How to Revolutionize Your Writing Workshop

Every day in writing classrooms, teachers feel like banging their heads against the wall.  Why?  Because their students’ sentence structure is lacking.  Teachers wish there was a way to teach it so that it would actually stick.   So they carve out time, download worksheets and activities for students to complete, and glue into their notebooks, and then cross their fingers. Students might even seem to be getting it, as the work they produce on these practice activities is usually correct.  But then you collect actual writing, and it’s clear that none of that work made a difference.  And teachers think to themselves, “It’s time for a writing revolution.”

If this is you, you’re in luck!  There’s a book for that! 

And it’s called….wait for it….

The Writing Revolution!

This book provides a clear way to teach sentence and  paragraph structure to help kids take it on for themselves.

And I love it.

In it, authors Judith Hochman and Natalie Wexler make the case that foundational work in sentence and paragraph structure is best done within the context of actual writing.  I’m not a fan of isolated skill practice myself, as this very rarely transfers to better quality student work.  

I am a huge proponent of the writing workshop, though.  I’ve seen tremendous success with it for many, many years, across many, many grade levels and school contexts (since 2004 to be exact!). 

As a workshop teacher, I’ve always ascribed to teaching kids to write within the context of actual, real writing, along with plenty of teacher coaching and dedicated time to practice.  In my own classrooms and in the classrooms of the teachers I work with, this has always led to exponential growth in students’ writing. 

Hochman and Wexler find the same idea to be true.  They say that “we stopped teaching the mechanics of writing in isolation as a set of rules and definitions.” They also “used [students’] writing to give specific guidance.”  The authors share that after making these changes in teacher practice, results were positive.  

But you might be thinking, “Hold on, Michelle.   How can you possibly be a writing workshop teacher AND love The Writing Revolution?”


Because, as Hochman and Wexler explain, the way it works is that “teachers of all subjects adapt TWR’s [The Writing Revolution’s] strategies and activities to their preexisting curriculum and weave them into their content instruction.”

Which fits quite perfectly in a workshop model.  Not only that, is very easy to integrate into shared and/or interactive writing–important components of balanced literacy instruction–beautifully.  Which means it can also fit very well all across the day.  The Writing Revolution method is in fact meant to be used across curricular areas, so that “students practice [what they] need, repeatedly, while also learning content.”  

As I read this book two years ago, on page after page after page I wrote notes like “yes!” and “UoS” (the picture below shows just some of this!)  What do these notes mean?   That I agree 100% and that it aligns exactly with Teachers’ College Units of Study in writing.  Explicit instruction, a model, practice, and feedback.  

This “revolutionary” work is exactly what workshop teachers do. 

I have PAGES of notes like this from The Writing Revolution!’s not enough.  

Kids today just don’t naturally speak very eloquently on a day to day basis.  Much of what they say is now done through texting, instant messaging, and emojis.  So it only makes perfect sense that they aren’t exactly the most clear and eloquent writers.  

So while explicit instruction in sentence and paragraph structure has always been important, in today’s world, it’s more imperative than ever.  We have to give it more attention.  Which makes the slow pace and the heavy scaffolds that The Writing Revolution shares a perfect fit for many of today’s classrooms– workshop models included. 

Here are a few of the key ideas shared in the book:

  • Clear, explicit teaching WITH specific teacher feedback is imperative
  • The importance of holding kids accountable
  • Sending the message that writing happens all day long, not just during “writing time.”  
  • Dexterity with written sentences translates to dexterity with printed sentences–which can increase comprehension
  • It’s done in the context of kids’ own writing
  • Embedding this work within the content you’re already teaching is a time-saver AND helps students more deeply understand the content
  • This work builds in natural formative assessment opportunities across the day
  • The repeated practice across the day means it will be more likely to stick

Making the ideas of this book fit really well within a workshop structure as well as within a balanced literacy framework, because it can be woven throughout the day and in different ways, such as shared, interactive, and guided writing and in whole group and small group instruction.  

One thing I didn’t love?

How formulaic and slow-moving the pace and structures are.  After all, as Read Write Think Learn’s Dr. Damon Thomas explains, “It was in a context filled with struggling writers that TWR was first conceived, and that it may be most useful.”  

However, those formulas are only meant to be a scaffold, and the slow pace is to allow for plenty of student practice. And it’s all flexible.  The authors offer ways to push students to do more as they’re ready, while those that need more support are able to get it.  

This kind of teaching is something that all kids can really benefit from, and is easy to integrate into the writing workshop.  

Here’s the real writing revolution, though.

It’s not just the explicit instruction.

Nor is it just the frameworks provided.

Or the slow pace it guides you through.

It’s the notion that just as the “reading teacher” can’t be the person solely responsible for teaching all things reading, the “writing teacher” also can’t be the sole person responsible for ensuring students improve their writing in big ways.  Those siloed times of day just aren’t enough.    Teachers of ALL content areas need to embed reading and writing instruction into their teaching, too.  

It’s time to expand writing expectations to move beyond “writing time” if we really want our students to become stronger writers.  


The way to revolutionize kids’ writing is to provide specific, modeled instruction, along with feedback and coaching and accountability, all across the day and across the year.  

How can YOU incorporate a writing revolution in your classroom?

This is easy to do for any grade level–it just takes intentional planning.  Elementary teachers certainly have an advantage here, because one person typically teaches all subject areas.  So, say you’re working on writing appositive sentences.  This is actually in my own state’s 4th grade standards.

This can be modeled and explicitly taught in shared writing, example sentences from a mentor text can be unpacked  in shared reading, revising sentences for clarity by adding appositives can be demonstrated in writing.  In science, we can provide a sentence stem that students finish with an appositive to answer a question, and students might write an appositive sentence to explain an important term to remember in their math notebooks.  

And that could all be in just one day!  Imagine the power of repeated practice across content areas and conferring with students in writing to provide specific feedback  in using appositives correctly over time.  That’s what I call teaching that sticks!

Because it’s embedded in content instruction, the “writing teacher” isn’t the sole person responsible, and “writing time” isn’t the only time this instruction happens.  This is how the onus moves from teacher to student.  

How revolutionary, right?

I’d love to know…was this post helpful?  What ideas did it spark for you?  Let me know in the comments, share it with a teacher friend, or message me on Instagram!

Love the idea but could use some support in adding in more explicit, foundational writing practice into your busy day?  Reach out for a coaching call!  I’d love to help!  

Related Posts:  What Are the Best Methods for Teaching Grammar?, The Significance of Syntax in Comprehension, Are You Teaching Strong Writers or Strong Direction Followers?

Who is Coach from the Couch?? 

I’m Michelle, a 24-year veteran educator, currently a K-5 literacy coach.  I continue to learn alongside teachers and students in classrooms each and every day, and it’s my mission to support as many teachers as I can.  Because no one can do this work alone. I’m available to you, too, through virtual coaching calls! 

Or, consider joining my Facebook Community–a safe, supportive environment (really!)  where you can ask questions, learn ideas, and share your thoughts among other literacy-loving educators!  

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