The start of the school year means it’s time to set Author’s Chair expectations for writer’s workshop.
Author’s Chair is the final component of writer’s workshop. During this 10-15 minute block, individual students share their writing with an audience of classmates. After sharing, peers provide structured feedback. This process supports young authors in their journey to becoming flourishing writers.
You’ve done the read aloud, modeled the strategy for today’s lesson, held conferences with a few students, and now your elementary learners are ready to showcase their writing skills.
Author’s Chair is their moment to shine.
Author’s Chair is most successful for students when clear expectations are set early in the year.
During those first few weeks of the school year, establish rules, procedures, and routines that will maximize this precious sharing time.
I share 6 tips for establishing Author’s Chair expectations in your elementary classroom.
Related: Make the teaching/learning process “stick” for your elementary learners using these tried-and-true instructional strategies.
Setting Up Author’s Chair Expectations
1. Establish Procedures for Author’s Chair.
Your Author’s Chair expectations begins with setting procedures.
This is best done as a sequence of mini-lessons during writer’s workshop.
After independent writing and conferencing, students gather on the carpet. They have in hand their writer’s notebook if they plan to share that day.
All face the reader, ready to listen.
Everyone shares at least once before any student shares for a second time.
Whichever routine you establish, stick with it. This way, students know what to expect.
2. Practice Appropriate Behaviors.
Speaking of procedures, appropriate behaviors go right along with those. These two things are the core of Author’s Chair expectations
When students are seated on the carpet, they should be relatively quiet, ready to listen, and not fumbling with any materials or objects.
Model for students what active listening looks like … pencils are down, everyone faces the reader, and body language shows respect.
The reader also has a responsibility.
He or she must face the audience, read clearly, and use a voice volume that is heard by all, especially those seated farthest away from the author’s chair.
The writer sharing should also possess a positive attitude about receiving feedback from classmates. Students are a community of writers learning from, helping, and supporting each other.
Consider creating an anchor chart with students as a reference for positive behaviors to demonstrate during writer’s workshop.
3. Designate a Special Chair.
Author’s Chair is much more exciting with a “special chair” especially designated for sharing writing.
Some teachers use bean bags, rocking chairs, a “regular” school chair, the teacher’s desk chair … there are lots of options.
My favorite is a director’s chair, and students LOVE it!
It’s an investment (code: relatively pricey), but if you can splurge a bit, go for it.
Even the most reluctant writers are motivated by the thought of sitting in the director’s chair.
Say goodby to hearing “crickets” when it comes to those wanting to share.
What a great problem to have!
4. Have a System For Students To Give Feedback (T.A.G).
A very important part of Author’s Chair expectations is providing some type of guidance for classmates to give helpful feedback to those sharing.
The T.A.G method works well…
T= Tell something you liked about the writing.
A= Ask a question about the writing that will help the reader to improve it.
G= Give a suggestion about how to to make the writing better (or Give a compliment).
You can provide prompts to guide students.
“T” (Tell something you liked.), the prompts I use include…
- The way your paper begins is so interesting because…
- I enjoyed the part where…
- I like the details you used to describe…
- Great job with showing and not telling in the part about…
- Your ending was good because…
“A” (Ask a question.), the prompts I use include…
- Could you add an example to the part about…?
- Do you think you could leave this part out because…?
- Would you consider adding a lead to “grab” the reader’s’ attention?
- Did you use a checklist after writing?
“G” (Give a suggestion or compliment.) prompts include…
- I got confused in the part about…
- I love your ending. It was so unexpected and surprising.
- I believe I have a stronger alternative for the title. Maybe you should try…
- You could add more details in the part about…
- Your paper is well-organized and flows nicely.
- The vivid details you used helped me to clearly visualize the actions in the story.
- Maybe you could “explode” one moment instead of having a “grocery list” of ideas.
- I think using a stronger verb for ________ would make your writing even more interesting!
With time, learners become better at providing good and helpful feedback.
5. Record Anecdotal Notes.
This step really isn’t an Author’s Chair expectation for students, but it’s helpful advice for teachers.
Occasionally, when students are sharing, jot down anecdotal notes related to targeted learning objectives.
You can simply take a three-ring binder, section off a part for each student, and informally jot down any significant observations you notice while they share.
Also consider keeping a copy of the student-sharing schedule in this binder.
6. Communicate a Risk-Taking Environment.
Writing well takes a lot of hard work and includes lots of trial and error.
Communicate early in the year to students that taking risks with their writing is a good thing.
Are they eager to try new words in their writing?
Have you noticed a good number of them trying out a new lead that they learned from a favorite independent reading book?
Whichever strategies they’re trying, encourage them to take those risks!
Wrapping Up Author’s Chair Expectations
These simple Author’s Chair expectations will help set the tone for a great writer’s workshop finale!
Take a look at this brief video for an explanation of the importance of author’s chair.
Establishing strong procedures and routines are a must, and the reward is fantastic writing growth of your elementary students!
Happy teaching and learning