Guest Post: A Special Educator Weighs in on the Writing Workshop

Kathryn Cazes is the type of teacher that you read about in articles and say, “There is no human teacher who can possibly know that much and do that much for her students.” Well, Kathryn Cazes can and does. Kathryn’s kindergarten inclusion classroom nearly gave Kristi a heart attack of joy when she first walked in. There was an independent happy buzz among the students, and all children, regardless of skill level or special need, were engaged in writing workshop aided with well thought out and personalized tools.  Kathryn is here at Chartchums to teach us how to achieve the same for our classrooms, or perhaps give us some tools to help out that one student you worry about in the wee hours of the morning.

Kathryn Cazes has been a special education teacher in kindergarten for the past three years. She spent her first year at PS 59 in a general education kindergarten classroom. Prior to that, she worked for 2 years in a self contained preschool classroom at YAI/NYL Gramercy School. Welcome Kathryn!

Part of what makes the workshop model so successful is it’s strong allowance of differentiation.  It’s during independent work times when the real teaching happens. We regularly confer with children and pull small groups based on needs; often leaving behind small copies of charts or goal sheets for our students to reference while they work. Independent work time should never look the same for each student.  In reading workshop, children have personalized book baggies filled with Just Right Books.  It’s a very easy time of day to differentiate. But, what about Writing Workshop? How can we make it “Just Right” for everyone?

Sometimes we under estimate the sheer amount of executive functioning, aka mental organization, required to be a successful member of a writing workshop.  A child needs to be able to organize their materials, pick and plan a topic, visualize and draw pictures, spell to their best phonemic ability, neatly form letters, spell sight words accurately, stretch their pieces across several pages, remember to put spaces in between their words, decipher when to use upper or lower case letters and use punctuation.  We also ask them to do this confidently and joyfully.  Sometimes the execution of these many components can overwhelm a child, or for a child who already has executive functioning and processing delays, it may simply be too much.

Visual cues and personal schedules are one of my favorite ways provide access to an otherwise overwhelming situation.  Sometimes, children just need to have a finish line in site with clear road markers along the way.

Schedule1The key below explains what each icon means.  The icons used on the schedule were already familiar to my student and the class.  They are the same pictures we used as visual cues on charts and during lessons.


The above schedule was created for a child who became so fixated on perfect pictures that she completely neglected words. She also had difficulty stretching her work across several pages.  She would pick her topic and then cram everything she possibly could onto her first page.  I made her a schedule that would involve sequencing photos of her engaged in whatever activity she was writing about.  Then, over the next 2 days, she would read her pictures, act out each page, write her words, and reread.  When introducing the schedule, I would meet with her at the beginning of writing and review what the objectives were for the day. Because the symbols were already familiar to her, she was fairly independent with her schedule from the start.  She kept track of her progress by moving a chip with Velcro along the schedule.

The schedule was later modified for another child who needed more support during the planning and preparation process and again for a child who just needed to know that it was okay to do one page a day.


Schedules can also be made into book format for children who are overwhelmed by seeing the tasks of the upcoming days across one sheet of paper.  The book provides the opportunity to focus on the expectation of one particular day of writing while keeping the other days’ tasks hidden from view.


But sometimes, a child needs greater support.  I once had a bright, verbal, and enthusiastic boy in my class who presented with significant fine motor delays, impulsivity, distractibility, a low frustration tolerance, and sensory processing delays. Due to these many challenges he was not able to represent his depth of knowledge on paper.

His picture schedule involved him finding his just right paper from the “yellow dot” tray in the writing center.  It provided him the opportunity to set up like any other member of writing workshop while practicing his ability to safely walk from Point A to Point B.  Once he set up, he would complete one page of writing, engage in a word study activity, and then do handwriting practice using the program Handwriting Without Tears developed by occupational therapist Jan Olsen.  In the beginning, his one page of writing consisted of scribbles.  It then evolved into a semi-representational drawing with letter like shapes.  As his letter formation and phonemic awareness improved he began to add labels to pictures. On occasion he would build his pictures using legos, playdough, or clay and we would insert a photograph of his creation to his writing.


Writing schedules are versatile and can cater to many different skill levels and needs.   Before creating a writing schedule, ask yourself, “Why does this child need a schedule?” “What is my goal for this student?” “What steps need to be scaffolded in order for him or her to achieve this goal?” Writing schedules will provide your struggling writers with successful access to the curriculum and increase their confidence.

