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Reading Workshop: What It Looks Like in My Classroom

By Beth Newingham on October 17, 2009
  • Grades: 3–5

Richard Allington believes that effective elementary literacy instruction incorporates six common features.  He labels them as the Six Ts.

They are time, texts, teaching, talk, tasks, and testing

Richard Allington believes that effective elementary literacy instruction incorporates six common features.  He labels them as the Six Ts.

They are time, texts, teaching, talk, tasks, and testing

His many studies make it clear that students need lots of time to read. It's also important that the time spent reading is done in texts that are "just right" for the students. Explicit teaching of reading strategies and skills followed by meaningful tasks are at the heart of what he believes readers need. He also emphasizes the importance of providing time for readers to engage in authentic talk about their books. Finally, he believes testing should not be used to define students but rather to guide a teacher's instruction so that she can help her readers grow. 

I believe wholeheartedly in the philosophy of reading workshop because, if executed effectively, it allows teachers to seamlessly incorporate these Six Ts into their reading instruction on a daily basis. While it has taken me years to feel entirely comfortable with this reading workshop, I can't imagine another way of teaching reading that would as effectively meet the needs of my readers.

 

Read on to view a VIDEO of a typical day of reading workshop in our classroom, find tips for workshop management, get new ideas for assigning and managing independent reading tasks, and check out links to reading workshop printables.

 

 

 

Reading Workshop Video

 

Take a peek into our classroom on a typical day during reading workshop. See the three components (Mini-lesson, Independent Reading, and Closing) in action.

Components of Reading Workshop

The Mini-Lesson

Each Reading Workshop session begins with a mini-lesson that lasts approximately 1015 minutes. During each mini-lesson, the teacher introduces a specific concept, also known as the teaching point. Most often, the teaching point focuses on a reading strategy or skill.  The teacher will explicitly model or demonstrate the skill for the students.

Students then get a chance to practice the skill or strategy on their own or with a partner.  This part of the mini-lesson is called the active engagement.

 

Teaching Tools

P1080652 Chart paper is great to use when recording or keeping track of student ideas and when modeling tasks for students during the mini-lesson.  However, I often find it limiting during times when I want to organize information into tables and Venn diagrams or when I want to refer to a specific task sheet that I expect students to complete on their own during independent reading time.  For this reason, I often use Microsoft Word to make poster-size versions of graphic organizers or informational posters.  Many times during the active engagement part of the mini-lesson, I want to model for students how to do a task that they will be expected to do on their own that day.  As a class, we complete the task together using a blown-up (poster size) version of the recording sheet so that all students can easily see the work I am doing.

If you are interested in doing this yourself, just click on the "properties" tab before choosing to print a document, and find the option for 2x2 poster printing.  Of course you will have to glue the four pieces of paper together to create the poster.  I also put them on poster board to make them more durable.  The best part is that the posters are now reusable if you laminate them!! I write on them with a Vis-à-Vis overhead projector marker and then just clean them off and store them for the following year when I teach the same lesson.

 

Talking Partners

Talk partnersI assign my students talking partners at the beginning of the year.  These students always sit next to each other on the carpet during reading mini-lessons and class read-alouds. Whenever I ask students to "turn and talk" during the active engagement part of a mini-lesson, they can quickly position themselves knee-to-knee with this person and have a quick conversation about whatever I ask them to discuss.  Unlike reading partners who need to be at a similar reading level in order to actually read common texts, talking partners can be at different levels of reading ability.  I do not like to change talking partners more than four times a year because I want the partners to build a level of comfort and trust with each other so that their discussions can be open and honest.  Assigning talking partners is a great management strategy because it saves a great deal of time during a mini-lesson or read-aloud.  There is no confusion about who to turn and talk with, as students are able to quickly turn to their talking partner without hesitation.

 

Mentor Texts

There is nothing better than using mentor texts when modeling reading strategies or when teaching students to notice literary devices and story elements.  I plan my read-alouds strategically so that I have previously read aloud any book that I want to refer to during a mini-lesson.  It is important to point out that the read-aloud is separate from your mini-lesson.  While mentor texts are powerful teaching tools, remember that a mini-lesson is only 1015 minutes long.  Referring to or rereading small parts of a text that has been previously read aloud is better than making the entire read-aloud part of your mini-lesson.  The longer your mini-lesson lasts, the less time students will have to practice the strategy while reading their self-selected books.

 

Ideas for Mini-Lessons

In our district, teachers are working together at each grade level to write units of study for Reading Workshop.  These units of study include sequentially organized sets of mini-lessons that focus on skills and strategies students are expected to use when reading independently.  I would encourage you to collaborate with colleagues at your grade level to plan your own units of study that incorporate the skills you expect of your readers.  Many of our units are in-depth studies of a specific genre of text.

