Reading Workshop

I. Reading Workshop

The reading workshop is one component of a balanced reading program. The reading workshop is comprised of an instructional lesson, student independent reading time, a mid-workshop teaching point, and a teaching share time. Descriptions of each of these components of the workshop follow. Balanced Literacy also includes word study, an interactive read-aloud, a writing workshop, as well as other components.

A.Instructional Lesson - Shared Reading

Reading workshop begins with children gathering in the classroom meeting area for a short (10-15 minutes) instructional lesson. During the instructional lesson, we clearly state the teaching point and then demonstrate exactly what we want children to learn to do as readers. The children then have an opportunity to practice the skill or strategy during the instructional lesson after the demonstration. For example, a teacher might determine that many children are having a difficult time reading with fluency and decide to teach them how to take in more of a sentence when they need. On a subsequent day, the teacher might help children realize that readers actually try to visually take in all of the words before the next piece of punctuation. In this sort of way, one instructional lesson would dovetail with the next in a series of lessons designed, in this example, to teach students strategies that will help them read with appropriate phrasing, intonation and expression. Other instructional lessons will support students as they progress towards other proficiencies.

Although shared reading is most common in K-2 classrooms, upper grade teachers often find it effective, especially when working with small groups of children who need extra support with a particular skill. Shared reading is an opportunity for the teacher to read a text with students. The shared reading text is always a text that everyone in the class or the group can see, so it may be a big book with large print, a poem on a chart, or a text projected by means of an overhead. A shared reading session is characterized by all eyes together on the same text, rather than each child working with his or her own copy of the text. The teacher often begins each ten-minute session by warming readers up with a text they already know well. Everyone reads it together, which offers opportunities to work on fluency and phrasing, among other things. Then the teacher turns the students' attention to the text they are working on, which may be a new text or one they've just been exposed to in the last day or two. The teacher may model strategies for figuring out words or for reading with more fluency. Often, teachers will spend several days on a shared reading text. For more information about shared reading, teachers may want to reference the work of Don Holdaway and/or Brenda Parkes.

B. Student Reading Time with Conferring and Small Group Work

In most reading workshops, teachers divide the work time between private time when students read quietly to themselves (85% of work time), and partner time, when students meet to talk with their reading partners (15% of work time). After the instructional lesson, students read self- selected just-right books. Students read privately and quietly while the teacher moves about the classroom, conferring with individuals. The teacher may also lead a guided reading group and/or a strategy lesson during this time.

C. Mid-Workshop Teaching Point

Often in the midst of a workshop, we convene children's attention so that we can give a quick pointer in response to a shared problem we're seeing or so we can share an example of what one reader has done that might help others. Sometimes these mid-workshop interventions also allow us to correct a misconception, remind students of a previous day's lesson that has special relevance, instruct students about their upcoming partner work, or rally readers to work harder or longer. The mid-workshop teaching point usually takes no longer than a few minutes, and students generally stay in their reading spots rather than reconvening in the meeting area.

D. Partner Time

Students are matched in homogeneous partnerships and meet with their partners almost every day during reading workshop (when children are working within reading clubs, these often replace partnership conversations). Ideally, partners read the same text during private reading time. This makes it likely that they will talk in ways that support each other's comprehension of those shared texts. Often, however, classrooms don't have duplicate of books, and therefore this isn't possible. In these instances, children swap books with partners and read within the same series or books by the same author. In general, children use partner time to support each other with decoding, comprehension, fluency, and stamina, etc. The teacher confers with partnerships to support and extend the work children are doing together, and he or she may convene several partnerships so as to work with a small group during partner time.

E. Teaching Share

At the end of the workshop (after reading time), the teacher brings closure to the day's work. Often (but not always) children gather in the central meeting area. This time is used to share ways in which students have incorporated that day's mini-lesson into their work and to share their new insights or discoveries. The teacher often asks readers to show their partners what they've done or to discuss what they've learned. The teacher sometimes retells a conference or asks a student to share his or her reading work. The share session functions almost as a separate and smaller instructional lesson. It may arise from a particular conference in which the teacher notices a student doing strong reading work that merits being shared with the rest of the students. The share time usually lasts no longer than 5 minutes.