Thank you Kathryn! Leave comments and questions for Kathryn in the comments below, and until next time,

Happy Charting!

Kristi Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli


25 Comments on “Guest Post: A Special Educator Weighs in on the Writing Workshop”

  1. mary says:

    All I can think of is “Wow!”

  2. Susan Grant says:

    Can’t wait to implement this in my Writing Workshop tomorrow!

  3. Verena Valck says:

    This was a wonderful column! I also teach inclusion and have a hard time modifying for my students. I would love to see more of of Kathryn’s ideas or of any other special education teacher to help me support my students.

  4. Super-helpful accommodations – Thanks! I’ll be heading back to primary school and I forget the struggles the little ones have in workshop. Pinned and filed for late :).

  5. Marie says:

    What an amazing writing workshop resource! Thanks for sharing!

  6. So often our first thought is that students aren’t doing what they should, when they really just need more support in knowing the process. This was great advice (even for upper grades), thank you!

  7. Betsy says:

    Kathryn has clearly created a great support system for her students. She sees the need and meets it. That is great teaching.

  8. Sue Umpleby says:

    As a special educator, I found this to be an incredibly helpful post that I keep coming back to. I am currently working with a student on the Autism Spectrum who struggles to write any words. He is a second grader, high-functioning, decent reader….totally stuck on spelling every word conventionally, to the point that he just writes nothing. I was wondering if Kathryn had any charts or tips.

    • Kathryn Cazes says:

      Hi Sue,

      Thank you so much for reaching out to me!

      Before putting interventions into place, it’s important to understand your student’s point of view. Start by having a conversation with him to find out why he is so fixated on spelling. Tell him that you have been noticing that he seems to get stuck spelling his words and you are wondering what’s going on. After he gives you his reasons, be honest with him and tell him why this is a concern for you. Then try to problem solve and come up with a goal together. Disclaimer: You will probably already have a goal in mind. You can simple steer your student in that direction. Just make sure he feels like he is part of the process, otherwise it may not be as motivating.

      Based on what you’ve said, it seems that whatever goal you set for your student needs focus on him building an enthusiasm for writing. The goal may be writing one page a day and saving the last 5 minutes for editing. Or you may want a create a system where he can use a timer that would involve 5 minutes of writing words, 3 minutes for editing, 5 minutes for writing words, 3 minutes for editing and so on. If these expectations are too high, you are worried that he may have difficulty with all the transitions, and/or you don’t think this will help him get unstuck, then it may just be time to take the spelling out of the picture. Try giving him a laptop or tablet to use. That way, spell check can relieve his anxieties about spelling and he can simply let his ideas flow. Just make sure that you have other times in the day where he can work on his spelling skills, such as word study. If your schedule doesn’t allow for this, you can create a personal writing schedule together that designates a portion of Writing Workshop to spelling activities. As his interest and excitement for writing grows, you can start to wean him off the laptop or tablet.

      I hope this was helpful. Please keep me updated.


  9. […] Guest Post: A Special Educator Weighs in on the Writing Workshop  (Kathryn Cazes) […]

  10. Jessika says:

    Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for this. I teach in a self contained classroom with 17 K/1/2 kiddos all on the spectrum. We have reading and math down and do great, but writing has always been a struggle. The ideas going through my head right now are unreal! Can’t wait to see how this unfolds with my kids!

  11. 私をこの数分を見つめて語学の先生、彼はさらに、目の私のバイアスコーナーを入れていなかったが、最後の言葉は、彼が私の目の前で言った、談話や目は優しさに満ちている。皆で話して、最後に作文を書いた人と思い、彼はこの物の組成、および次の書籍教科書内の圧力を閉じたとき、書き込みはあなたに人の名前を教えてくれない、ugg アウトレット最初に座らせていなかったさ学生の行は、私たちがこの瞬間から始まり、愛、上の名前の書き込みを覗い。