There are also some great books out there that include mini-lessons that can be used for a variety of grade levels.

Revisiting the Reading Workshop: This Scholastic book has mini-lessons for the first 30 days.

Revisiting Book

Workshops That Work!: This Scholastic book is geared toward grades 4+, but it also provides sequential mini-lessons for the first 30 days.

Workshops book


Frank Serafini also wrote a book called Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days. In the book, he provides month-by-month strategies for running a reading workshop across an entire year. Another great book that he has written is called Lessons in Comprehension. In it he includes 64 of the most effective comprehension lessons from his own teaching career. For primary grades, Kathy Collins's book Growing Readers is a great option for finding more ideas for suggested units of study throughout the school year.

 

Individualized Daily Reading (IDR)

During this time students are engaged in self-selected texts at their independent level.  They use this time to practice the skills that are taught during the mini-lessons.  Students read in book nooks around the room while the teacher holds individual reading conferences or meets with small groups of students for guided reading, strategy lessons, or book clubs.

 

 

Book Nook Rotation Chart

 

Book nooksIn my classroom, students are allowed to read in different places around the classroom rather than being confined to their desks.  The place they choose to read is called their "book nook."  There are many comfy places to read in our classroom including a couch, dish chairs, dice stools, and beanbags.  While it is great to have so many comfortable options for independent reading, it can also lead to arguments over who gets to read in the extra special pieces of furniture.  For this reason, we have a book nook rotation schedule in our classroom.  A labeled picture for each special book nook is printed on a vertical banner.  On the left side of the banner next to the book nooks are clips with each student's name and number.  The clips are rotated every day after reading workshop so that all students get to enjoy each book nook an equal number of times throughout the school year.  Knowing where they will read each day allows students to transition very quickly from the mini-lesson to IDR time.

 

Shopping for Books at the Classroom Library

P1080418 In my classroom, students are not allowed to "shop" for books during independent reading time. Instead they must choose books (when necessary) during our morning work period or even during recess if I am not on duty. I tell my students that their book box should have enough books inside to last them at least two weeks.  This means they are certainly not visiting the classroom library on a daily basis. If a student finishes his or her books during independent reading time, he must reread his books on that day. My 3rd graders are expected to be prepared for workshop every day. That means they are encouraged to shop for new books when they know that they have fewer than two days' worth of reading material left. Making this "no shopping during independent reading time" rule a few years ago really improved the reading environment in my classroom. Readers are not distracted by the inevitable talking that takes place among classmates browsing books at the library, and my small group lessons during that time are now much more productive without the disruption of book shopping.

 

Talking Back to Books on Sticky Notes

Sticky note pages While there are times when I provide students with a specific handout on which to record their thinking, there are many other times when I just want them to write about their reading on sticky notes as they make their way through their books.  I tell my students to "talk back" to their books as they read.  Whenever they talk back to their book, they leave a sticky note on that page.  Some students have a hard time understanding how to talk back to their books, so they might use the "Talking Back to Books" prompt sheet to get started.  I often ask students to refer to these sticky notes when I confer with them individually about their reading.

Although I confer with students often, I can't be there with them during every book they read.  For this reason, I ask them to take the sticky notes out of their books when they are done and attach them to a "Sticky Note Tracker Sheet" that is then added to their Reader's Notebook.  This way I can see the thinking that is taking place on a regular basis and use it as a tool to guide my individual conversations and necessary instruction with specific students.

 

The Reader's Notebook

Notebook

Check back soon for my next post, which will be dedicated specifically to my Reader's Notebook. I will reveal the different sections I include in my students' notebooks, explain how I use them as an assessment tool, and provide links to download many of my Reader's Notebook files.

 

Guided Reading & Strategy Lessons

GuidedWhile students are reading self-selected texts from their book boxes during IDR time, I am busy, too.  If I am not conferring with students individually, I am usually meeting with them in guided reading groups or strategy groups.  Click on the Guided Reading vs. Strategy Lessons handout to see what makes strategy groups different from guided reading groups.

Guided reading groups contain students who are all reading at the same level.  The teacher provides them with a common text at their instructional level, introduces the book, and points out important text features, tricky vocabulary, or essential story elements.  She then listens in as students read the book to themselves.  The lesson is followed up with a teaching point and some additional modeling of a strategy the teacher feels is necessary based on her observations.  Strategy Lesson Planning SheetOn the other hand, a strategy lesson can be made up of readers from many different levels who are all struggling with the same skill or strategy.  I usually have the students use books from their book box to practice the skill or strategy I am modeling for them.  Strategy lessons take the form of a short mini-lesson but only with a few readers. 

