How to Run Small Writing Groups and Make It Look Easy

Running Small Writing Groups

Best practice tells us that we should be doing a workshop model in all subjects. I bet that in both reading and math you set your day up by doing a mini lesson, then running small groups and centers. Why should writing be any different? Here is how I set up my second grade writing block so that I see every student every day and can practice the daily skill with every individual student during small writing groups.

going through the writing process anchor charts and posters for 2nd graders or elementary students


Each day begins with a mini lesson. Since I have an hour to teach writing, my mini lesson is typically no longer than 10 minutes. This is when I go over the skill of the day or week. Typically I follow the writing process each week. Our week looks like:

Monday – Mentor Text & Prewrite (since I do a read aloud, this is typically about 20 minutes)

Tuesday – 1/2 of Draft (SKILL OF THE WEEK – topic & first 2 paragraphs)

Wednesday – 2/2 of Draft (REVIEW SKILL OF THE WEEK – second 2 paragraphs & closing)

Thursday – Revising and Editing (Fast review, no more than 5 minutes of a whole group)

Friday – Publishing – No whole group, instead, individual conferencing while I grade

Informative writing strategies - anchor chart

Skill of the Week

Each week, we focus on a different skill based on the genre we are learning. Typically, it will be around adding details to our writing. We focus on various aspects of the common core including: adding adjectives, adding solid topic sentences, writing good conclusions, adding dialogue, adding descriptive language, adding transition words, etc. You can check out some of the skills I teach using my writing strategies posters.


After completing the mini lesson where I talk about the skill of the week, students move into centers. I have 3 writing centers and they are typically about 15 minutes long each.

Work on writing center anchor charts, small group signs and must do may do editable template
  1. Work with the Teacher – This is where we practice the skill of the day and get our writing done.
  2. Independent Work – This is where students finish their writing that they start at my back table. Before they leave, I make sure they know exactly what needs to be finished
  3. Choice – Students can work off of a choice board. There are lots of fun writing choices that they can pick from, including, digital writing projects, shared class journals, writing a Friday Letter or using their spelling words in a silly story. Students can move to this center whenever they finish their independent work.

Typically, I start with my struggling learners at my back table so I can catch them right away. This means that my on level learners start with a choice, and my highest learners start by doing their independent work first. That way, when the highest learners get to my back table, many of them are either done or close to done and we can focus on enrichment activities.

Bug research digital informative writing activity

My Back Table

At my back table, students work individually with their small writing groups while I spot check their work. Sometimes, I redo the mini lesson with my lower groups and I will go slower and allow us to all work at the same pace. With my higher group, I typically am adding in more details or showing them another skill that they can choose to add to their writing as well.


At the end of each day, we review our target and then I have students pair up with a student NOT in their own writing group to share their progress from the day.

You might also be interested in learning about:

  • Teaching Informative Writing
  • Teaching Narrative Writing
  • Teaching Opinion Writing
  • Using Digital Writing Projects in In Person Classrooms


What questions do you have about small writing groups? Let me know in the comments below!

Emily - The Mountain Teacher

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