Using Plan Boxes in Writing Workshop

You send off your group to incorporate the ideas from your mini lesson – at least that’s your plan.  And sometimes that’s exactly what happens.  However, its more likely that some students may wander and forget what they’re supposed to do.  So how do we get every student (at varying levels of writing proficiency) to go to the next step? One way is by using a Plan Box. (Thanks to Ruth and Stacey – Two Writing Teachers website, where I get a lot of ideas and reflect on my practice.)

Called by many other names, plan boxes are simply squares that the students draw at the bottom/top of their writing drafts that declares what they are going to do.  Call it a memory cue for the mini lesson, or an organized ‘jump start‘ to stay focused, a plan box is more than setting a goal.  Written as clearly as possible, it is a 2-3 step plan of what to do next.  It is action oriented and short, allowing the student a way to focus one thing at a time.  If you are using Google Docs, the plan box can be a comment attached to a section of writing.

At the end of a mini-lesson, students draw a box onto a corner of their draft.  Make a list (1-3) of things they will concentrate on improving (once they get back to their desk).  A check by the teacher will also help those students who need extra support in recording a succinct plan of action.  Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz in Day by Day provide  examples (in Flickr) of student plan boxes.

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