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Assessment in My Reading Workshop

By Beth Newingham on November 17, 2009
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Many teachers are excited to implement a Reading Workshop in their classroom.  And why not?  It is a framework for teaching reading that allows students to read self-selected texts at their own level, and it provides us teachers with many opportunities to differentiate our teaching to meet the wide variety of readers we often find in our classrooms.  However, when we give up the traditional methods of teaching reading, there can initially be a concern when it comes to assessment.  The basal texts and other prepackaged reading programs come complete with end-of-the-story comprehension questions for each selection, fill-in-the blank vocabulary worksheets to match the "one size fits all" stories, and specific questions to ask students as they are reading the stories.  We know that these methods of assessment are not accurate indicators of true reading performance, nor do they help teachers guide their instruction to meet the specific needs of individual readers in their classroom.  So you are probably asking, how can I implement a Reading Workshop and also assess my readers in an effective, efficient, and, most importantly, informative way?


Read on to find out how I use both formal and informal means of assessment to regularly evaluate my readers and inform my own teaching.


Why can't you just have them read?"  Her answer is yes, but this common question certainly brings to light the need for student accountability in Reading Workshop.  Below are the ways that I use assessment to hold my students accountable for their own reading performance during IDR time.


Reading Logs

Reading log My students are expected to record every book they read on their reading log in their Reader's Notebook.  This helps them keep track of their own reading, and they use it often to reflect on previous books they have read in order to complete daily reading tasks and create genre graphs at the end of each unit. 

However, I also look carefully at each child's reading log.  I ask myself the following questions to gain insight on my readers.

How many books are they finishing each week?

Are they reading a variety of genres?  What specific genres are they reading?

Are they abandoning books too often?

Are they reading at their "just right" level, or are they reading books that are too easy or too challenging?

Are they reading chapter books or picture books more often?

Do they seem to be recording every book they read?

Sibberson and Szymusiak's book, Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop, provides great reading log questionnaires that encourage students to revisit and really reflect on their reading so that they can set goals for themselves as readers.


Reading Response

IDR Tasks My students respond to their reading in different ways. They often use reading response task sheets to show the thinking they do as they read each day in relation to the skill taught in the mini-lesson.  I try to check in on their reading responses very regularly, as their work helps me know if they truly understood the concept taught in the daily mini-lesson and were able to apply it to their independent reading. I may decide I need to reteach a mini-lesson if students' reading responses reflect poor understanding or application of the skill or strategy I taught them. As I read over their reading responses, I ask myself the following questions:

Do their reading responses show strong comprehension of their self-selected texts?

Are students actually responding to their reading?  (Sometimes I will find students who are not responding at all!)

How thoughtful are their responses?

How comfortable are they writing about what they read?

Are their written responses reflective of the skills and/or strategies I have taught in my mini-lessons?



Conferring 2 Conferring is when I meet with individual students to discuss what they are reading and to provide them with the necessary support and skills they need to be successful independent readers.  I use labels to keep track of what I notice during the conferences.

Download Conferring Labels (They should be printed on 2 in. x 4 in. labels.)

My conferences tend to fall into the following three categories:

1. The Compliment Conference: In this type of conference I ask questions of the reader, name a strategy the child is using, and say “Good job!” I like to do lots of these at the beginning of the year to help my students feel comfortable and develop a positive attitude about conferring.

2. The Coaching Conference: In this type of conference, I already know what my teaching point will be and want to see how the student is doing with a specific skill or strategy. I get ideas for these conferences from working with students in guided reading groups and studying their Reader's Notebooks.  These conferences are somewhat planned ahead of time since I already have in mind what I want to work on with the reader.

