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Using Writing Stations to Inspire Students & Improve Writing

November is National Novel Writing Month, and while you don't need to have  students take on the challenge of writing an entire novel (though if they want to NaNoWriMo's Young Writer's Program is an awesome resource), it is a wonderful month to have students write fun, purposeful pieces. With Thanksgiving and several winter holidays quickly approaching, there are so many themes to write about and a wealth of existing writing models to inspire young writers. 

There are several different instructional models that can be used to teach writing. One model that has existed for a long time at the elementary level and is starting to be embraced at the secondary level is using writing or literacy stations (also known as literacy centers or learning centers). 

The research behind using writing stations is plentiful, as this awesome blog from Pennington Publishing points out. There are some steps to the writing process, such as editing and revising, for example, that just aren't addressed effectively through whole-group instruction or independent learning time. Working in stations or centers with other students, and sometimes the teacher as well, allows students time to collaborate and get specific feedback on their writing. Centers also allow students to be more independent and have the teacher work more as a writing coach, though this of course takes having clear rules and structures in place and modeling appropriate behaviors during center time. 

I have used the writer's workshop model in my secondary Language Arts classroom for years, but am slowly beginning to add station rotations into the mix. After speaking with several teachers who have used literacy stations for years, I compiled the list below of helpful resources. These can be used by those new to literacy stations like me as well as those who are veterans to the practice. I hope you can use some of these resources to draw out the inner writer in your students!

Elementary Resources

1. Literacy Work Stations by Debbie Diller

This book focuses on how to set-up and manage literacy work stations throughout the school year, with a focus on differentiation to meet all students’ needs. All activities are for grades K-3.

2. The Writing Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo

This books contains hundreds of strategies for meeting your writing goals with elementary students. These strategies can be used with different instructional approaches including writing centers or whole-group mini-lessons.

3. Literacy Centers in Photographs

Published by Scholastic, this step-by-step guide includes lots of images and diagrams of literacy centers using teacher Nicole Campo-Stallone's classroom as a model.

4. 10 Writing Center Ideas We Love

This blog from We Are Teachers contains great activities and writing prompts for sparking creativity at an elementary writing station.

Secondary Resources

1. Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle

In this book Kittle picks up where Nancie Atwell (and her famous book In The Middle) left off and digs into how to structure and facilitate writing workshops to improve student writing. The book is geared toward upper elementary through secondary.

2. Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher

Gallagher, a veteran ELA teacher, argues for the use of mentor texts and modeling in the writing process. This can done in whole-class mini-lessons or through the use of writing stations. The book is packed with great activities to get students writing for all different purposes.

3. Creating a Writer's Workshop in a Secondary Classroom by Shelby Scoffield

Published by Edutopia, this article offers an in-depth explanation of how a station rotation model can be used to enhance writer's workshop and improve student writing. I'm using several of these ideas in my own classroom this year.

4. Writing Prompts

This tumblr site offers fun, visual writing prompts that could help even a reluctant writer come up with a good idea! 

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