Teacher’s File Drawer—Writing Workshop Interest Inventory

A Writing Workshop framework provides a marvelous environment for individualized writing instruction. As an English/Language Arts and Creative Writing teacher I worked to implement Writing Workshops in my classroom and over the years developed a number of tools to support them, one of which is a Writing Workshop Interest Inventory.

What is a Writing Workshop Interest Inventory?

It was a worksheet I created that poses a number of questions for students to consider and respond to. Here’s a sampling of the questions I asked my students to think about:

  • What am I interested in?
  • What things do I especially like?
  • What things do I especially dislike?
  • What makes me different from other people?
  • What do I like about myself?
  • What do I dislike about myself?
  • What do I care about most?
  • What would I most like to know?
  • What would I like to do?
  • Where would I like to go?
  • What exciting things have I done?
  • Do I know any interesting people, and what is it that makes each one interesting?
  • What would I like to change at home?
  • What would I like to change at school?
  • What would I like to change in the world?
  • What could I share with others?
  • What are some things that make me happy?
  • What are some things that make me sad?
  • What are some things that make me angry?
  • What are some things that make me afraid?
  • What do I care about?
  • What could I teach someone else?
  • What advice or insight could I share with others?

These questions are designed to get students thinking about what they would like to write about.

The second piece of the interest inventory is a reading questionnaire. I asked the student to score each of the following genres on a scale of 1-5 (1=I don’t like this kind of reading material and 5=I love this kind of reading material). These are the genres I had them ranked:

  • Action Stories
  • Advice Books and Magazines
  • Adventure stories
  • Arts and Craft Books and Magazines
  • Autobiographies
  • Biographies
  • Blogs
  • Books and Magazine Articles about Animals
  • Books and Magazine Articles about Space
  • Books and Magazine Articles about Archeology
  • Books and Stories About Sports
  • Contemporary Fiction
  • Diaries and Journals
  • The Encyclopedia
  • Fables
  • Fairy Tales
  • Family Stories
  • Fan Fiction
  • Fantasy Fiction
  • Folklore and Legends
  • Game Guides
  • Historical Fiction
  • History Books and Magazine Articles
  • How-to Books and Magazine Articles
  • Humorous Stories
  • Jokes and Riddles
  • Music Lyrics
  • Mysteries
  • Mythology
  • Nonfiction Sports Books and Magazines
  • Plays
  • Poetry
  • Realistic Animal Stories
  • Reviews (Music, Books, Movies, Technology…)
  • Romantic Stories
  • Science Books and Magazine Articles
  • Science Fiction
  • Scripts
  • Talking Animal Stories
  • Tragedy
  • Web Pages
  • Web Zines

The idea behind this list is to help your students consider a variety of ideas and topics about which they could write.

Over the years I added to and subtracted from the potential number of responses to the inventory, depending on what class, grade level, etc. I was teaching. I usually allowed at least half a class period for students to fill out their inventories—ten minutes, initially in which they do so quietly on their own. For the remainder of the period I allowed them to discuss their responses with their friends and neighbors (and hopefully get more ideas from each other). Sometimes, at the end of the period,  I’d have them choose a response to share with the class.

I usually gave the students a single handout for the assignment with the questions on one side and the reading interest evaluation on the back.

When students were done, I collected and scored their inventories. In scoring, I did not require them to answer every question, but for full credit I expected 90% to be answered, 80%, and 70% for lower passing scores.

When I returned the inventories to the students I asked them to place them in their writing folders. Then, when I periodically checked writing folders, they were expected to still have the inventory in it (to inspire writing ideas throughout the year), and were penalized points, but allowed to fill out another, if they did not.

A Writing Workshop Interest Inventory provides a good tool for solving the problem of students complaining they don’t know what to write. If they can’t seem to think of anything on any given workshop day, simply tell them to pick one item off their interest inventory and do a 10 or 15-minute freewrite. Hopefully in the process they will be able to light on something that excites them and produce writing that comes from their hearts.