By Tobias Hayden
Why have a writing station?
A writing station should support children’s independence as writers by giving them the tools they might need to solve their own writing problems. Self-regulation (knowing what to do and how to do it) is an important affective need to attend to in every writing community and supporting its development requires careful consideration.
What is in our writing station?
- A mini-lesson archive – This provides the opportunity for children to revisit any previous instruction. Currently, it is organised into eight craft areas: Being Writers, Generating Ideas, Organisation and Structure, Fluency, Clarity and Accuracy, Developing, Word Choices and Spellings.
2. A section related to goal setting – This contains: to-do lists, writing calendars, mini-lesson evaluation sheets and a selection of class project genre-booklets (these contain mentor texts and suggestions for how to navigate the writing process).
3. An area for publishing materials – At the moment, we have: line guides (narrow and wide), blank mini-books, blank speedy books, publishing menus, some stamped self-addressed envelopes (for sending out bits of writing so you can receive something in return) and publishing templates.
4. A place for revising and editing resources – Here we store: one-thousand word dictionaries, openings and endings examples and a variety of useful checklists.
5. Some pockets for idea generation – At present, we have: some ideas hearts, topic suggestion sheets, narrative arc examples and writing wheels.
How is it used?
Some children visit it all the time; others seldom do so. Why? Well, it probably depends on their particular need, and possibly their level of experience as a writer too. I often see children using it who are already successfully negotiating the writing process and know just what resource they are looking for. At other times, it functions as a supporting act to a pupil conference I might be conducting where I need to refer to something there. In this case, I always take the pupil with me to find the resource so they can remember where to find it again and become more familiar with the whole station. Frequently, children use it to teach each other which is a really pleasant aspect of being in a writing community.
As a rule, I tend not to put a resource into the writing station until I have used it as part of a mini-lesson. I also conduct a mini-lesson at the start of the year about how we will use the writing station. Like the class library, this is an area of the classroom which children enjoy taking care of. They also specialise in organising it and appreciate having their suggestions about its contents valued. You will find that there are certain items which are mainstays of this area, while others might emerge during the year based on pupil need, or sometimes demand! Why not build your own and share it too?