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Nuts & Bolts: Kim Oldenburgh's Multiage Writing Workshop

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Multiage Writing Workshop

by Kim Oldenburgh

In January of 1998 Kim Oldenburgh posted on the national multiage listserve a description of her writing workshop. It is a fantastic way to structure a writing program in a primary multiage classroom. With her permission I have reposted it here.


I do a writing workshop with my 1-2-3 multiage. They all work independently on self chosen topics. Each day, I do a mini-lesson (usually about 5-15 minutes) about a topic that I have observed from students writing that needs to be addressed. Examples of my latest mini-lessons: using a friend's name and I or me. Many were writing me and John went to the store, so we made a chart of how to use I and me and always have your friends name first. Another day, we did a minilesson on using was and were. Others: commas in a series, using a and an, capitalization rules, punctuation, paragraphs, good leads, story maps, using a thesaurus, etc............

After the mini-lesson they each go wherever they want to in the room to write, many prefer a clipboard and the rug, some go to tables. The olders have to show me their story map before they proceed with their story - this allows me to guide them through their story and it allows them to tell their story before they actually write it.

When they finish their stoies, usually they work on one story for a week or so, they have to conference with a buddy before they can come to me. When they buddy conference, they take 3 post-it notes. Their buddy has to write 1 good thing about their story on 1 and 2 wishes on the other 2. The author has to try to incorporate 1 wish before conferencing with me. When they are ready to conference with me, they have to be able to tell me what they need from me, and all words that they are sure are not dictionary spelling must be circled. I usually do a revision conference, then after they revise, I do an editing conference, they publish their story - many like a book form, then they share with their classmates.

We do writing for one hour each day, and most days it begins with the mini-lesson, they write for about 45-50 minutes, then they all share what they have written that day - this gives the other students an opportunity to give them feedback. They seem to respect their peers' ideas.

The youngers have a small frame that they plan their story with. It is a paper with 3 boxes on it and 3 lines by each box. In the boxes, they draw what will happen first, second, and last. They also write a few words beside their drawing to remind them what they have drawn. They go through the same writing process as the olders do.

When I am not conferencing, I am roaming the room with my clipboard and sticky notes, I have kids read me what they have written and somedays I am able to jot down some quick observations - that's where my mini-lessons come from, I can also get mini-lesson ideas from their sharing time.

Some weeks, I have them fill out skill sheets to be sure they are not "slacking off" with their conventions. They have sheets at their level and they have to check off their writing that they did that day. A 1st grader's skills sheet looks something like this right now:

I wrote at least 4 sentences,
I used capital letters at the beginning of my sentences and for all proper nouns,
I used punctuation,
Extras: I used quotation marks to show people talking,
I used rich language.

They also have a space on the bottom for Friday that says:

This is what I noticed about my writing this week__________, and next week I can work on _____________.

Sometimes students are required to write in a certain genre, but most of the time, each student is writing about their own topic, their choice. I love writing time, choice allows my students to progress at their own level.

Kim Oldenburgh
mhayward@telplus.net

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