    私は人にも、彼は生活の中で生活にはなく、電源のための彼独自の世界観と展望を持っていますが、方法については、私のアイドルである私を理解し、私を尊重しなければならないような、グッチ ネックレス メンズ見てみると、他の暖かい日みましょうことができるようになりますので、私は勇敢だ私を軽蔑するために私が愛する男、でも世俗ビジョンに直面し問題ではありません。 Rおしゃべりジュンが、私は深く、安定した、彼の好きな、私は言葉よりも女の子もっと考え、Twitterは正常であり、プラダ ポーチ男の子が見てより多くの、時にはユーモラスに耳を傾け、その後、家族の責任と社会的責任の不屈の精神に行く必要があります。その時には、R-6月はとても完璧な男である。彼は完璧だったので、結果は、彼は、私に新郎を属し、他の誰かと結婚していないということです。しかし、残念ながら、、、私が育った花嫁にしたくなかった。瓊瑤原作は私を与えたと私のピアが鼓吹愛するようになるではありません。エアマックス最後まで、人を愛し、??彼のために支払うことで、彼がいる限り、彼が幸せであるように幸せだった。私は私の最初の愛を与えることを選択したとき、私は彼に多くの幸せを見て、彼の後ろに立っていた。しかし、穏やかな視線は、最終的に何を数える?


    貧困のお父さんのうちには、山の外に、この文は、彼が人々の教師として希望にならないようが、私の人生に影響を与えますが、それは、父上の山の外にすることもでき安心です。実際には、単語はホーム山の外にある、実際には、山の中に高い、それは見てベッドに横たわっての本の束を雇うために、週末は何もで読み込みを3099メートル峨眉山、峨眉山の上昇であり、今回は小説を完全に読むこと楽しみです、学習を遅延した小説を読んで心配しないでください、ウィン??ドウが凝視しているクラスを心配しないでください。再び悲劇的な物語について書き、その後、マガジンにこれらの小さな物語を置くために他に何もない。それらのどれもが放出されないが、それでもwritten’llを主張したがすることは、彼らに私の献身、私に小さなシリーズのフル新年にチェックを送信し、小さなシリーズのもの種類に感銘を受けると推定さそれぞれを送る彼らはそれが右の精神的な慰めのようなもの、であるように、スターピースに名前を付ける?小さなシリーズにそれらのほとんどの話に触れたが、グッチ ベルトいくつかの学生を中心に移動していないが、彼らが見て待ちます完了するために急いでそれぞれが、それぞれの読みは言うだろう: “結果はそれを変更する変更できますか?たびにそれが悲劇 “は悲しいではないでしょうか?その後、私はそれらを教えてくれます。「良いものはすぐにあなたを忘れられてしまう、悲しい事はあなたの心に長い、長い時間のままになります。 “荒涼とした、それは私が時彼の花嫁すでに大に、育って、私の心にあったので、それは、私の最初の愛のようではありません。

  12. 馬。 LZえっ私には思える。シャネル 財布 新作私もこの男のように。彼は少しえっ気に見えます。 モンクレール サイズ。 。 。

    だから、ショルダーバッグ ブランド最初のガールフレンドは接触していない男の子か女の子と交流し親切でした!ugg ムートン

  13. 私は、長官Maはヤング兄弟の目を見て、長官馬、馬修司はヤング兄弟を喜ば、愛劉ヤンの弟の月の事を知っている必要があります言葉の意味を知っていました。





    その劉月では、シャネル トートバッグ誰もが、美鈴も非常に明るい笑顔に拍手を送った。

    …… ”


    “はい、”劉月の笑顔、ガラス:。のために達する「梁長官、あなたのリーダーシップワインを尊重しています。 ”

    「おい!まあ何大臣ヤンは劉の数ヶ月、ああと呼ばれる、交通ヤン兄弟、この兄と妹ジン、ワイン、はるかに良いが…… “長官馬はややおこがましい話をする、酔ってのようです。



    ヤング兄弟を単独劉チャリンという音、ugg 激安月、それらを排出。

    “ねえ – そう、「馬修司はヤング兄弟を見てください。「若い大臣、劉月の事、あなたのおかげで、ああ、あるいは……ああ……これは、ああ祝福の月です……劉


    長官馬ヤンは、彼の優しい目で、その後明らかに非常に人気のある兄が、柳ヶ月で見て、その後長官馬は言った: “どこ、空を横切って口笛、実際にああ、主にヤナギ月は良い仕事をしているされている、高政治の質、または

    私は、劉の月Maximaは、あなたが彼女の馬ああ……劉月は、いつでも忘れてはいけないが、劉の月である理解して任意の場所に実行することを推奨しなかった」とヤン: “どこ、”監督は彼の手を振った

    劉月は微笑んでうなずいた: “それはつまり、ある.??…..”