You may be asking, how do you come up with ideas for strategy lessons?  I use this Strategy Lesson Planning Sheet. Whenever I confer with a reader, administer a formal assessment (DRA, Fountas and Pinnell, etc.), or meet with students in a guided reading group, I keep track of skills with which certain students are struggling.  When more than two students are struggling with the same skill, that becomes a future strategy group lesson with those students.  (Some strategy lessons I have already taught this year include "reading through periods/not paying attention to punctuation," "rereading when meaning breaks down," "using appropriate decoding strategies," "recording books properly in reader's notebook," "talking back to books effectively," etc.)

 

Independent Reading Self-Checklist

Checklist When a teacher chooses to implement Reading Workshop in her classroom, it means giving up some control and giving more responsibility to the student readers.  Many teachers feel as though students in a reading workshop are not held accountable on a daily basis.  Of course there are usually daily tasks, and teacher is also still meeting with students in individual conferences and in guided reading and strategy groups.  However, it is impossible to check in with every student every day.  For this reason, I use a self-checklist that students are asked to complete during the last two minutes of workshop everyday before returning to the carpet for the closing.  As a class, the students helped me create a list of the four to five most important things they believe they should be doing during IDR time.  At the end of each week, students hand in their self-checklists so that I can look them over.  In some instances I use the information to address concerns with specific students during upcoming reading conferences.  I then send the completed checklists home for parents to see as well.

Download IDR Self-Checklist

 

Closing

This is a 510 minute time period in which students gather back on my reading carpet to reflect on their work as readers.  I make sure to reinforce my teaching point for the day and emphasize the importance of continuing to use the strategy that I taught whenever they read from now on.  I also give students a chance to share their reading work.  Since I certainly do not have time every day for every reader to share, I vary the way I allow my students to share.  Below are some options for the closing share.  (Remember, I do not do all of these every day!)

Reading Partner Share

A quick way to provide time for all students to share the work or the thinking they did during IDR time is to have them quickly turn and talk with their reading partner to reflect on their reading work or discuss the reading task.

 

Reader of day Reader of the Day

Sometimes I will highlight a specific reader who has done the reading task very well or who I notice is successfully using a reading strategy I have taught in previous lessons.  That student will share her work or model the strategy she used for the class.  I even have a cheap little "Reader of the Day" trophy that is awarded to these students who do exceptional reading work.  They get to keep the trophy at their desk for the day.  It is considered a top honor in our classroom.

 

 

Revisit Chart From Mini-Lesson

There are times when the reading task is an extension of a chart or a discussion we started during the mini-lesson.  As students read, they are expected to think more about the concept and then be able to add to the chart when we return for the closing.  Their ideas may simply be added on sticky notes they created while they read so that I do not have to spend too much time writing all of their additional ideas.

 

Link to Home Reading

My students are expected to read at least 15 minutes at home every night.  I often remind them to use the new strategy or concept that I taught during the current day's mini-lesson while they are reading at home.  On some days, I even ask them to continue the IDR task at home.  On these days, they will bring home their Reader's Notebook so that they can record their thinking as they read their required 15 minutes outside of school.

 

Keeping Yourself Organized

It can be challenging to plan ahead and keep all of the components of reading workshop organized on a daily basis.  When I first started implementing reading workshop, this Reading Workshop Planning Sheet was helpful to use so that I knew exactly what I was doing each day.  Of course, I do not meet with two groups and confer with four readers every day, so I only fill in what I am planning to accomplish.

RW Planning Sheet
 

 

Assessment in the Reading Workshop

This is a complicated topic, as there are so many ways to assess your readers on a regular and "as needed" basis.  I will discuss the many ways that I assess my readers in a separate post in the near future.  Check back soon!

 

More Reading Workshop Links

More About Reading Workshop in My Classroom

Books About Reading Workshop

Posters of the Three Components of Reading Workshop (as seen below)

Mini%20Lesson poster

 IDR poster

Closing

 

You can also check out Angela Bunyi's awesome Reading Workshop Video in the video player section of Teaching Matters!

 

If you don't want to miss upcoming posts about the Reader's Notebook and Assessment in the Reading Workshop, subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog!

 

Comments (114)

Hi Beth! I just happened to stumble across your website when I was looking for center ideas. Wow! I love your classroom and how fun and inviting it looks. You're fortunate to have a large room with lots of room to have the bulletin board displays. I am a Title I teacher. I love the Reading Workshop idea; however, at our school,we team teach. There are 3 teachers per grade level and one teaches reading, one teaches math,and one teaches writing(grammar and spelling are included during writing),1st-5th grades, as the students rotate in ability groups to each room for 1-hour blocks.(This is all before lunch.) From what I am understanding, you need more than one hour for Reading Workshop. We also are required to use the basal,but the stories are so long to read and with time constraints, the students listen to the stories on CD and don't do much reading to build their fluency. I'm thinking Reading Workshop would be so much better. Do you think Reading Workshop could be managed in one hour? Thanks so much for any insight! One more thing--I LOVE your literacy centers, but I don't have Print Shop. Is that the only way to copy them? Have a Happy New Year!