3. The Teach, Research, & Decide Conference: This type of conference is often the most difficult because I go into it with no specific teaching point in mind. Instead I am looking for something to teach the reader. It actually takes the form of a “mini” mini-lesson. First I research the reader. I may look at Post-its, ask the reader to retell, listen to the reader read aloud, or ask an open ended question like “How’s it going?" Then I support the reader by explicitly naming what the child is already doing well and give a clear compliment. Next comes the hard part. I must decide what to teach. I determine a teaching point and decide how I will teach it (demonstration, guided practice, explicitly telling him, inquiry). I try to connect the teaching point to what the child has been doing or refer to a strategy I have taught in a previous mini-lesson. After renaming the strategy I have taught, I encourage the student to try using it today and in the future.


Conference Log Students also have a conference log in the front of their Reader's Notebook. In addition to writing on labels that I put in my reading assessment binder, I also want my students to be held accountable for what we discuss during the conferences.  For this reason, I write down the goal (the teaching point) that we discussed during the conference so that I can refer to it when I meet with the student in the future.  Since students take their Reader's Notebook home every month for their parents to review, it is nice for parents to see the skills and strategies I am working on with their child.


Sibberson and Szymusiak's book, Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop, provides additional information on conferring.  They explore different types of conferences including comprehension, text features, fluency, vocabulary, theme, characters, and nonfiction in order to give teachers an idea of the range of topics and strategies that can be addressed in an individual reading conference.

Download Conference Log




Status of the Class




Status formThis is an awesome idea I got from Franki and Karen's book, Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop. The idea of Status of the Class is to orally check in on my readers every day in a quick, efficient way.  At the beginning of IDR time each day, the teacher calls out students' names.  They respond by telling the name of the book they are reading and the page they are on.  While I have found that it is a bit time consuming to do this for each child every day, I try to call out 56 students' names each day.  That way I am checking in on most readers twice a week even if I don't get a chance to meet with them in an individual conference or in a small group setting. This is a great way to:

Document each child's reading.

Hold students accountable for being tuned in to where they are in their reading.

Allow other students to hear what their peers are reading. (It often creates interest in certain books or series.)

Monitor how quickly students are finishing their books.

Notice the variety of genres (or lack of variety) each student is reading.

Determine if students are reading "just right" books.

Connect students who have similar tastes in books.

You can find Status of the Class recording forms in Sibberson and Szymusiak's book, Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop.




Read-Aloud Notebooks

This is another fabulous idea I read about in Sibberson and Szymusiak's book.  I have not yet tried it in my classroom, but it is a wonderful tool that I plan to implement in the second half of the school year.  During read-aloud time, students stop at key points in the story to jot down their thinking in their read-aloud notebooks.  They have found that the notebooks are "a safe place for students to use writing as a means to think more deeply about the text."  They do not give much direction in terms of what the students are supposed to write because they want their students to naturally respond to the text in their own ways.  They then use the notebooks as yet another way to learn more about their readers.  They look for variety in responses, abstract thinking, application of skills taught in previous mini-lessons, etc.

Their book,  Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop, also provides great book lists for read-alouds including favorite read-aloud books for the beginning of the year and many other read-aloud book lists for specific teaching points and concepts.




Small Group Instruction

Guided reading labels-edited I meet with students in small groups to conduct guided reading lessons and strategy lessons on a regular basis.  You will find a great deal of information about the difference between these two types of small group instruction in a previous post titled, "Reading Workshop: What It Looks Like in Our Classroom."  In this post, I want to focus on the assessment that takes place during guided reading. 

 For each group that I meet with, I keep assessment labels with each student's name and the title of the book we will be reading on a clipboard.  I keep the clipboard with me the entire time I am teaching the lesson.  As I teach the lesson, I listen to students whisper read individually to me during the lesson, and I also listen to them discuss the text.  I quickly jot down anything that I notice on each student's label.  I will not necessarily fill out an entire label for each child each time we meet for a guided reading lesson.  However, it was important to me that my labels provide a place to record fluency, comprehension, and general comments when I observe anything that falls into one of those categories.  At times I find it hard to write and teach the lesson, so I often take a few minutes after I meet with each group to jot down my observations. 

Again, these notes are used to guide my future teaching.  Many of my future mini-lessons, strategy lessons, and individual conferences will focus on the things I notice during guided reading.

Download Guided Reading Labels (They should be printed on 3 1/3 in. x 4 in. labels.)




