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Writing Workshop: What’s In Your Teacher Toolkit?

July 2, 2015 5 Comments
I am a firm believer in Lucy Calkin’s Reading and Writing Workshop and have been since the beginning of my teaching career.  I love the independence it fosters in my students and the opportunities it gives me as the teacher to work one-on-one with my students at their level.  This year,  I had the privilege of being a part of a teacher leader group through the Reading and Writing Project.  Throughout the year I was able to travel to different schools in New Jersey and meet with several other teacher leaders and an amazing staff developer from Teacher’s College.  During each session we would meet to discuss different strategies for running a reading and writing workshop in an elementary school classroom and what worked for us and what we could improve upon.  It was a true meeting of the minds. 
I’m looking forward to sharing several things that I have learned in this teacher leader group throughout different blog posts.  But, I wanted to start with one thing in particular that workshop teachers could create over the summer; the writing workshop teacher toolkit.  
Before becoming a member of this group, my conferring time with my students was not used wisely.  I would be meeting with a child for a few minutes, realize I wanted to show them an example of something, and have to run around the classroom searching for it.  When I would finally find what I was looking for, the window of time with my student had closed.  Or often I wouldn’t be able to meet with other students I had planned to conference with because I had wasted my time throwing papers around my desk.  Please tell me I am not the only one!
I knew I needed to find a more effective system!  That’s why I was so grateful for this teacher leader group who helped compile what I think is the perfect solution to maximize your conferencing time.  I hope you fall in love with this toolkit idea as much as I have!
I wanted to keep all of my materials in one place so I wouldn’t have to scramble around to find what I needed while I was conferring with a student.  Upon recommendation, I purchased this expandable file folder from Target and it was a great investment.  I am able to keep all of my materials in one place and carry it around with me while my students are writing during workshop time.  You can find these folders online at here!

Inside of the file folder, I labeled each of the sections with the name of the unit of study that I work on with my first graders throughout the school year.  I put them in order from what unit we do first all the way until the last unit of the school year. 
 Inside each section, I placed all of my materials that I would want to carry around for conferring during those units of study.  In first grade, we start with the Small Moments unit of study so that’s the section that I’ve started to prepare for the beginning of the year.  

At the front of each section of my toolkit, I’ve created brainstorm post-it pages to share with my students.  For my Small Moment unit of study, I created four quick post-its showing different small moment examples from my own life.  At the beginning of first grade it’s difficult for my students to brainstorm ideas on their own, so I loved the idea of creating simple brainstorm pages for them to refer back to.  I keep mine in my toolkit and I would like my students to keep theirs in their tool sections of their writing folders.  Simple yet effective!  My four examples show that small moment stories can happen during every day life, even if some are a little silly!   (yes, Goofy really did jump on my dad at Disney World!)

The next item in my teacher toolkit was such an aha moment for me!  Our staff developer talked about the idea of keeping anchor chart examples in your teacher toolkit to refer to with your students while you’re conferring with them.  These can be simple mini versions of anchor charts that you create with your students during mini-lessons or charts that have been taken down already.  
These are not things that should be left with students.  If you would like to leave your students a “gift” after conferring with them, you can write them a message on a post-it.  I like to leave them with little star post-its or call-outs for my “leave behinds” so my students don’t forget what we discussed during our conference.  But, these mini charts are for my reference only, that way I can reuse them each day.
These mini version are so easy to make!  Just take some colorful construction paper,  cut them in half, and copy your most used charts onto them.  Voila, the easiest reference tools ever!

This next teacher toolkit staple completely blew my mind when I heard it from our staff developer.  While conferring with my students, I always like to show examples of editing and revising.  But, it was so time consuming to have to rewrite drafts of stories after adding onto it during a conference or mini-lesson.
Instead of continuing to rewrite the same drafts over and over again, my staff developer told us to first write a very basic draft of your story with little detail and basic sentences.  Then, wait for it….make several copies of it!  
That way you can continue to reuse it without having to rewrite it.  Why I never thought of that I’ll never know!  You can show a beginning first grader writer how to get a basic sentence down on each page that explains what is happening in the picture.  If you then want to show them how to add more interesting illustrations or detailed words, you can write on it no problem.  You always have extra copies to spare!