Jennifer,

Our Math on the Water board is constantly changing to reflect the skills that students are learning in each unit. For that reason, it is difficult to explain exactly what is on the board at any given time.

I will be doing a post specifically on this daily math activity in the upcoming months. Stay tuned!

-Beth

Brittany,

You asked if students are reading a different book each day to complete the mini-lesson task or if they are reading a chapter book over time. That is hard to answer because it is different for every reader.

My higher readers are reading chapter books the majority of the time, while some of my lower readers may still be choosing picture books at their level. By this time of the year, most of my students are usually reading a chapter book over a longer period of time. However, the recording sheet that you see in my post is from the beginning of the school year. During the first month, I ask my third graders to read only fiction picture books so that they can become comfortable recording many books in their reading log and determining each book's genre.

Beth

Beth, Would you please tell me specifically what activites you have on your Math on the Water board. Thank you.

Thank you so much for all this information!! I often look to your website for inspiration-I had a quick question about the mini lesson with the Reader's Workshop. Are they reading a small book they can finish in that time or a chapter book over time? It looked like on the recording sheet that it was always a different book so I was curious about the ones reading chapter books. Thanks for any help in this area!!!

Tracy,

You asked if I teach the ELA standards within my reading workshop or during a different instructional time. In our district, we definitely incorporate the ELA standards into the units we teach in reading workshop. It is important that these skills are taught within the reading workshop so that students are applying the skills and strategies in their independent reading on a daily basis.

Thanks for your comment!

-Beth

B Bell,

Thanks for your compliments! I am lucky to be teaching in a district where many teachers are "on board" with the reading workshop approach. While I am helping other teachers in my district implement successful reading workshops in their own classrooms via professional development and training, my colleagues have developed successful workshops in their own classrooms in their own unique and individual ways. I love hearing about the different ways teachers conduct their workshops throughout the district. Sharing ideas amongst each other has been so helpful for all of us!

-Beth

Jay,

It sounds like you are implementing guided reading on a regular basis. That is great, especially when you have so many low readers in your classroom. However, I would also be sure to teach a whole-group mini-lesson each day, even if you don't think all of the students will be able to apply the strategy you decide to teach. It is still important to give your students a purpose for their independent reading each day while you are conducting guided reading groups.

Good luck with the implementation of reading workshop in your classroom!

-Beth

Lojuana,

You said that you are teaching a multi-level class in which you are finding it hard to implement reading and writing workshops. While a "split" class is certainly a challenge, I believe there is no better approach than a workshop approach in this situation.

If I was in your shoes, I would make sure that that my mini-lesson each day focused on skills that were necessary for the majority of the class. Based on the ability of the readers in your classroom, you can decide to teach lessons that cover both first and second grade skills. Really when it comes to reading, it is not the grade level that matters but the reading level of your students. I know that I have third graders reading at a 6th grade level and third graders reading at a 1st grade level in my classroom this year. I still teach lessons that are appropriate for the average third grader during my whole-class mini-lessons.

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. It is during this important small-group instructional time that you can really tailor your teaching to meet the needs of all of your students. If your whole-class mini-lessons target the average reader or writer in your classroom, your guided reading lessons and your strategy lessons will be the time when you can work more intensively with your low readers/writers and also really challenge your higher readers and writers.

I wish you the best of luck!!

-Beth

Melinda,

We get the mini buckets for our bucket filling display from Oriental Trading. Here is a link to the item: http://www.orientaltrading.com/ui/browse/processRequest.do?demandPrefix=11&productId=IN-52/48&mode=Searching&requestURI=processProductsCatalog&xsaleSku=3/1908&sku=52/48&cm_sp=Cross%20Sell-_-Product%20Detail-_-Product%20Detail

I will be posting about exactly how bucket filling works in our classroom in the upcoming months!

-Beth

Maria,

You asked how we address test prep in our district. We actually take our state test at the beginning of October, so we do not have much time at the beginning of the school year to prepare our students for the test. (We start school after Labor Day.)

We like to think that the teaching we are already doing is preparing our students to perform well on the standardized test. However, we do build in some time for test taking strategies. At the end of the school year, our last units in reading workshop are "Making Plans for Summer Reading" and "Test-Taking Strategies." Since we are limited to a few weeks in the fall before students are expected to take the test, we know that we must do some work at the end of the school year as well. When students do return to school in the fall, we review the test-taking strategies that were taught the year before. However, we make sure that it does not conflict with our launching of reading and writing workshops. Some districts do all test prep until the test and do not launch their workshops until after the test. With this approach, students are not even reading self-selected texts at their own level until the end of October. We try to make sure that test prep takes the place of a different subject whenever it is done. For example, it might take the place of reading workshop one day, math another day, social studies another day, and science on a different day. This way regular routines are established in all subject areas instead of pushing good teaching aside to focus just on test taking.

I hope I've answered your question!

-Beth

I love all of your ideas for Reading Workshop!! I am a Fifth Grade Lanugage Arts teacher and I currently have a Reading Workshop program in place in my classroom. My question is do you teach your ELA standards during the mini-lessons in Reading Workshop or do you have a seperate time for that.

I am not sure how these blogs work,so do you mind emailing me the answer:)

Thanks a bunch!

I would like to see your answer to this question. Will you please post it?

Thanks,

Penny

Hi Beth, You are definitely an inspiration! I was wondering how the other teachers in your school or grade level respond to your excellent class. Are you a lone wolf or do they try to emulate you? Thank you for sharing all of your ideas and forms. You are definitely a master teacher! Thanks, Barbara

Hi there, I was just online browsing and found this and i'm very happy that I did. I work at a title 1 school and most of the kids are below grade level and the majority don't know how to apply the strategies to daily reading. We have guided reading groups in our classroom - two teachers and two groups. I am wondering if this way is acceptable until the students master strategies. I plan to move on to book buddies with some kids. I am new to reading workshop being conducted in this way and i am told that there are many ways to do it. i want what's best for my kids, so I'm always on the look out for others opinion.

Hi Beth, Love your site! Please share any ideas you might have about teaching the reading workshop in a multigrade classroom. I have been assigned a first and second grade class by my principal on November 13, 2009. I need help! I would appreciate any suggestions you have on how to implement the reading/writing/math workshop of a split class.

Hi Beth, Just wondering where you got those little colourful buckets that you use for your bucket-filler display?

Thanks, Mel.

Beth, I am curious how or if you have a specific time that you work on "test" taking strategies and practice? In Texas and in our school district everything rides on the test. Do you have this issue where you teach? If so, how do you address this issue? Thank you!!! -Maria

Hi Beth, I teach a multi-age 3rd and 4th grade classroom. My charter school is currently encouraging teachers to use different literacy websites (like www.starfall.com) to differentiate during the Reading Workshop. Do you have any suggestions of other great literacy websites for students to use?

Thanks! Brian

Rhonda,

My reading workshop lasts for an hour each day. Within that hour I teach a 10-15 minute mini-lesson, conduct 40 minutes of individualized daily reading time (IDR), and end with a 5 minute closing.

It is during the IDR time that I meet with my guided reading groups. You mentioned that your district wants you to be meeting with your lowest readers on a daily basis. I understand that this would be nearly impossible without completely neglecting all other readers in the classroom. While I do meet with my lowest readers much more often than my high readers, I do not meet with them everyday. I think it is very important to also give these students time to read self-selected books individually. If I meet with them everyday and always give them assigned books to be reading, how can I expect them to actually practice what I am teaching them when reading independently? Also, these readers need to grow a genuine love for reading. If I am constantly interrupting their independent reading time and giving them a book that I have selected for them, they will continue to see reading as "work" rather than a pleasurable activity.

I tend to see my low readers at least three times a week in guided reading or strategy groups. However, I might also see them in an individual reading conference on a day that I do not meet with them in a group. This allows me to check-in on them to assess their application of the skills I have taught them during previous lessons.

I also think that my other readers should not be neglected. Just because those students are able to read at or above grade-level does not mean that they too would not benefit from small group instruction with the teacher. If my high readers are rarely given the opportunity to meet in a group to discuss a book and practice higher level thinking strategies, it is likely that their progress will plateau. I feel that it is my responsibility not to just maintain the performance level of my high readers but also to constantly push them to read, discuss, and think about books at increasingly high level throughout the year.

Here is what a typical week might look like during the 40 minute IDR time that takes places 5 days a week in my classroom.

Monday: -Guided reading with "below-grade-level" readers (12-15 minutes) -Guided reading with "below-grade level" or "on-grade-level" readers (12-15 minutes) -Confer with 3 "on-grade-level" readers (10-12 minutes)

Tuesday: -Guided reading with "on-grade-level" readers (12-15 minutes) -Guided reading or book club with "above-grade-level" readers (12-15 minutes) -Strategy lesson with "below-grade-level" readers (10 minutes)

Wednesday: -Guided reading with "below-grade level" readers (12-15 minutes) -Guided reading with "on-grade-level" readers (12-15 minutes) -Confer with 3 students (high, med, or low readers)

Thursday -Guided reading or book club with "above grade level" readers (12-15 minutes) Guided reading with "on-grade-level" readers (12-15 minutes) -Strategy lesson with "below-grade-level" readers (10 minutes)

Friday -Guided reading with "below-grade-level readers) (12-15 minutes) -Confer with 5-6 students who I feel most need my assistance. (25 minutes)

I hope my advice and scheduling ideas are helpful to you. Good luck with your reading workshop!