Kid Watching

ReadingSibberson and Szymusiak talk a great deal in their book about how guided reading can, at times, limit their ability to teach.  Instead of looking at daily assessments and determining the best way to meet each reader's needs, they were caught up in the number of groups to schedule each day, the text level of the books, and the number of students in each group.   I too often find myself stressing out over how many guided reading groups I am able to meet with in a week or how many conferences I can fit into a single IDR period.  They instead emphasize the need to focus on guiding readers rather than just managing guided reading groups.  In order to do this they found that, on some days, their time was best spent doing what they call "kid watching."  Because we are so busy teaching guided reading groups and strategy lessons, and conducting individual conferences, we are not always aware of everything that is happening around us.

During kid watching, the teacher grabs some sticky notes and writes down anything she notices as the kids are reading.  I have begun to do this for part of IDR time at least once a week and have found it to be very beneficial.  I have noticed things very similar to what Sibberson and Szymusiak found when doing it in their own reading workshops.

Students who are flipping through books instead of really reading ("fake reading").

Students who are getting up too often or moving around the room.

Students who are constantly switching books without finishing them.

Students who regularly feel the need to share their thoughts with other readers.

Students who are simply not engaged in their books or who are distracting others around them.

Using what I learn from kid watching, I suddenly have new topics for individual conferences or perhaps even mini-lessons if I notice something that needs to be addressed with the entire class.



Putting It All Together


Once I really started using assessments on a regular basis and keeping careful records of student progress, it became overwhelming to figure out how to best organize and sort the information so that I could truly use it to guide my future teaching, complete report cards, share it with parents at conferences, etc.


Sibberson and Szymusiak created an awesome assessment profile web that compiles the assessment information that is gathered about a student over a period of time.  Since their web did not work perfectly with the assessments I use in my own classroom, I created my own web that is very similar to the one in their book.


Assessment web

Download Assessment Web Template


Organizing the Information: My Assessment Binder

As I began doing more assessments in my classroom, I also realized I needed a very organized, easily accessible place to store all of the information I was collecting about each student.  That is when I began developing a Reading Records Binder.



At the beginning of the binder, I keep forms where I record students' independent and instructional reading levels throughout the year.  Since students move through levels throughout the school year, it is important for me to track their progress.  This allows me to move students in and out of guided reading groups and also direct them to "just right" texts in the classroom library.

Guided Reading Levels Form Juse Right Levels Form
Download Guided Reading Levels—Instructional Level

Download Just Right Levels—Independent Level


Each student has his or her own section in the binder.  Karen Bush, my good friend and teaching colleague, introduced me to the colorful tabbed folders you see in my assessment binder (in the picture below).  I used to use regular tabs and then include page protectors to hold any important information and examples of student work behind the student's tab.  Now that I have these tabbed pockets, I can insert things like the students' reading interviews, assessment webs, Fountas and Pinnell assessment forms, and other informative examples of their reading work right into the pockets for easy access when doing report cards or meeting with parents during conferences.



Behind each student's tabbed folder are three things.  First, I keep their "Reading Status" form.  I can flip to each student's section of the binder to quickly access this form when calling off 56 students' names at the beginning of IDR time each day.

Status Complete


Next I keep a copy of Fountas and Pinnell's "Guide for Observing and Noting Reading Behaviors" checklist.  I highlight skills and/or concepts with which the student is struggling and put a date next to it.  This is helpful when meeting with students for individual conferences and when planning strategy group lessons.

F & P Checklist


Finally, I keep a plain piece of cardstock behind the tabbed folder.  It is on this cardstock that I transfer both my conferring labels and guided reading labels that I create when meeting with students individually or in small groups.  I like having all of the labels for each student in one place so that I can easily track progress and recognize consistent reading patterns over time.



Karen also suggested to me that I keep extra pockets in the back of the binder to store reading forms that I use on a regular basis, such as "Possible Strategy Group Lessons," "Reader's Notebook Rubric," extra conferring labels, guided reading labels, etc.  I like having all of my reading materials and forms in one place so I can easily access them when necessary.




