with their teacher, decided how it should be set up, maintained, and how abusers would be dealt with. The kids love it and it has increased their independence.

 Procedures for using items, especially the stapler need to be modeled and practiced over and over. And then there is the pencil issue. Do yourself and the kids a favor and establish how to sharpen, when to sharpen, and what to do if a writer doesn't have a pencil. Take the time to figure out procedures you can live with. Accept that you will have to revisit and practice procedures numerous times. That is just the way it is. Without practical routines, workshop doesn't work.

A writing center doesn't need to be fancy, nor the items in it. But it is a critical element in creating a writing workshop that focuses on the work of writing. Having a writing center, even a small one, communicates how a teacher regards the work of writing. And keep it simple. A writing center should be a tool to help students build agency not a chaotic mess that requires the teacher to leave a conference and shoo kids back to their seats. Writers want and like tools. I like my tools. I have my preferences and so do kids.

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