-Beth

Hi Beth:

Love all of the very useful information you give on your website. I have visited it many times. Our district does many of the same things but I do have one question: we were told that we need to meet with our lowest students every day and meet with the other Guided Reading groups at least 3 times per week.

HOw many groups do you have this year? Do you meet with your lowest students every day?

I guess I am confused because my Reader's Workshop time can last for over an hour each day (I see each group only 3 times a week due to time constraints) since I am meeting with five different groups. I noticed your Reader's Workshop time only lasts for 40 minutes, which makes so much more sense to me, considering an hour and a half is too long for kids to be sitting and reading and doing their Reader's Notebooks.

So, I guess I'm asking is it crucial to see your lowest students every day?

Thank you! Your advice is greatly appreciate!!!

Chelsea,

You asked about a year-long plan I follow in reading workshop. Each grade level is different, 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)

I hope this helps!

-Beth

Hi Rachel,

At-home reading can be challenging to keep track of. I have tried so many different ways of holding my students accountable including home reading logs with required reading response sheets, a Bag O' Books that needed to be refilled everyday, and a simple monthly calendar.

Over the past couple of years, I have decided that keeping it simple is best for both me and my students. The ultimate goal for me as a teacher is to help my students develop a genuine love for reading. I want them to become life-long readers who choose to read even when it is not required. For this reason, I ask my students to do nothing more than write the amount of time and the title of the book they are reading each evening. (I expect a minimum of 15 minutes each school night.) A calendar goes home at the beginning of the month on which they record the information each night. They turn it in with a parent signature at the end of the month.

I decided that my students do so much reading response in my classroom that I wanted their at-home reading to be less "work." My hope is that they do not think of their nightly reading as work but rather as something they look forward to doing each evening.

-Beth

Hi Beth,

You may see several questions from me in the near future as I am trying to work out all of the kinks I am having right now in my classroom. Thanks in advance! I was wondering how you keep students accountable for their nightly reading? My students also read 15 minutes. When they are done, I have them write a very short summary with the title of the book, date, page numbers, minutes read, and parent's signature. I have all of these things so I can attempt to "see" if they are doing their minimum minutes, their reading rate, and their comprehension. This is a lot to keep track of and I was just wondering how you do it?

Thanks!!

Beth, First, you are amazing! I was wondering if you have published or have available a year long plan of your reading workshop schedule. I have found that I am just so overwhelmed I don't know where to start! (or how to make sure I am covering everything)

Kelly,

Your concerns that you talk about in your comment (barely keeping up with what you need to do, feeling regretful of the things you are not teaching, etc.) are all feelings that I have often had in my ten years of teaching. In fact, I am just starting to feel satisfied with what I am doing.

You asked how I manage to teach everything that I do and where I find the time to do so many things in my classroom. Unfortunately, there is no secret except for spending lots of time on school work. I thought that at this point in my career I would be on "easy street," but that is not the case. I am constantly trying to improve what I am already doing, and, at times, it seems the work never ends. I am still not at a point where I feel like everything is perfect or that I can just recycle all that I have done before. While I do use many of the same lessons, projects, and ideas from year to year, I always feel like there is more I can be doing. It sounds like you are the same way! I really do think good teachers never quite get to a point where they are on top of everything because that would mean there is no room for improvement.

I have also found that I can't do it all! There are some really cool (but also time-consuming) things that I used to do in my classroom that I have stopped doing over the years. Each school year I really look at what activities will benefit my students the most, and I will only continue doing those that are high on my list.

I wish that I had "perfect" answers to your questions, but, unfortunately, it really still comes down to lots of time and effort put into my teaching.

Thanks for posting!

-Beth

Hi, Beth,

I've enjoyed your class website for years and I used to read your previous Scholastic blog. I'm glad you're back with Scholastic again. I am very inspired by what you do with your kids - its phenomenal! I have used many of your templates in my Reading Workshop (book basket labels, genres, themes in literature, etc.) and I so appreciate your sharing them with us.

My question is this: how do you do all of the things you do? They are so time and labor-intensive. This is my 14th year teaching, and I am still finding myself scrambling to catch up from week to week and regretful about all the things I'm not doing in my classroom. I know you have developed your systems and templates over the years, so it's not like you're reinventing the wheel each year, but preparing for and implementing everything still takes time.