Now, in my teacher toolkit you won’t just find a basic draft of my small moment story.  As shown in the picture above, I have taken my basic story and added a second sentence and a speech bubble to the first page.  I’ve continued to add more detail on the other pages as well.   While I still have examples of my basic story, I also keep a second draft to show my students how I might improve upon my own writing moving forward.  

The last writing example that I carry with me in my teacher toolkit is my published piece with my most detailed sentences, illustrations, and proof of editing and revising.  I want to show my students that all writers go back and revise and this is evident by showing them the process from basic draft to published piece.  

In order to remember what revisions I have made from my first draft to my published piece, I write a post-it note (have I mentioned how much I love them yet?!) on the back of my published piece detailing all the changes that I have made to my story.  This way, when I’m conferring or conducting a mini-lesson and I want to show my writers what revisions I’ve made I don’t have to rack my brain to remember what I’ve done.  From the picture above you can see that some of the revisions I’ve made and examples I can use during a conference is to add labels, make more detailed pictures, cross off sentences instead of erasing, and put yourself on all the pages in both words and my drawings.  You instantly have several teachable moments.

Another important piece that I carry with me in my teacher toolkit is a marked up copy of a mentor text that I have used previously during a mini-lesson or a read aloud that reflects the type of writing we are teaching.  For our Small Moment unit, I like to carry around Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest.  It has an adorable story and several examples of features that I want my writers to pick up on.  I mark the text up with post-its (yes, post-its again!) so I can easily find examples that I wish to share with my students.  Having a picture book right in my toolkit makes sharing examples of our mentor texts and author’s craft so easy and right at my fingertips!
The last piece that I keep in my teacher toolkit is a forever freebie in my store!  I have used several different strategies to write down my conference notes but I find that the simplest is the best.  I use this conference notes template to first record the name of the student that I’m working with.  After that, I conduct some research as to what they’re working on and where in the writing process they are.  Then, I write down my teaching point, what do I want my writer to focus on and take away from our discussion.  Finally, I quickly jot down my next steps for my student or what I want them to work on when I meet with them again.  
You can find this template in my TpT store for free here!
If you are a teacher who uses the writing workshop, I hope these tips and ideas for a teacher toolkit have been helpful.  Summer is the perfect time to start creating and organizing all of your materials, that way you’re ready to go once school starts.  These are not the only items that can be found in a teacher’s writing toolkit but I do find that they’re the most essential.  What do you keep with you while you’re conferring with your students?  Do you have a strategy to keep it all together and in one place?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Thanks so much for stopping by!  Have a great rest of your week!


  • Unknown July 3, 2015 at 12:20 am

    This past year was the first year we implemented L. Calkins' WW. I liked it a lot, but felt so disorganized. Your ideas will totally help me keep all my unit sheets together!!! Can't wait to get started on this. I brought all my papers home hoping to organize them. Now I know exactly how to do it! Do you have any upper grade teacher friends that attended the leader group? I'd love to hear what they learned, especially any 4th grade teachers!!

  • Unknown July 4, 2015 at 4:40 am

    What an informative post! I've been teaching Lucy for years and never thought to make a conferencing toolkit! I'm off to brainstorm how to use my iPad for this – THANK YOU!!!

    • Jayme July 6, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      What a great idea, Erin! I'd love to read what ideas you come up with to integrate this with some technology. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my post!

  • MyDayinK July 6, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Jayme, this is brilliant! I love the idea of a teacher toolkit. I do the same thing, where I am meeting with a student and having to run around the room searching for the supplies I need. This would help keep me organized and make our conference time more productive. Thanks for the tips! Sounds like an incredible experience to be a part of the teacher leader group. I can't wait to hear more about it!

  • Reichal June 24, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    I love this! I too felt very disorganized and did not think I was conferring correctly or giving it justice enough for my kids to benefit from it. I can't wait to try your tips. I am going right now to get everything to make myself a toolkit.

    PS. I too love post-its!

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    Hi! I’m Jayme! A former elementary teacher turned stay at home mom sharing toddler activities, mom tips, and educational resources to help you learn and play with your children. I believe in the power of PLAY and creating meaningful activities for you and your little ones to enjoy together.

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