Share Your Ideas!

As you can see, I am constantly trying to improve what I do in my classroom. I would love to hear from other teachers about what you do in your own classrooms to assess your students in reading workshop.  Please share!

Comments (89)

Stephanie k,

You asked about Fountas and Pinnell's "Guide For Observing and Noting Reading Behaviors" checklist that I referenced in the post. It is not from their book, Guiding Readers and Writers. It actually comes from their Assessment Guide, a book that is only included in the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. Here is a link to more information about the entire system: http://www.fountasandpinnellbenchmarkassessment.com/default.asp

It's a great checklist!


Dear Beth, I just had a question regarding your guided reading labels. Fluency and comprehension are scored 1-4 ... is this a personal scale that you use or is this based on a reading program? I am hoping to use these in my classroom this semester. Thank you for all of the inspirational ideas!

I teach reading classes to struggling high school students. Will the books you recommend work with High School students? What are the best assessment tools for high school kids?

Hi Beth! What great ideas you have and thanks for sharing. Quick question-is there any place that I can get your mini lessons that you do before they have the silent reading time? I just wondered where you got the ideas for those. Thanks again!!

I first want to say that I love your website and are such an inspiration!! I have Fountas and Pinnell Guiding Readers and Writers but cannot find the Guide for Observing and Noting Reading Behaviors. This is exactly what I was looking for. Did this come from another book of theirs?

Hi Lisa!

You talked about how challenging it is to have students at so many different reading levels. I also have a very wide range of reading levels in my classroom. I use the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading levels and have students reading independently at levels ranging from I-V. Meeting their needs in the midst of a reading workshop (like you are already doing) is really the best approach to take. The great thing about reading workshop is that it allows you to differentiate your teaching to meet the needs of your very diverse learners through whole-class mini-lessons, guided reading and strategy groups, and individual reading conferences.

Even with the huge range of reading levels in my classroom, I still teach one whole-class mini-lesson everyday. In these mini-lessons, I focus on skills that all third graders should be using when they read. The differentiation occurs during individualized daily reading time (IDR) when I hold guided reading groups, confer with individual readers, and teach strategy lessons to meet the very specific needs of my readers.

Remember that your higher readers need to be seen less than your struggling readers. Many teachers try to make sure they meet with each reader an equal number of times, but your low readers should be seen more often. Your higher readers will still grow if they take part in an effective mini-lesson each day and then get IDR time to practice the strategies you are teaching when they are reading their self-selected texts.

I wasn't sure what you meant when you asked what specific reading strategies I use to differentiate my teaching. I use the conferring notes and my own observation notes that I take when meeting with students in small groups to plan my future instruction with those students. I find that strategy lessons are great because you can pull readers from all different reading levels to focus on reading skills with which they all may be struggling. During these strategy lessons, students often use self-selected texts from their book boxes (since those books are at their independent level) to practice the skill or strategy I am teaching/reinforcing in my lesson.

I certainly do not have a perfect answer to your question, but I hope I've given you some help!


Happy Sunday morning Beth!!! Thank you so much for everything you do and share with everyone :) I'm trying to truly differentiate for all my 2nd grade students this year. My problem is that I have a large cluster of academically gifted students (some that have DRAs of 80) and I have some students that are far below grade level (with DRAs of 2). I was wondering what reading strategies you consider are the best to use to differentiate instruction for all learners in the Reading Workshop?

Thank you so much for your guidance,

Lisa :)


You asked about Fountas and Pinnell's "Guide For Observing and Noting Reading Behaviors" checklist that I referenced in the post. It comes from their Assessment Guide, a book that is included in the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. Here is a link to more information about the entire system: http://www.fountasandpinnellbenchmarkassessment.com/default.asp

It's a great checklist!



I'm interested in knowing which of Fountas and Pinnell's books has the Guide for Observing and Noting Reading Behaviors checklist. If you could share I'd be grateful. Thanks!