    しばらくの間、シャネル 靴監督は言った: “劉ヶ月仕事で私たちの前に以上の二ヶ月、時間はそれが能力を書いているかどうかを、短いが、印象的であるか、組織力が大きい文字であるが、全体的に制御する、特に能力


    「はい……ああ…… “張監督は微笑ん:”劉ヶ月になりました横移動すると、しかし、追いつくのに良い時期は、同省はすぐにまだ、空のものを私のオフィスの人事異動を実施します



    私は助けることが喜んで美鈴のいずれかを見て、表現美鈴ガス曲がっ鼻を見てみたい、しかし、美鈴は少し誇張された笑顔で愛情という参照トーストと柳ヶ月飲むことはできません。 “劉Zhurenを


    劉さんは忙しい月は答えた: “Meizhu漣は、呼び出すことはできませんすることはできません、それは……私たちは、まだワイン、姉妹のガラスを飲むものの見えないところに残っている……」



  14. 目次







    感情を表現することができません六、シャネル バッグ








    フォーティーン、プラダ トートバッグ請願書は、信じていないフランス






    二十、モンクレール ポロシャツ幸せな誕生日










    三十、モンクレール コピー党校の訓練












    四十二、モンクレール コピー村人訴訟















  15. 昨日、彼は忙しかった、と私は、ugg モカシンその後のガールフレンド彼らに言った、ガールフレンドは彼を呼び出すために私に尋ねることを決めた、シャネル ピアスハングアップしてから、彼は私が私を呼び出すことはありません、モンクレール ダウンすぐに手術に忙しい、、猛烈な発言権を拾うなされたものであり、シャネル バッグ !私は怖いのガールフレンドは、ルイビトン 財布直接電話を切っています!

  16. 未場所には、ハンマーを言う。シャネル リング 。 。 。 。 。しかし、それに付着する接着する。ugg サンダル 。 。またはあなたのボーイフレンドは30以上で?これは想像することはできません。ニューバランス

  17. “あり。「高Zijian自宅バーを指摘し、私は、タオルの一部を取る一方で氷の二枚をつかむためにトイレに目をやった、言った:」座って。”

    ハイZijianは、アグ モカシン静かに氷を持って、彼の腫れ唇を見ているあなたは、視力の私のラインで向かうことができる、少し上昇に座って、オーバー寄りかかって私を見て、私の目の前で椅子に座って、突然正直、彼の背の高い彼の口に向かって適用します。ugg

    “まあ……”高Zijian痛みのしかめ面、彼の目は私を見て言った:。になって「シスター、あなたは穏やかにそれを置くことはできません。 ”

    私はまだ話すが、アグ ムートン意識的に行くために彼の顔のステッカーに向かって手をリラックスしていなかった、彼をにらみつけた。ハイZijianは最終的に、正直、ワード、静かなスペースを言わなかった、私は再びちょうどベンジーのパフォーマンスを考えた。アグ スリッポン

    私たちはこれまでに、二年生の愛から始まる、ベンジーは私に穏やかな、彼は少し寒い表面に見えますが、私の理解に、今日は高いZijianを破った、これは私が数年彼を見たのは初めてであるという印象を与えた手。シャネル ファンデーション



  18. あなたの名前のないハウスは改装を支払うことをお勧めしませんあなたが離婚をしたい場合は、エアジョーダン5彼は後に、私は結婚が離婚にはないが、花嫁は、必要があると、何も東北ですが、物事は、ルイヴィトン 時計ケース内に常に存在彼らの将来のための保証があり、また、支払うコストを考慮、私は、あまりにも、家族を清めないので、どんなにいい気持ち、お金が欲しいはずですしていた人たち、モンクレール ダウン 一覧になってきた。

  19. Johng369 says:

    Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks cebkdddddfca

  20. Brittany says:

    As an elementary education teacher who has inclusion kids in my writing class with no support to assist, what do you suggest for kids who have a very limited vocabulary and are unable to produce sentences without assistance. I am in a 4th grade classroom and I just am unable to be right there all the time. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  21. Rhonda says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!
    I have been racking my brain over writing for the last few years and now I know what I was doing wrong! The schedules are great and I hope they will help with implementing more independence in writing!

  22. […] me about schedules. You can read about her thinking in detail and see lots of examples and photos here. In summary, everyone doesn’t have to do the same thing in independent work time. Children […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s