Authors Use Tools in a Writers' Workshop!

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SWBAT use tools for writing to answer a simple question based on past experiences.

Big Idea

Let's look at ways to use our new Writers' Workshop Journal and tools that will help us become authors!


  • binders/folders for each student 
    • I used 1" binders because they were easy to put pages in and the kids could use them all year 
    • You could use folders with 3 tabs, but those are harder for the kids to manipulate
    • Wrap them with a ribbon or yarn to make them a 'present'
    • put some loose leaf paper inside
  • Stickers/permanent markers to decorate the notebooks
  • name template (you could use a light permanent marker instead)
  • Special writing tools - mechanical pencils, pens, colored pencils, markers, smelly pencils, funky pens
  • Writer's Workshop Journal Ideas powerpoint
  • Your own journal in the same kind of binder (create one if you don't have one)  
    • my notebook had a letter, shopping list, printed emails, cards, letters, newsletters  
    • I mixed electronic pieces with some handwritten pieces
    • pictures can be used for some samples
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: writing, narrative, expository, persuasive, draft, brainstorm, edit, publish


This is the third lesson in my unit about Introducing Writing in 2nd Grade. I have discussed the types of writing (expository, narrative, and persuasive) as well as the writing process. For a peek at the previous lessons that had these concepts, here are the links: Waldo Says, 'Where's Writing?' and And the Author is... Using Digital Tools in Writing. 

What's In the Teacher's Journal?

15 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words.


Explain the task

  • "We have talked A LOT about writing and since you are all now 2nd grade authors, its time for some tools for writing! Let me show you my tools.”
  • Take out your journal and show each piece of your writing (This is supposed to be like a walk down memory lane).
    • "Here's my writing journal - I love it because it keeps me organized. I keep some of these pieces together because they are special, they help me remember things, or there are things that I want to show others."
    • "I like to use lots of different writing tools.  Sometimes I use a pencil so I can erase, sometimes I use markers to make it look pretty.  I have special pens that I only use for my journal."
    • "There are different kinds of paper and that I use for publishing."
    • "These are some pieces where I was brainstorming (shopping list or to-do list) and these are drafts (erasures or items crossed off) and these are some final pieces that I published."
    • "This is a note I wrote that was persuasive - I was trying to convince my sister to come on a trip with me."
    • "Here's an expository piece that I wrote to tell my friend about a restaurant." 
    • Comment about the stages of writing - "This is a draft of a web - see how I crossed off the idea."
    • "Look at this list- I use for shopping. Here's a narrative and a list and card that I wrote."
  • "Here are some other journal pages that I've seen." Show the powerpoint with other journal pages.  


The Common Core State Standards are very invested in the students’ ability to create different writing genres. Exposure to these three genres now (expository, narrative, and persuasive) and the introduction of the labels will help the students internalize this vocabulary when they see a variety of writing.

Distribute the Students' Journals

20 minutes

Pass out the journals and explain the parts

  • "Now for the surprise ... Would you like to have a journal too?  Then I have one for you!” ... take out the journals.  Hold the wrapped up journals carefully and pass out to students.  Ask them to wait to open the ribbon until all of the kids have a journal. This should be done with some reverence so they understand that this will be treated with care and will be something to keep all year.
  • Take a few minutes to talk about the parts of the journal.  (This will ultimately benefit the class to go over the procedures now so later you can refer to page use and how to handle the journals.)
    • "The notebook is like a person.  it has a 'front' and a 'back'. These are also called the 'covers'".
    • "The notebook is like a person. It has a 'spine'."
    • "The notebook has pages inside. What is inside a person?"
    • “Open up so you have a left and right page.  When we write, we use 2 sides of the pages.  Put your hand on the left page - good.  Put you hand on the right page - good!" 
  • Here's a demonstration of how I discussed the journals.

The First Entry in Your Journal

20 minutes

Decide where you will keep the journals and what the writing tools you will allow the students to use.  I have some funky pens, erasable markers, colored pencils, mechanical pencils, ... things like that.  I keep this together with the journal and they are used only for Writers' Workshop. 

The goal of this lesson is to answer questions, but it’s also about getting excited about writing.  SO many of my kids in the past have not liked to write because they thought it was so hard.  For this lesson, I'm trying to rebuild that writing excitement with a shiny new notebook and special writing instruments.  I just want them to write about an experience and experience the joy of writing!!!


Look over their journals

  • "Let's look over your new Writers' Workshop journals!. Point to the spine, the front and the back cover. Look inside - there is lined paper ready for you to write."
  • "Throughout the year, we will add new writing pieces to the journal.  Sometimes, it will be on this lined notebook paper, sometimes it will be published on the computer and we'll 3-hole punch it so we can add it to your journal.  This will be your journal for the whole year and it will be exciting to see how much your writing improves by the end of the year!"


Set the task

  • "What kind of writing do you think we should put in our Writers' Workshop Journal? Prompt for narrative, informative, and persuasive.  "Should we include the brainstorming pages and the drafts with revisions?  Of course - that's how we see how much we improve."
  • "Our first writing piece will be about an experience that you had.  I have a question to give you some ideas.  Your job when you are writing today is to answer the question by using your own experiences. Your question is...."What is your favorite place to eat?"  Let them think for a minute.
  • "Open you journal to the beginning and make sure that you have a left and right page."  Spend a few moments so the kids learn how to do this. "On the left side, you should draw a picture of some kind - and it should be a sketch, or quick picture."
  • "Then on the right side, you need to answer the question with some words or sentences. Use your experiences and give some details. Use feeling words and give me the reasons why it's your favorite. Why do you like that place to eat?  When did you go there?  Why is it so good?"
  • "You have 10 minutes to create your FIRST journal entry!  "Here are the tools you can use."


Monitor students work

  • I did give them a 1 minute warning.
  • Walk around and see if students are following directions about using the left page for an illustration and right side to answer the question. 
  • Praise students for effort - there are not right or wrong answers, but they should be able to write more details about their favorite place to eat, not just a word, but several sentences with evidence to answer your question.
  • Here are 2 samples of student work: student journal page 1 and student journal page 2.

Wrap It Up!

10 minutes

Wrap up the lesson

  • "Does anyone want to share their ideas?"  Take volunteers. "I'm looking for reasons why the place is your favorite.  Share your feelings and descriptions of the favorite foods!"
  • "It a great idea to share your writing. Other people like to hear your ideas and sometimes sharing ideas helps us be better friends.  If 2 people discover they like the same place to eat, then you have something in common."
  • "Now I'll pass out some stickers to decorate the front of the journal."
  • "You can add your name with a marker or the name templates that I'm passing out."
  • Take a look at 2 of my students' journals: sample notebook 1 and sample notebook 2.


I had originally had other plans to look at some other writing genres, but then I had a change in plan when the kids were done writing because we ran out of time.

Scaffolding and Special Education:  This lesson can be easily scaffolded up and down for students of varying academic abilities.

I gave them some extra help to some students as I walked around during writing time.  I would ask them questions to help them choose a restaurant and prompt further about ideas of why they like it. Sometimes, we'll 'chop' out words and write them on their slate or I'll write them on the board so the idea generation flows and they don't get caught up in the spelling/writing. 

For students with greater writing ability, I can also chat with them as I walk around about using 'juicy' words to describe their favorite place.  Instead of 'nice' or 'good', can they use a more descriptive word such as 'delicious' or can they describe a certain food.  Set an expectation for them, such as, "I'd like to see 4 really 'juicy' words to describe this place!"