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.
So you’ve done the read aloud, modeled the strategy for today’s lesson, held conferences with a few students, and now your kiddos are ready to show-off their writing skills.
Author’s Chair is their moment to shine!
I’ve found that Author’s Chair is most successful for students when clear expectations are set early in the year.
So during those first few weeks after the start of school, establish rules, procedures, and routines that will maximize this precious sharing time.
The results will pay off so well for students!
In this post, I share with you 6 tips for establishing Author’s Chair expectations in your upper elementary classroom.
You’ll have Author’s Chair set up and running efficiently in no time!
So let’s dig into it!
1. Establish Procedures for Author’s Chair.
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.
I have a schedule of which students share on a particular day of the week, but that sequence doesn’t always go as planned.
Some students are not yet ready to share on a particular day while others are. So I usually just go with the flow of their progress.
Everyone shares at least once before any student shares for a second, third, etc. time.
Whatever routine is established, I 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.
I model with students (during a writer’s workshop mini-lesson) what active listening looks like. Pens are down, everyone faces the reader, and our 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.
After a while, I create an anchor chart with students as a reference for students about 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.
And what’s funny is that I’ve had students arrive to my classroom the first day of school looking for that “special” writer’s chair (let’s me know the previous teacher had it going on with regards to Author’s Chair! Fan-tas-tic!)
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 for me, it’s totally worth it.
Even the most reluctant writers are motivated by the thought of sitting in the director’s chair.
I really don’t know what the magic is with a director’s chair, but it definitely makes a difference.
I’ve never had the problem of hearing “crickets” when it comes to volunteers wanting to share.
My biggest “problem” is having to end Author’s Chair without getting to all the hands raised, wanting to share their writing.
A great problem to have, right?!
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).
I provide prompts to guide students.
For “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…
For “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!
For the T.A.G prompts, I like to use starters connected with the Six Traits of Writing framework since I integrate that writing framework most often in my teaching.
Because I use the language of 6 + 1 in my writing mini-lessons, students are already accustomed to the terms.
Consequently, it’s easier for them to give authentic feedback to peers that is actually helpful and relevant to what we’re already learning in class.
With time, learners will 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 is helpful advice to teachers.
Occasionally, when students are sharing, I jot down anecdotal notes related to things I observe such as fluency, word choice, use of leads, and anything significant focused on the teaching objectives I’ve covered in writer’s workshop mini-lessons.
Though my goal is not to assign a formal score to their sharing of the writing, I do like the fact that over time, I have a meaningful amount of information that I can use for report card comments.
For recording data, I simply take a three-ring binder, section off a part for each student, and informally jot down any significant observations I notice while they share.
I also keep a copy of the student-sharing schedule in this binder.
I keep things simple, and it functions rather well.
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?
A new lead they learned from a favorite independent reading book?
Various endings for a biography they’ve been writing?
Encourage them to take those risks!
Though not all of those risk ideas will find their way into students’ published works, the lessons they will have learned in the process are invaluable.
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 super short video for an explanation of the importance of author’s chair.
Establishing strong procedures and routines is a must, and the reward is fantastic writing growth of your kiddos!
Happy teaching and learning!