Nurturing a passion for reading begins with providing choice, but making space within the school day for kids to read the books that they choose can be a challenge as well. Many schools build DEAR time into the daily or weekly schedule by using time during homeroom or lunch or revamping the schedule to make space for reading.
As an English teacher, I was a huge proponent of reading workshop. These days, I get to spend a good deal of time helping teachers launch and refine workshops of their own. If the idea of starting a reader’s workshop in your own classroom is something that overwhelms you, consider starting small by using fridays to get started. As your comfort level grows and your toolbox expands, managing a workshop becomes less overwhelming and soon enough, you may find yourself eager to make greater use of this practice.
Many workshop fans follow a common model, and my own looked very much the same. This document can provide help as you begin to envision what a workshop might look like at the outset and how it might evolve over time: beginningrws. Every teacher’s approach will be guided by the unique needs of his or her students and the resources that are available to all. At the beginning of the workshop experience, my mini-lessons had everything to do with helping my students understand themselves as readers and make effective choices. As time progressed and students began sinking into the great books that they were finding, comprehension strategy instruction took over, and more time was spent challenging kids to consider and critique each author’s craft.
Starting slow is as important for teachers as it is for students, and formative assessment is key. Sometimes, when teachers first immerse kids in the workshop experience, they grow frustrated by the volume of need that often begins to reveal itself. I know that I came to the workshop experience anticipating that my students would LOVE having choice, LOVE having time, and LOVE chatting with others about all they were learning. Yeah…that didn’t happen. In fact, just the opposite happened, and it blew my idealistic vision to bits. That was a good thing.
When we stand at the front of the room directing instruction, students are told what to do, what to think, and when to speak. We can make things happen according to our agendas and bell schedules. Workshop allows teachers to talk and do less while challenging students to think and share more. As a result, greater needs are revealed, and this can be overwhelming at first. That’s okay, and in fact, many teachers come to appreciate the level of information that can be gleaned about those needs through formative assessment during the workshop experience. Great teaching, after all, is about finding out where students are struggling and helping them. In order to accomplish that, we have to be willing to let them show us the way rather than assuming what they may or may not need. Workshop provides space for that to happen in. It’s so worth the time it takes.
There are many teachers who are willing to share their workshop expertise and resoures. Here are a few of the sites I value most…..please feel free to share others!
- Jennifer Myers opens the door to her workshop and provides video demos as well.
- Marcia McGowan’s class website is a wonderful resource.
- Karen McDavid’s work attends to comprehension strategies.
- This download provides helpful information regarding workshop structures, including mini-lesson ideas.
- Susan Moran’s site is loaded with tips, tools, and ideas.