I am so excited to hear about your successful reading workshop! There is nothing better than students truly engaged in their texts.

You asked how I fit in guided reading and individual conferences. There is no exact recipe for how often I meet with guided reading groups or how often I am meeting with students individually. My responsibilities during IDR time are a mixed bag of guided reading, strategy lessons, and conferring.

However, here is what a typical week might look like. (Remember, IDR time lasts for about 40 minutes each day. It is during that time that I meet with guided reading groups, strategy groups, or confer with students individually.)

Monday: -2 guided reading groups (12-15 minutes each) -Confer with 2-3 students

Tuesday: -2 guided reading groups (12-15 minutes each) -1 strategy lesson (10 minutes)

Wednesday: 2 guided reading groups (12 minutes each) -Confer with 2-3 students

Thursday -2 guided reading groups (12-15 minutes each) -1 strategy lesson (10 minutes)

Friday -1 guided reading group (12-15 minutes) -Confer with 5-6 students

I hope this response helps answer your question!

The key is keeping my guided reading lessons to 12-15 minutes. This is always a challenge. However, I have really focused on making sure I am not trying to teach too many things in one lesson. It takes too much time, and it ends up being less effective for my readers as well. Focusing on fewer skills and using shorter texts in guided reading has helped quite a bit.

Good luck with continued success in your reading workshop!



We try to overlap what we are teaching in reading and writing workshops as often as possible, but it doesn't always work perfectly. For example, our students are studying poetry in reading and writing workshop during the same time of year, but it is not that way with fiction. We feel that studying the fiction genre is an important way to start the year for third graders in reading workshop since we expect them to really dig deeper into the elements of stories throughout the year. For that reason, it is our second unit after launching reading workshop. However, we do not feel like third graders are ready to write fiction that early in the year. They are still focusing on personal narrative writing. We do build upon the in-depth study of characters, plot, and setting we do in reading workshop at the beginning of the year, however, when we teach fiction writing within our writing workshop in the spring. A great resource for reading workshop units of study to help you get started is the Denver Public Schools reading curriculum website. Here is the address: http://curriculum.dpsk12.org/index.htm#lit_pg

You also asked specifically about my mini-lessons during which I teach students to infer character traits based on their actions in a fiction story. You wondered what the students who are reading a nonfiction book at the time are supposed to do. During any unit of study, my students must always have some books in their book box of the specific genre we are studying. This ensures that they are always able to do the daily IDR tasks. If a student happens to be reading a nonfiction book on the day of the lesson you referred to, he or she would be expected to read a picture book (Patricia Polacco always works well for character analysis) in order to complete the task. However, I find that most students tend to read books of the genre we are studying because they become so interested in what they are learning. When I teach the fiction unit, many students are reading fiction chapter books. This works well because they are often able to use the same book for many different IDR tasks.

I wish you continued success with your reading workshop!


Hi Beth,

First, I'd like to thank you! I've revamped my independed reading time after reading some tips on your website. It is now the kids' and my favorite part of the day! I've always dreamed of having all of the kids engrossed in books during independent reading, and now, thanks to your tips, it's happening in my room!!

What is the schedule for your reader's workshop after your mini lesson? How do you fit in guided reading groups and individual reading conferences?

Thanks in advance!


Two questions:

1. I couldn't get to download your lesson plan template or example - could you help with this?

2. In an earlier post you gave an example of a reading mini-lesson where the students as an IDR task were to write about their characters action and write and inference about it. My question is - What about the kid/kids that happen to be reading a non-fiction book at that time? Do you have them pick up a fiction book to do the task? Or do you requires students to reading fiction or mystery books while you are doing that unit?

Thnaks~ Beth

Beth~ Your units of study in 3rd grade for Reading Workshop look VERY similiar to Lucy Calkins writing program. I teach 4th grade and are getting trained in it this year and implenting it as we learn. My question is: Is there a book out there that you generated your units of study or is it just what you and your staff came up with? Also, do you incorporate your reading units of study along side with your Lucy writing units? It kind of looks like it. I'm beginning Reading Workshop this year (you have been a HUGE help) and I just don't know where to start with the reading units. Thanks~BEth

Beth, I found you this year and am so happy for this find. As stated often, you are a true inspiration. Thank you for your time on behalf of those you mentor and the students we teach and their parents.

