I was first introduced to story workshop during my student teacher by another first grade teacher--the process of giving students the space to build their stories concretely with open-ended objects and materials (loose parts) before putting pencil to paper, thus connecting art to storytelling in its many different forms.
It wasn't until recently though, this past spring, I had the opportunity to bring story workshop to both my own classroom and while visiting another nearby school. I have to say, now having experienced the model in practice first-hand, I can honestly say that this has been the most enjoyable manner in which I've ever taught writing for a few reasons. First, I've found this model to naturally lend itself to diffrentiating instruction. Story workshop integrates a playfulness into the learning seamlessly, thus engaging and motivating children--my students who normally have an aversion to writing became just as engaged with the learning as my students who love writing.
There are five components to the story workshop model:
- Preparation: The teacher provides a menu or variety of open-ended materials for students
- Provocation: Questions are posed to students around writing strategies and traits (often through mini-lessons, mentor texts, etc.)
- Invitation/Negotiation: Students explore and 'shop' (pick) for their story materials as they reflectively begin planning them. The teacher helps students find items that will be represent and tell their story well.
- Creation: Students play and build purposefully with their materials to create their stories while the teacher confers with them. Students then write their stories out. (Once the students have built their stories I photograph it to have them use as a reference when they then sit down to write them.)
- Congress: Students share their stories and gain feedback from peers and the teacher
For this particular week, my students were posed with the question "How do characters overcome (solve) problems?" We read a handful of mentor texts where the main characters had to overcome series of problems they faced. Here were the beginnings of a couple of stories the students built and wrote:
"Once upon a time there was a forest. Deep in the forest there was a river. It was a special river full of tears. All of the animals would gather around the river and also a girl. The river had rocks and trees and flowers and dirt and one bird that was a parrot. The river was full of the girls tears because she had been cursed..."
"One day in a farm in Paris there lived a farmer and his wife. They were very poor. They only owned a few home things and a horse and cow and sheep and pie and a goat and donkey. One day a wolf came..."
"Deep in the jungle there was a tree boa and a monkey. The tree boa ate the monkey. There was a sea turtle there too and he saw this along with his friend--an anteater..."
To learn more about story workshop check out these resources and articles: