How to Conduct a Writing Workshop

One Methods:Sample Writing Workshop Lesson Plan

Writing workshops provide a way for writers to learn from one another, by giving and receiving feedback on plot, characterization, and writing style. Writing workshops are held as part of college writing classes, as well as at writers' conferences and seminars, and they may also be held as special activities of community organizations and social clubs. Writing workshops may be conducted by college faculty as an outgrowth of their jobs or by professional writers as a means to give back to their community. The following steps discuss how to conduct a writing workshop to facilitate learning and benefit your participants.


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    Approach each session with a plan. Preparing an outline of what you intend to cover will help you establish and maintain control of the workshop, even when you don't "lead" it. You should determine what items are most important to cover and what can be dropped or added depending on how the session actually goes.
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    Make it easy for participants to share papers. Electronic submissions such as email and discussion boards make it easy for workshop participants to share their projects and allow you the chance to review and select submissions that illustrate the topic you want to cover in the face-to-face session. Participants may be hesitant at first, but as you and they get more comfortable with the format, they'll be more eager to volunteer.
    • Making it easier for your participants to share their papers also gives you a chance to see where they are as writers and adjust the focus of your workshop accordingly.
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    Decide on the critiquing method you want to use and practice it. Good critiques are more than "I liked it" or "I didn't like it." They offer analysis and present examples of what the critic did or didn't like. By modelling the form of critique you want participants to use, you in turn encourage them to model it.
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    Solicit the participants' opinions first. Although you're leading the workshop, you're also teaching the participants how to think critically for themselves about their writing, not doing their thinking for them. If they haven't caught on to how to critique from the examples you've shown, give them time to write notes or chat with fellow participants before sharing their critiques with the entire workshop. You can ask them to expand on points they raise, but not make points for them.
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    Give everyone who wants to a chance to speak. Just as you shouldn't control the discussion yourself, you shouldn't let any one of the participants control it, either. If someone starts to dominate the discussion with repeated questions, tell that participant to write down his or her questions and you'll discuss them later.
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    Allow time for questions and answers. When you're addressing the workshop participants, you may want to either take questions as they come or set aside time after you finish speaking to take questions. Questions that come up as someone presents a critique may be best saved until the critic finishes if the participant is doing so for the first time or appears nervous when speaking.
    • Regardless of which method you find easiest during the workshop session itself, you may still want to allow time after the session for further questions from participants who aren't comfortable with speaking in class.
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    Accentuate the positive before discussing the negative. Participants are usually more willing to accept and improve the weak points of their writing if they first are told what they did right.
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    Present criticism with respect. Model the kind of behavior you want to see when presenting your own critique of someone's work, showing criticism of a writer's work where it's warranted without being critical of the writer.
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    Let participants agree to disagree. As long as the disagreements are about the writing and not the writers, it's fine to have heated discussions on style and technique. No two writers have exactly the same ear for the language, and sometimes a given technique may not be the right technique for a given story or scene.
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    Offer suggestions for improvement. Suggestions should be as specific as possible, without coming across as the only way to improve the work. Encourage suggestions from the participant giving the critique and from the other participants as well.
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    Make handouts available. Although participants may take notes, more often they may miss points they wanted to remember. Providing them with supplemental material touching on these points will help them remember and let them refer to it as often as necessary between sessions and after the workshop is over.

Sample Writing Workshop Lesson Plan

Sample Writing Workshop Lesson Plan


  • Dress comfortably for conducting the workshop. Casual dress is fine, unless the venue calls for more formal dress.
  • Prepare your body and mind. You may wish to have a light meal before conducting the workshop, to prevent a grumbling stomach from interrupting you, and to have a glass or bottle of water handy to sip from during the session. If this is your first time, and your first session will be primarily a lecture, you may want to rehearse it with a friend or two.
  • Maintain eye contact with the participants, shifting your gaze around the room as necessary to show you're engaging with them and encourage them to engage with you in workshop discussion.

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Categories: Writing