Workshop Wednesday: Writing Mini Lesson

I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey for another Workshop Wednesday. Today I'll be sharing a favorite writing lesson.

First, one of my favorite writer's workshop tools is the writer's notebook. It is a must have for every student in my class! I have one, too.  I made this one a few years back, but the information still holds true. I use this the first week of school to introduce myself to my students.

During the first week of school, one of my first homework assignments is for the kids to decorate their notebook. (I prefer a composition book over a spiral.)  We talk about different elements they can use. Scrapbook paper. Stickers. Clip art. Photos. Drawings. Even wrapping paper works well to cover the notebook. I suggest no "puffy" items or foam pieces. As the kids bring them in, I cover them with clear packing tape. Put the tape on vertically. If you go over the binding it doesn't work so well. I use these notebooks as our "get to know you" activity, too.

Now that they have their notebooks, we spend the first 2-3 weeks generating ideas for writing. One of my most favorite is the story map or A Map of a Place I Know Well.
I learned about story maps from my mentor, Ralph Fletcher. Here is my sister and I with Ralph in New York. We flew up there just to attend one of his workshops a few years back. 

We had dinner with him and helped him to set up the workshop for the next day. We were in HEAVEN! Meeting him and then sitting and talking "writing" over dinner was A.MA.ZING!!!

Anyway...on the plane ride up, I read his memoir Marshfield Dreams. What a great book! I use it as a mentor text. I read little snipets of it to show the kids examples of writing from life experiences. The little things make great stories.

In the beginning of the book, Ralph has a map of his neighborhood in Marshfield, where the story takes place. I show this (and my own) as an example of a story map.
I have the kids draw a map of a place they know well. It could be there own home. A home of a relative. A neighborhood like Ralph's. Any place that holds stories.

After they draw the map, they then mark the places where the stories are buried. A heart could represent a favorite place. An X could be a danger spot or secret spot. The kids can make up their own symbols. 

Once these maps are finished, the kids use them as starters for their writing. I have them tell their stories first with a partner which is another great way to practice story telling. If they can tell it, they can write it! Even though this is a beginning of the year activity for me, there's no reason you couldn't give it a try now! Let me know what you think! Happy Writing!


  1. Thanks for sharing! That's the part of the day I stink at teaching. Writing workshop is on my list of resolutions next year. I NEED to get it together!

  2. This is so great!! It made me think too, this would be a perfect activity to do with Saturdays and Teacakes because the first part of the book is the boy riding his bike through town- he names streets and neighbors and stores/gas stations... Love this!! I need to pin it! Thanks for linking up!
    ideas by jivey

  3. Those maps look so fun! I've strayed from Writer's Notebooks this year, but I'd like to get back to them next year.

  4. I love using Ralph's map to inspire my kiddos. We do it to start the year as well.
    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  5. My first graders are now at a point where I think they'd enjoy making the story maps and telling their stories from them. We already have notebooks ~ so I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for explaining it:)
    First Grade Carousel

  6. I absolutely LOVE this idea! I am pinning it for next year :) THANKS for sharing!


  7. Great idea! Love the writer's notebooks-so personal!
    Found you through the linky and now following! :O)
    Head Over Heels For Teaching


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