How do you prepare all of the materials you need? How to you manage to teach everything you teach in a day/week? There are so many things you do that I would like to use, but I am overwhelmed when I think of how much time it would take me to do it. I know you don't do teacher work 24/7, so what is your secret???

Thank you for everything you've done to elevate teaching to such a professional level. Your classroom is crisp, lively, bright, and full of meaningful learning activities for the children. Your students are very lucky!

Warmly, Kelly

Beth,

Would you mind sharing some of the topics you use during your mini lessons? What strategies do you teach your students during these mini lessons? I know you have a few samples on your website, but I would love to hear about other mini lessons you use at this point in the school year or later. Thank you!

Jennifer,

You asked about conferring labels, specifically where I keep them, what type of label I use, etc.

Stay tuned next week for my post on Assessment in the Reading Workshop. All of your questions will be answered along with links to download the labels!

-Beth

Beth,

Wow, what a phenomenal teacher you must be!!! I am overwhelmed and excited when I go through your website.

Something I am wondering about... you mention conferring labels in your video and there is a quick view of them. How exactly do you use them? Where do you keep them? What type of labels do you use? Do you keep one big notebook with conferring information?

Thanks so much for your tips and help!

Jennifer

Linet,

I love your idea of a circus theme! I will have to keep that in mind for upcoming years!

I am glad that you are finding so many ideas of my ideas to be useful in your own classroom! It is also exciting to know that your colleagues are enjoying the blog as well.

Unfortunately there is no way for you to post pictures on the blog at this point. Perhaps that feature can be added in the future.

Good luck with your implementation of reading workshop!

-Beth

Thank u Beth!!! Hopefully I travel to your home page (not Scholastic). The last year in the second period I take different ideas and the team was Racing cars. That was wonderful. This year the theme is Circus. I take different ideas that I adapted for example I choose the Clown of the Week, I have my classroom library in the same way that you have in your classroom. Also I do the activities Mystery Readers (Lectores Misteriosos). Soon the students are going to make the cereal box activity. Beth I take allllllll your ideas and I adapted for my students in PR. Many friends of my school know you or know your job because the things that you do was a success. Also I received many university students every year in my classroom for do her practice to be a teacher and they know you because I tell us that in the same way my Mentor Teacher and I gave them your home page address. Thanks Beth!!!! Also different university professors also know you and you help them to teach this futures teachers, all of that for your web page. My new goal is the Readers Workshop. I try to adapt your instructions for does that. You have another form to send you my classroom pictures???? I will like you to see the pictures of my students and classroom. Also I’m a Children Pastor in my church and I do these activities in a similar way!!! Thank Beth!!! Your and inspirations for teachers like me, the things that you know for “normal” here is a totally a new “thing”. Waiting for your answer!!! Bless u!

Mrs. Linet,

It is exciting to know that a teacher from Puerto Rico is reading my blog!

I hope that my current and future posts will assist you in your endeavor to implement a successful reading workshop in your classroom. It is never too late to start!

For more details about my classroom and about reading workshop in general, follow the links below.

Here is a link to all of my postings this year: http://blogs.scholastic.com/teaching_matters/beth_newingham/

Here is a link to past articles I have written for Scholastic: http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/collection.jsp?id=292

Here is a link to my classroom website where you will find tons of resources to help you get reading workshop started in your own classroom: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/

I hope you will find these resources helpful!

-Beth

Jennifer & Connie,

Thanks for your compliments!

-Beth

Hi Beth: I'm a second grade teacher in Puerto Rico in a public school. I love your page and I learn different ideas for do activities for my student but I don't now how to begin. I teach science, math, social studies and Spanish that means grammatical for Spanish. I'm a member of Scholastic, I do the book fairs in my school, I have the book clubs and I have my home page classroom but I have to recognize that I need help for reading and writing activities. In US the education is different than PR. You would like to be my mentor teacher? Please! I don't now how to begin and if I'm on time because the classes started in august or if don't care! I will love to try the Reading Workshop but I dont now who begin. If you need more details about my classroom, please ask me!!! Sorry for the bad english if I do mistakes, I try to do my best! Mrs. Linet God bless you!

Beth- You've outdone yourself again. I have been a fan of your class website for a few years and am so glad that you are now working with Scholastic. I have your name on my vision board so I can inspire myself to be more like you as a teacher.

Keep inspiring us!!!

Connie

Lisa, I don't have the conferring labels posted anywhere at this point. However, my next two posts will be about my reader's notebook and assessment in a reading workshop. I will be sure to add a link to the labels in my assessment post! I have a couple of different versions that I use.

I'm glad you like the video!