I constantly wonder how you have time and money for all you do.


You asked about holding students accountable for finishing books. You wondered if I have them do a task or a write a response at the end of each book they complete. This is a great question that I will attempt to answer for you below.

Students are constantly reading books throughout the year in my classroom. They are all finishing books at different times and starting new books on a regular basis. When they finish a book, there is no specific task that they are required to do other than to record the book in their reading log. Years ago, I used to have them complete a story map or write a summary every time they finished a book. However, I quickly realized that required a great deal of work on the part of the students and the teacher. It ended up taking time away from my students actually being engaged in books. The most important thing that I can do for my students is to help them develop a true love of reading. If they know that every time they finish a book a response task is expected of them, reading becomes work rather than a pleasurable activity.

However, your question about holding students accountable is a great one! The key to this dilemma is to check in with your readers on a regular basis. I spend IDR time conferring with readers and meeting with them in small groups. When conferring, I am able to talk in great depth about the books they are reading. It is during this time that I can determine if they are truly reading the books and can demonstrate authentic comprehension. Students are also regularly completing IDR tasks that require them to respond to their reading or use the book they are reading to practice a skill taught in the mini-lesson. I always read over their IDR response sheets, so it becomes very evident when a student is not truly reading his or her book.

Another way to keep tabs on my students is by collecting their Readers' Notebooks and really looking closely at their reading logs. If I see that a low reader is finishing 3 chapter books a week, I will make a point to conference with that student immediately and set up a plan for that student to complete an "end-of-the-book" activity for each book he reads until I am confident that he is truly completing (and comprehending) books during IDR time.

I hope these ideas help answer your question!



I'm glad my resources have been so helpful to you and your colleagues! Good luck implementing Reading Workshop in your classroom!


Stephanie (comment #18),

Vocabulary instruction is so important yet so difficult to weave purposefully into both reading and writing workshops. I certainly teach lessons about using context clues and other strategies to solve new vocabulary words in reading workshop. In writing workshop, I spend a great deal of time teaching many lessons about word choice. However, the bulk of my true vocabulary instruction is taught within my word study program. Vocabulary instruction is certainly an area that I feel like I have not yet mastered. However, I have recently read a book by Max Brand called "Word Savvy." In this book he does a great job explaining how to truly weave vocabulary instruction into your word study program and into your teaching in all subject areas. Below is a link to his book. You can even download the first chapter to read online. I am currently trying to implement many of his great ideas in my classroom, and I would highly recommend this book!

Link: http://www.stenhouse.com/shop/pc/viewPrd.asp?idProduct=366


Stephanie (comment #15),

I'm not sure if you are asking specifically about a reading workshop lesson plan template or a weekly lesson plan template that I use for all subject areas.

If you are looking for a reading workshop lesson plan template, you can find it in my reading workshop post. Here is a link to that post: http://blogs.scholastic.com/teaching_matters/2009/10/reading-workshop.html

If you are looking for the lesson plan template I use for my weekly planning in all subject areas, you can download a copy of that document from the Teacher Resources section of my classroom website. Here is a link to my website: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/

I hope this helps!


AZING ideas! I have become a better teacher because of you. :)


THANK YOU!!! What wonderful videos and information. We are just beginning Reader's Workshop and your website is very helpful. Your classroom library is SUPER. From, Rebecca :-)

Beth- WOW!! I can not tell you how much inspiration you have given me through your website. I am just starting to get my head around making my word study program really purposeful, and appreciate your guidance. Florida Center for Reading Research has a ton of center based resources on their website and they are free. With that said, I am wondering about vocabulary instruction? Do your students have vocabulary lists, or do you incorporate it directly into reading/writing workshop? I have been trying a word catcher for them to use during IDR time. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks again for all you do!



