A Typical Day in Writing…And More


Thank goodness it the weekend!  I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted!  I’m ready for the “beginning of the year craziness” to settle down and my life to feel normal again!  Soon enough…

So…I’ve had quite a few people contact me lately asking about my typical routines for writing.  I actually love it when I get personal emails asking for information about writing.  It makes me know that people care.  It gives me hope that I can spread knowledge about writing to others who are seeking a better understanding.  And it keeps me on my toes…constantly thinking and learning.

This lead me to this blog post about how I run my Writer’s Workshop.

Now…when I say Writer’s Workshop, I’m not speaking in the Lucy Caulkins sense of the word.  I call my whole writing time “Writer’s Workshop.”  And as anyone who follows me or knows me knows (ha, that sounded weird), my heart lies with Gretchen Bernabei.  :)  She’s my writing hero!  LOL

Ok, so enough about that.  Here’s how my time looks:

I have (realistically) 60 minutes of writing time.  It’s supposed to be more, but it falls at the end of the day, right before our intervention time, and after lunch…so you know how transitions are.  They always take longer than what the schedule says.

As soon as we come into the room, we work on our Daily Writing Review.  This lasts about 7-10 minutes, depending on the day.

Next up is our grammar time.  This is where we go over things like nouns, verbs, tenses, complete sentences…pretty much anything that isn’t included in our review time.  This lasts us anywhere from 5-15 minutes.  Usually the first couple of days we discuss a certain skill/concept and create an anchor chart together, and then the middle-end of the week is reserved for looking into our own writing, finding places to apply these new things, whether it’s an old or new piece.

So we are now 20ish minutes into our Writer’s Workshop.  I say “ish” because each day of the writing review and grammar review require different amounts of time.  The last ~40 minutes are devoted to our writing.

In a nutshell, 10 for Daily Writing Review (which includes spelling, for those of you wondering), 10 for grammar, 40 for writing.  If you’re interested in how the writing process goes down, continue reading.  If not, thanks for stopping by!  😉

Ok, so for those of you in for the long haul…here goes.

I’ve had several people ask about how long it takes us to publish a piece of writing or to go from beginning to end.  My answer: it depends.  You’ll see why.

Many times, we spend three whole days planning out three different pieces of writing using the same text structure.  Now for those of you who use Gretchen’s materials, you know what I’m talking about.  Those of you who don’t…shame on you, first of all.  No, I’m kidding.  Gretchen uses text structures to help kids organize their writing.  And Oh.  My.  Goodness.  It works.  Very well!  So anyway, I pick one text structure that I want my kids to practice, and then give them a new prompt for three consecutive days.  They use this planning page, fill out the structure, and write their kernel essay for three separate prompts.  When they are done, they have three complete pages and are allowed to choose which one they want to take to publishing.

Yes, I give my students choice.  Allowing them to choose what they want to write about makes it not so intimidating…and monotonous…and overwhelming.  I want writing to be fun, and if I always force them to write about what I want them to write about, they start not to like it.  Will there come a time (say, February?) when I don’t allow choice?  Sure.  That’s called “It’s a month before THE test and you HAVE to learn to write about what THIS prompt tells you to write about” time.  Ha.

Next, I give the students two days or so to finish out their drafts.  Some finish on day one, while others take two full days.  If students are finished early, I tell them to go back.  Reread.  Think about your writers tools.  Add in what you can.  Read it to a partner.  Ask each other questions about what’s going on in the story.  Add in those details.  Make it even better.  And if all else fails, start a new free writing piece in your notebook while you wait for everyone else to finish.

It’s now been a full week…and no mini lessons.  I know.  It’s ok.  Breathe.  Relax.  It’s coming!  😉

NOW it’s time for the mini lessons.  I choose two things I’d like my kids to try out for the mini lessons.  I use Gretchen’s book, Fun Size Academic Writing to choose lessons that I like and think my kids can handle.  We try out all kinds of crafts…and it usually surprises me what they can do!  They are little sponges.

So once I decide, I make copies of mentor texts (taken from that book) and give each student their own copy to keep.  We use colored pencils, highlighters, pencils, pens…lots of things…to underline, highlight, circle, and color up the writing.  We talk about the writing piece.  We notice things.  And then I invite my students to try out that particular writer’s craft in their own piece of writing.

This means that students have to REVISE their own work.  You like how I kill two birds with one stone there?  Genius, I know.  My students learn that their first draft is NOT done.  It is NOT perfect.  Take that wedding ring off, kids…you aren’t married to that draft!  It can change.  It WILL change.  All for the better.  :)

We are now roughly seven days into this writing process.  We’ve planned, drafted, revised and edited (<–during our grammar time).  It’s now time to publish.  I give my students cute computer paper with designs on it, along with a laminated piece of paper that has dark black lines on it.  Since the computer paper has no lines, they use the dark lined page underneath it so that they show through and provide lines without them actually having lines on their page.  Then once they’re done, they take the lined paper off of the back, and voila!  A nicely written piece that doesn’t have lines….and doesn’t curve down the page.

