Setting Up Writing Folders

I have always taught writing through the writing workshop model and as a way to help students think of themselves as independent writers they are given writing folders at the beginning of the year. These folders house student work and are full of reference tools to help them become confident, independent writers.  At the beginning of each year I set up these folders for my students.  If this sounds like a large task you could always have students set up the folders with you, I just prefer to have them all in working order on day one.  So, what is in these folders and how do I prepare them?

I purchase 3-prong pocket folders from any big chain store like Target or Walmart.  I prefer the folders that have a plastic or thicker cardboard feel.  The extra cheap flimsy folders generally fall apart mid-year so spending a little more at the beginning is worth it. 

On the front cover of the folder I either (a) glue a writing folder cover sheet and label it with each students' names or (b) print students' names on shipping labels and stick this on the cover.  A lot of times I choose (b) as the labels hold up better throughout the year, but if you do choose (a) I'd say to cover the sheet with clear packing tape to protect it or laminate it then glue it down. 

 Inside the folder I place a variety of pages that are used to support student writing.  I find it easiest to place these pages in plastic sleeves to help keep them tidy for the year.

The first page in the folder is a writer's checklist.  If a student thinks they are done writing a piece I want them to be able to independently check off that they have completed these major tasks.

The following page is the "when I'm done" chart.  This page is an additional reference sheet that a student uses to make sure that they are completely done with a piece before moving on.  Sheets like this help students to not run up to me and say "I'm done, I'm done!"  Instead, they know where to look in their folders and check for themselves if they are really done.  If they are, they know to start a new piece on their own. 

In the writing workshop model students choose what to write about.  We don't generally give any prompts or specific tasks, therefore I provide students with an "I can write about" page that lists topics to get them thinking, as well as a "write from the heart page" which we fill out during the first weeks of school.  

Next up I include an alphabet chart, a blends and digraph chart, and a word bank with common words.  Students can refer to these charts for support and we use these charts during our mini-lesson time as a class. I teach students how to use these charts throughout the year.

And lastly I include a personal, working word wall. This page I do not put in a plastic sleeve because we add to it each week. Students write in words with a pencil during our word work/writing time. We do this as a class, never alone.

At the end of writing workshop students need to choose whether they are still working on a piece or if they are all done.  In each folder I label the left pocket "still working" in green and the right pocket "all done" in red.  I just use return address labels to do this.  This helps to organize student writing and provides a place to store their loose writing pages.  

Writing workshop is about providing students the opportunity to write like real writers!  That means that students need the ability to write on paper at their level and they also need to be able to grab paper to start a new piece as needed.  For that reason I provide a variety of writing sheet types and store these in the writing center in the classroom.  Students are able to get paper as needed.

All of the above pages are from my Writing Workshop Resources set which can be found by clicking the image below.  This set comes in handy because it includes everything I need to set up my writing folders and get students writing on day one.  Let me know if you have any questions.

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