Saturday, 12 March 2011 17:45

Tip #26: Improving Your Writing Workshop (Part 2 of 4)

Written by

The Teaching Tips will focus on the topic of Writing Workshop for the next four weeks.

Week 1: Peer Revising
Week 2: The Writing Workshop Warm-up
Week 3: Four-Color Editing
Week 4: Written Reflections

The Writing Workshop Warm-up


Every summer for the past 16 years, I have attended the 5-day Elementary Physical Education Workshop held on the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  During this time I have had the great fortune of meeting some incredible people who are doing wonderful work for our nation’s children.

Reading specialist Debra Wilson is one of these people.  From Debra’s sessions at the conference, I have learned many valuable ideas that I will use as long as I’m teaching.

Specifically, Debra’s sessions focused on the importance of incorporating movement into the classroom.  This week’s Teaching Tip features one of Debra’s contributions to my repertoire.

To kickoff our daily Writing Workshop mini-lesson, my students and I participate in a brief movement warm-up routine that consists of a series of hand and arm exercises.  In the 30-60 seconds it takes to complete our warm-up, the students are preparing both their hands and minds for a productive period of writing.  As I lead my students in the hand movements, I’m encouraging them to think about what they hope to accomplish that day with whatever writing project we happen to be working on.  

In addition to the physical and mental benefits our warm-up routine provides, the routine has also taken on added value in that it has become an important class ritual that unites us as a community of writers.  Some students even perform this routine on their own at other times during the day or after school when they work on their homework.

Here is a list of each part of our routine, followed by a brief description.  The names and descriptions may differ slightly from Debra’s.  All parts are performed seated.

Dots: Use the thumb of one hand to push into the palm of the other hand.  Each push is considered a “dot,” and I encourage my students to push dots into every part of the palm.  Switch sides.

Squeezes: Grab the wrist with the opposite hand and gently squeeze.  Continue squeezing all the way up to the shoulder and back down to the wrist.  Switch sides.

Rubbing Hands: Rub the palms together to generate some heat.  Then, rub the backs of the hands together to do the same thing.  Next, spread apart the fingers and slide the fingers of each hand into the openings of the other hand.  Turn the hands and slide the backs of each hand together into the openings of the other hand.

Claps and Pats: Clap the hands together and then keep clapping as you slide the hands to the opposite wrists and up the opposite arm.  Pat the skin from the wrists all the way up to the shoulders and back down.

Gloves: As if you and your students are putting on imaginary writing gloves, use the thumb and index finger of one hand to touch the skin of each finger on the opposite hand from fingertip to the wrist.  Switch sides.

Grab & Resist: Interlace the fingers of each hand as you push your two palms together.  Then try to pull your hands away from each other, but don’t let go.  Resisting in this manner should cause you to feel your shoulders and upper back working.

Listening Position: With the hands still attached from the previous movement, I ask the students to put hands in their laps or under their chins and look up at the board as I begin my instruction.  Transitioning from the previous movement to this one in this manner greatly increases the likelihood that my students will demonstrate strong eye contact as I start the lesson.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.