My teaching partner and I have worked really hard over the past year to write our own word study program. However, we are still tweaking it even though it is the second year we have implemented it in our classroom. Since it is still somewhat of a work in progress, I am choosing not to post the work on our website.

Also, a huge part of our program is the games and activities we create for each unit. There are so many components to them that it would be very time consuming to upload all of the different parts and add directions for each activity. I apologize, but I hope you understand.

I would highly recommend "Words Their Way" and Fountas and Pinnell's "Word Study Lessons" if you are interested in creating your own word study program in your classroom.


Hi Beth! Thanks for all you do! I am amazed by all your work and great ideas. With that said, I am very interested in your word study section for my own readers at school. However, I don't see any printables in that area. Would this be something you'd be willing to share? Thanks!

Beth, Do you use a template for lesson planning? If so, would you be willing to share it? I can't remember if I saw it on your site. I probably did, but now I don't remember where it is. Thanks, Stephanie


You can find the labels I use for conferring and for guided reading within this post. Both have worked well for me so far.

In our classroom, we have word study for 30 minutes a day. While it is also incorporated into reading and writing mini-lessons, guided reading groups, and individual reading and writing conferences, I find it necessary to also spend an isolated period of time each day just on word study. We use the Words Their Way spelling inventory at the beginning of the year to assess our students and guide our word study lessons, but my teaching partner and I used the word study continuum in Fountas and Pinnell's "Phonics Lessons Grade 3" to help us plan a year-long curriculum.

You can read more about our word study program on my classroom website. Just click on "Academics" in the sidebar menu and then choose "Word Study." http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/



Thank you for sharing your reading assessments. I love the way you organize your notebook.

What types of labels have worked best for you?

On another note, what is your take on Spelling? Do you teach this as a regular part of the curriculum...if so, what do you use to determine your lessons? Or do you implement it during writing, reading, etc?

Thank you for you input. Jennifer


You asked about Fountas and Pinnell's "Guide For Observing and Noting Reading Behaviors" checklist that I referenced in the post. It comes from their Assessment Guide, a book that is included in the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System. Here is a link to more information about the entire system: http://www.fountasandpinnellbenchmarkassessment.com/default.asp

It is a great checklist!!


Julie B.,

It is exciting to know that you are already reading Sibberson and Szymusiak's book on Assessment in the Reading Workshop!

You asked specifically about how I get a percentage for reading accuracy (as indicated on the sample assessment web in my post). In our district, we use the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System to formally assess students at different reading levels. A main part of this assessment requires taking a running record as students read a text aloud. Using the texts provided in the assessment kit and the included running record reording sheets, it is very easy to determine a child's reading accuracy based on the number of errors he or she makes while reading aloud.

If you do not have access to the Fountas and Pinnell assessmemnt system, I referenced many Scholastic books in my post where you can find short reading passages that you can give to your readers. A reading accuracy precentage can be easily obtained from these assessments.

Good luck!



Each grade level is different in our district, but here are the units of study I teach in third grade:

1. Launching Reading Worksop (6 weeks) 2. Fiction Genre Study (5-6 weeks) 3. Mystery Genre Study/Book Clubs (3-4 weeks) 4. Nonfiction Unit of Study (5 weeks) 5. Poetry Unit of Study (4 weeks) 6. Reading Partnerships (4 weeks) 7. Allen Say Author Study (3-4 weeks) 8. Research/Report Unit (6 weeks) 9. Making Plans for Summer Reading (2 weeks)

We do not teach comprehension strategies in isolation. They are woven into each unit so that the strategies are taught and reinforced when it makes the most sense in a particular genre of text.

I hope this helps!



Your question about the report card is a great one. It is one that many teachers and districts who are implementing reading workshop are finding very challenging to answer.

