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Teachable moments and targeted instruction

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When we are reviewing student work to plan for instruction, it can be helpful to think about “Writers Workshop” instead of “Writing Workshop”. Teachers can feel so pressured to instruct skills and strategies; when reviewing with a piece of writing, we might automatically identify all the skills students does not have yet.  

 Practice responding to the writer first, then respond to the writing. Identify the one skill to reinforce, set a goal with the writer, and move on. When students practice writing everyday, the stakes are lowered- they are not pressured to demonstrate cumulative skills in a single writing task.  Ultimately writing instruction is not about producing a perfect text, it is about fostering resiliency and fortitude in children.  Throughout the process we want to preserve a child’s confidence so they can carry on with the complex task of writing.


 Select a text.  Then use Jigsaw protocol to read and discuss

Target Instruction:

After reviewing work, this teacher has identified needs of a small group of Kindergarten students. Watch video (9:20) of mini-lesson to see how she targets instruction in small group setting. 

After reviewing work, this teacher has identified needs of an individual first grade writer. Watch video (7:40) of author Jennifer Serravallo targets instruction during a writing conference.


  1. Look at samples of writing from your students to identify characteristics of writing development.(Or review the writing samples provided in grade bands )

  2. Chart current stage of student writing development on class record.

  3. Finally, with a partner or teaching team, plan a 5-10 minute mini-lesson based on the data for each of the stages of writing you have identified.


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These tools were created as part of the Literacy Improvement in Rural Education through Collaboration (LIREC) project funded by the U.S. Department of Education