We just finished our second full week of school and have fully launched into our Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop. My district adopted the Reader’s and and Writer’s Workshop model of instruction last year. In the past, we used elements of the workshop in our teaching, but last year we were provided with thorough professional development throughout the year and truly hit the ground running full force.
It wasn’t easy. We had to make sure we read through all of the literature in order to know and understand the content to teach, introduce new procedures and routines for the students to follow, find time to collaborate with the other grade level teachers, and put into place brand new assessments to monitor the students’ progress. Plus, the workshop model was brand new for both the students and parents as well. There were tons of questions to answer that we didn’t always have the answer to at the time.
Now that we’ve been through the process for a full year, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time. While there was a lot of work to be done that first year, I can honestly say it was worth it. Not only did our students’ test scores go up, but we saw a complete difference in the students’ attitudes about reading as well.
Our students are now getting excited about reading! We’ve observed them having literary conversations on their own without being prompted by a teacher. They know how to tell if a book is “Just Right” for them and return those that are too easy or too difficult. They’re now reading orally with expression and understanding the what’s going on in the books they are reading. Most importantly, they’re ENJOYING reading! This year, when I told them we would have about 15-30 minutes per day to read independently, the students actually yelled out “YES!!!!” and had huge smiles on their faces. Years ago, if I told my students they had to read for 30 minutes, they would roll their eyes and start complaining.
In order to make sure the workshop runs the way it’s intended to, I need to make sure the students are absolutely clear about the expectations that will take place during Reader’s Workshop. This year, during our launching unit, I made this anchor chart and spent time explicitly teaching into it.
One of the main things I’m a stickler about is during the mini-lesson “Everyone MUST be present.” It seems silly, but reviewing this everyday has eliminated those moments when you ask those really thought provoking questions and the person who you call on to share their answer asks, “May I please go to the bathroom?” and you want to scream and pull your hair out. We’ve all been there, I’m sure! This guideline helps reinforce the importance of the mini-lesson to the students.
During independent reading, my students know they will be held accountable for their reading. Each week, they get a grade for their independent reading based on an Independent Reading Rubric I adapted from Lucy Calkin’s. Click here to download the rubric. If the students are constantly switching their reading spots, gazing around the room, chatting with others to distract them, they will not be too happy with their independent reading grade for the week. So far this year, everyone has been fully engaged during this time. Let’s hope this lasts all year!
I allow my students to pick their seats during independent reading. I have two carpeted areas in my classroom. One in an alcove in the back of the room that has a beanbag chair and butterfly chair. The other is in the library where we meet for mini-lessons. Giving the students the choice of where they sit during reading helps them stay focused and engaged. Personally, I know I can’t read sitting up in an uncomfortable chair at a desk. Therefore, I don’t expect my students to either. I would be one of those kids stretched out on the carpet laying on my back with my book held in the air. I don’t care how they’re sitting as long as they’re engaged in their reading and not distracting others. My expectations are also very clear that if they are asked to go back to their seats for any reason, they lose the privilege of moving throughout the classroom to read for an entire week. So far, so good!
One thing I am REALLY trying to improve this year is making sure we fit in some type of closure or share time at the end of every workshop period. I need to make sure I monitor my time more closely to make it happen. Typically, I’m assessing or conferring with a student, look up, and realize the workshop is over already! However, I think it’s so important to provide students the opportunity to talk about what they did as a reader that day and hear from others who are at similar reading levels. I’ll let you know how I do later on in the year. :)
Like I mentioned earlier, so far we’ve had a wonderful start to the reader’s workshop. Launching was a blast and I can’t wait to see how the other Units of Study go this year. Wish me luck!
Are you looking to launch reader’s workshop in your classroom this year? Check out my Reader’s Workshop Launching Mini-Lesson topics HERE! :)