In my district, teachers in grades K-3 do not give letter grades. We give N (needs improvement), P (progressing), or S (secure). We also indicate if a child is reading below, on, or above grade level. We then score them in the following categories:

-Reads independently for an appropriate length of time -Comprehends narrative text -Comprehends informational text -Applies proper reading comprehension strategies -Reads and comprehends a variety of genres -Reads, understands, and uses new vocabulary -Uses decoding strategies as needed -Reads with fluency and expression

Students receive an N, P, or S in each of these categories. I do wish that there was also a category for reading response, but there is not. I usually add that in the personal comment section. I am just thankful that I am not required to give letter grades!

Teachers in grades 4-5, however, must give letter grades. Since our entire district has just recently adopted the reading workshop framework, teachers are quickly finding that letter grades do not work well. Those teachers are having to create lots of rubrics (based on both efort and achievement) when coming up with letter grades that somehow match their students' reading performance, but they are certainly finding it very challenging. It is my hope that even the 4th and 5th grade report cards in our district will change soon to more closely reflect the philosophy of a true reading workshop.

Good luck creating a report card in your own district! It is certainly an overwhelming task to create a report card that truly reflects all of the qualities of a good reader!



It seems there will always be those students who are not really reading, who neglect their book log, or who are not responding to their reading. It is these students who need regular check-ins. I will often start a book with them and then check back in a day or two to confer with them about their book. I always tell them exactly when I will check back in, so I will expect them to have finished a certain portion of the book and be ready to talk about it.

For those students who forget to (or neglect to) record their books on their reading log, I will have them show me their book log on a daily basis so that they are constantly held accountable. After a couple weeks of this, the students usually improves in this area. It is the same with reading response. There are some students who need regular check-ins and more individual conferences. I also try to pick these students as my "Reader of the Day" when they finally do a good response so that it motivates them to continue working hard. After implementing the Reader's Notebook Rubric and using it monthly to assess my students' reading work, I have found that I am having fewer students who "slip through the cracks" in terms of reading responsibility and stamina. You can find the rubric I created in my previous post on The Reader's Notebook.



Thank you so much for all the effort you put into letting us see what you do in your classroom. I was wondering which Fountas and Pinnell book The Guide For Observing and Noting Reading Behaviors checklist is in.

Thank you!

Beth, My biggest challenge this year has been time. I'm in a private school setting after 9 years in public school. I've only got an hour for reading and word study. The time constraint has forced me to analyze everything I do in the classroom so I can maximize my time. My question, however, is about assessment in reading workshop. I just bought the book you recommended and started reading it tonight. I was looking at the assessment web. I noticed on your post you had percentages for the accuracy for each guided reading level. How do you know how accurate your students are reading so much so that you assign a percentage to it? At my school, we have no software for this, so I was wondering how you arrived at the numbers. Thank you for your time!!

Beth, Thanks for such detailed information and tips. I'm interested in the specific units of study you teach. Do you teach reading comprehension strategies? About how long does a particular unit last? Thanks for your continued dedication to your students, fellow teachers, and profession!


I am glad you have been enjoying my posts on reading workshop. In the next few posts, I am going to move away from reading workshop and focus on some things I do in my classroom for the holidays as well as my classroom economy. However, I will plan on doing some writing workshop posts after the holidays! Thanks for the feedback!


Hi Beth!

I love all your resources and have been trying to implement them in my classroom over the past two years- thanks for sharing! My school district is in the midst of switching from the "Basal" and moving to reader's workshop. I have a question about report cards. I am currently on a report card committee and we are moving away from finding averages as this is not really a measure of students' progress in Reading Workshop. What kind of report card do you provide parents?

This was very helful and I got some great ideas. I am going to try doing the status of the class idea. I would like to know how you deal with students that are not "really" reading during IDR time, recording their books or responding to their reading? Thanks!


I am so excited that you have returned to Scholastic. I teach a 1-2 multiage class, but apply most of your ideas to my students in some way. I absolutely loved all of the information that you posted about Reading Workshop. I feel that I have a well-established reading workshop (thanks to you), but continue to struggle with the writing component in my room. I am wondering if you might be able to post information about how you run your writing workshop throughout the year. I would LOVE to read all about it. Thank you so much. You are an inspiration!!

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