The "basal" issue is one that I am approached about often. When I first began experimenting with reading workshop in my classroom, most teachers in my district were still using the basal we had adopted years ago. I had also been using the basal since it was the only thing that was provided to new teachers (in terms of a reading curriculum) when I started teaching in my district 10 years ago.
Even when teachers are using a basal text, there are still sequential lessons incorporated into units of study that are presented to students each month. When I first began transitioning from the basal text to a reading workshop approach, I tried turning the basal lessons into mini-lessons. I was, in a sense, teaching the basal content within the structure of a reading workshop. I ended up reading aloud many of the stories in the basal text that students were expected to read on their own. I then used them as mentor texts and referred to them when teaching my mini-lessons. Since the stories in a basal text are often "one size fits all," I did not feel bad about using them as a read aloud or even as a shared text. The stories were often well above or well below the students' "just right" reading levels in my classroom, so using them as read-aloud texts or shared reading texts made the most sense to me. I would teach the content I was expected to teach from the basal, but my students would practice using those skills and strategies in their own self-selected books from my classroom library.
While a basal text can be restrictive when trying to implement an authentic reading workshop, it certainly does not make it impossible. Creativity and flexibility on the part of the classroom teacher becomes essential to making it work!
Good luck, and feel free to post any additional questions you might have!
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