F. Small Group Instruction

In many classrooms, teachers fit small group instruction into the reading workshop itself. Often as children read, teachers confer with a couple of children and then meet with a small group. In some classrooms, however, teachers have a separate time blocked out in the day to meet with small groups of readers. Sometimes reading specialists 'pull in' to the class at this time. It's important that small group work not substitute for the reading workshop, but instead, offer additional opportunities for instruction. There are many different formats for small group instruction; a couple of those formats are described below:

G. Guided Reading

A guided reading group is generally comprised of children who are reading books at a similar level of difficulty. The teacher chooses a text that is at the students' instructional reading level. (That is, with support from a few minute long introduction, children will be able to read the text with 95% accuracy, fluency and comprehension.) At the beginning of the guided reading lesson, the teacher introduces the text in a way that enables the children to read it on their own without major difficulty, while still encountering challenges the teacher has strategically chosen. During the introduction, the teacher might angle the reading in a particular way by saying something like, "Readers, when you read this, make sure you pay special attention to the punctuation because it will help you read smoothly." The teacher watches as each child reads the text on his or her own, sitting near to others in the group. The teacher notices as readers puzzle out the tricky parts, and observes which strategies children use and do not use if they encounter difficulties. The teacher lightly coaches readers individually. Once children are finished with the book (or with the designated pages), the teacher makes a teaching point based on what he or she observed as the students read. Often the teacher will use a white board to make the teaching point. After working with the white board, the teacher will usually ask students to revisit the book, trying the strategy that has just been taught. A guided reading lesson tends to take about fifteen minutes.

H. Strategy Lesson

During a strategy lesson, the teacher pulls together a small group of students who need similar coaching or support. These students may or may not be reading similarly leveled books; either way, they'd benefit from a similar instruction. For example, students from a range of reading levels who need support with fluency could be assembled for a strategy lesson. At the start of a strategy lesson, the teacher shares her teaching point and briefly demonstrates what she wants to teach. During the Active Engagement portion of the lesson, students try the strategy using their own texts (or the teacher-supplied text). The teacher coaches students as they read and try the strategy. Sometimes she may gather the cluster of children together at the end of this work to reinforce the teaching point. Strategy lessons tend to last ten minutes or less; during 90% of this time, children are working and the teacher is coaching.

I.Special Interventions

Some students may need extra support with a particular aspect of reading. These children struggle to 'get it' even though a teacher has taught the particular strategy over and over during mini-lessons, reading conferences, and small group instruction. In these cases, a teacher will need to think 'out of the box' in order to develop an instructional plan. For example, children who continue to read in a monotone with no evidence of phrasing even after ample whole class, small group, and individual instruction may profit from being asked to read into a tape recorder for a few days. Then again, perhaps the teacher will type a certain text in a vertical fashion so that children who struggle with phrasing can see in a concrete way how to chunk a text. In any case, the interventions are tailored to offer children another entry way into acquiring a particular strategy.

J. Book Clubs

Book clubs in upper grade classrooms involve four to six children who talk across a whole line of books. Book Club members generally read at home or during independent reading, using part of the class time to talk. This structure allows you to teach reading skills while your children read, talk and write about a particular genre. Book club groups generally meet 2-3 times a week to discuss a shared book they select as a group, progressing through the text in sync with each other. This means that members of any one club need to be fairly well-matched by reading level. The groups especially profit if the group members reflect diversity of gender, ethnicity, and their abilities to engage in book-talks. If it seems difficult to establish book clubs immediately, and you may begin this unit with partnerships around the genre you select, and then as children seem ready, you can pull two similar partnerships together to form clubs. Since the conversation relies upon members having read to the same point in their texts, children assign themselves several chapters a day. Book clubs provide us with another opportunity to push our readers to read more. Usually there is an expectation that club members will prepare for conversations by doing some writing about the issue that is at the forefront of their conversation.

K. Read Aloud

During the read-aloud, a teacher reads aloud to students in order to model and demonstrate the orchestration of strategies that characterize proficient reading. The read-aloud is also a time when students receive instruction that helps them talk well about books with a read-aloud partner and within whole class conversations. Thus, in addition to modeling the work of proficient, fluent, and engaged readers during read-aloud time, the teacher also teaches children how to have accountable conversations about books. For about twenty minutes daily (and sometimes twenty minutes twice a day), students gather together to listen to the teacher read aloud. During this time, students discuss their thoughts and ideas about the text, either as a group or in partnerships. These partnerships may be informal ("turn to your neighbor") or longer-lasting. When choosing read-aloud texts, teachers consider a range of levels, student interests, genre, tones, and authors.

L. Word Study

Word study is a daily component of balanced literacy for each grade and every level of reader and writer. Teachers generally schedule approximately fifteen minutes a day for word study. During a word study session, the teacher often begins with a 'mini-lesson' of sorts and then provides time for students to work independently or in partnerships to make use of the lesson. During the independent work time of word study, students might use white boards, they might go back to their seats to work in small groups around word study instruction, or they might take out their reading and writing to apply the word study instruction. Early readers study phonemic awareness. Other readers study the wide range of vowel sounds and their letter representations. Still other readers learn prefixes, suffixes, word families, spelling strategies, and vocabulary. It is important for word study to transfer into students' independent reading and writing. To do this, teachers coach children to draw on what they've learned during word.

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