I give them about two days to publish.  This is their time to practice their VERY BEST handwriting…so I don’t want it hastily done!  Once they are finished, it’s time for our Writer’s Celebration!  You can read more about our celebrations and grab a copy of our comment page here.  It’s a much shorter post than this one.  :)

So there ya have it.  A day in writing…and a couple of weeks worth of our writing process.  Whew!  It’s done!

You know the worst part of all of this…this is the SECOND time I have written this…because my computer didn’t save it the first time around.  Yeah.  I’ve been sitting at the computer for 2 1/2 hours writing.  *sigh*  The other one was probably better…but I got it done!  😉

Thanks for hanging in there with me.  I’m so glad you stopped by!  If you have any other questions, ask away in the comments section.  I’m sure others probably have the same questions, and we can all learn from each other!

Have a great week!

Until next time…




  1. I am so glad to get your posts! I do have a question. After the text structure lesson then the kernal essay do you have the kids create a flip book or do you wait and introduce that later?

    • Kayla Shook says:

      That’s funny…in my ORIGINAL post, I put that info in there. The second time around I was so tired that it didn’t make the cut. LOL. Sometimes we use flip books, sometimes we put it in our notebooks, sometimes notebook paper and then glue it onto construction paper for major revisions…I just change it up. We have done one flip book this year and will probably do a few more. But more than anything it’s just to do something a little different. :)

  2. Robyn Missall says:

    Thank for this post! I didn’t know Gretchen had another book….I just ordered it! My students did very well on last year’s STAAR writing……thanks to you sharing your wonderful ideas!

    • Kayla Shook says:

      That is a HUGE compliment! I’m speechless! Well…ok…I can always say SOMETHING…but thank you! That makes my heart happy! And you are obviously an awesome teacher! Give yourself a pat on the back! Great job!! 😉

  3. Thanks for sharing! I just started using Gretchen’s book, Fun Size Academic Writing for Serious Learning, with my ninth graders. Plus I’ve been reading on her website. I love the structures that she uses. Plus the mini lessons. I’m hoping my students will “get it” and improve their writing. We’ll be getting started next week. It seems I’ve been so busy this school year, with all the demands outside of my classroom door. My wheels have been spinning to say the least. Thanks again for sharing. I enjoy reading your blog. One question . . . I want to purchase another one of Gretchan’s books. I was thinking about Crunchtime. Any suggestions?

    • Kayla Shook says:

      We use Crunchtime, Story of My Thinking, and Fun Size Academic Writing. So glad to hear another person has switched over! Haha. You will LOVE her stuff! It’s truly amazing!! Good luck this year! And as always, thanks for stopping by! :)

      • Another question…You said that you teach a text stucture for about 3 days? Then students will choose one to write to publication…Do you have a specific order? I have most of Gretchen’s books..Thank you so much for your help each year.

  4. Ok – I started keeping up with you after Gretchen dang your praises in Richardson this January! Love your stuff and can’t wait to start using poppers! Anyway, would you possibly be able to share your whole daily schedule? I’m struggling to get an hour of writing and an hour of reading in! I’m in Texas too and just looking for ideas. Thanks!

    • Kayla Shook says:

      Here goes:

      7:30-8:00 Arrival, pledges, announcements, daily warm-up
      8:00-9:10 Math
      9:10-9:40 Science
      9:40-10:30 Specials
      10:30-12:05 Reading
      12:05-12:25 Recess
      12:25-12:55 Lunch
      12:55-2:00 Writing
      2:00-2:55 Intervention Block
      Kids go home at 3:00.

      Does that help? :)

    • Kayla Shook says:

      And thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I appreciate all who visit! 😉

  5. tina jordan says:

    Hi there! I just fell onto your website while searching The Kernel Essay. I am so impressed with the amount of information I have learned from you, just from the few posts I’ve had time to explore. I am a new fourth grade writing teacher (not new to teaching, just fourth grade) and I am a bit intimidated by the writing. I only have a 90 minute block for reading and writing…do you think I can do your fantastic writing schedule in 45 minutes and be able to do it well?? I would love any advice and guidance you can give me:). Thank you so much for your informative website! I am sure I will be exploring your site for hours more:)!

    • Kayla Shook says:

      Hi, Tina! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Im so glad you have found it helpful!! 😉 45 minutes is rough…but i think as long as you manage that time well, you will be fine. Some days you might spend more time on writing, while other days you spend more time on grammar/revising & editing. Just be flexible in your planning! :) Good luck, and let me know how it goes. If you ever have questions, don’t hesitate to email me! I will do my best to help!

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