-Beth

Beth,

Thank you for sharing your passion for teaching students to love reading! I am currently in a school system that uses the traditional methods of teaching reading from a basal. We have just adopted the DIBELS assessment tool and are implementing an RtI system. In that process, I have begun evaluating my reading instruction in a new light. How often are my students actually READING, how often are they reading "just right" books, and how often are they ENJOYING reading? I would like to begin working toward the reading workshop model in order to improve the answers to those questions. My dilemma is that we are into the school year, and as I am isolated in my attempts, I don't have time to write a new curriculum of daily mini-lessons. Any suggestions? Do you have any curriculum maps, resources, etc. that you could share showing the mini-lessons that you teach throughout the year? I'd be nice to have a starting point. I'll probably try beginning with the skills/strategies taught each week in our basal and applying those as mini-lessons.

Thanks! Betsy

Hi Beth, I loved your Reader's Workshop video! I was wondering if you have your conferring labels posted anywhere? My current anecdotal note system isn't working and I often co-teach during reader's workshop, so I think the label idea might fit my needs perfectly. Could you give me some more information about those?

Thanks so much! Lisa

Hello Beth, Your ideas are wonderful!!! Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge. I plan to implement several of your strategies within my classroom this year. Thanks again!!

Carrie,

Your questions are things that I have figured out through trial and error over the years.

First, you asked if I only allow my students to select books from the genre we are currently studying. The answer is no. However, students must always keep at least a few books from that genre in their book box during the unit to use for IDR tasks or for the active engagement part of the mini-lesson. For instance, we are currently studying fiction. Most students already have lots of fiction in their book boxes because it is what they like to read. However, so many of the reading tasks require them to be reading fiction that they must have at least 3 fiction picture books to use for tasks at all times, or they can choose to use a chapter book if they are currently reading a fiction chapter book. If students get done with a reading task using a fiction book and want to read a nonfiction book with the remaining time, I do not discourage that.

During other genre studies like poetry, informational text, etc. the rules are very much the same. What ends up happening most of the time is that students become so interested in the genre we are studying that they choose to read books from that genre without even being required to do so.

Some genre studies like our mystery unit and our author study unit require students to work in book clubs. During these units, students are reading a book from the genre we are studying with other students in the class and meeting often to discuss the common text.

You also asked about the isolated skills that will be on the "test." We incorporate those skills into our morning work and our word study program. This is how a typical morning goes in our classroom. 8:45-9:10- Morning Work 9:10-10:05- Reading Workshop 10:05-10:35- Special (gym, music, etc.) 10:35-11:25- Writing Workshop 11:25-11:55- Word Study 11:55-12:15- Read Aloud

Our morning work focuses on grammar concepts that are then reinforced within our writing workshop. Concepts that you mentioned like homophones would be taught in word study along with long vowel patterns, plurals, endings, prefixes/suffixes, syllable types, etc. I try to connect whatever we are doing in word study or morning work to concepts in reading workshop (during strategy lessons, guided reading, conferring, etc.) and writing workshop (during the mid-workshop teaching point, conferring, etc.) whenever I can.

I hope this post helps answers your questions.

-Beth

Lori,

You asked some great questions!

First, you wanted some additional clarification about how my guided reading is different from my strategy groups. You understood that my strategy groups focused on specific skills or concepts on which students need additional support, but you wanted to know if I also focused on a specific skill or strategy during guided reading.

Here is my answer. I do focus on specific skills during guided reading. However, the skills are not always based on the specific areas in which students are struggling. The skills that I focus on in guided reading are often specific to the genre or unit we are studying as a whole class so that I can reinforce teaching points I first introduced in mini-lessons. New vocabulary and "tricky parts" are also introduced ahead of time.

In comparison, the skills I focus on in strategy lessons are things that I have noticed students struggling with during IDR tasks, previous guided reading lessons, or individual conferences. In a strategy lesson, I go into the lesson with a specific teaching point in mind. In a guided reading lesson, the book introduction actually takes up most of the time so that students are supported when reading the book on their own. However, a teaching point often arises from what I notice as I work with the students in the group. In this case, the teaching point actually takes place at the end of the guided reading lesson.

You also asked about conferring. You wanted to know if I had specific goals set prior to meeting with students in individual conferences. The answer is sometimes yes, and sometimes no. When conferring, there are 3 types of conferences I hold.

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. 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.

I know that this is a long-winded answer, but I hope that it has helped clear up some of your questions!

Thanks for posting!

-Beth

Beth, I have used and done much of what you have shared on your website and I LOVE IT! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. I have a question or two for you. 1. If you are working on say story elements, do you only allow your students to select books in the fiction genre?

2. What do you do about the isolated skills in the curriculum, which you know will appear on the "test." For example, you must teach homophones as it is part of your curriculum. How do you relate that to their IDR task? Assess it?

Thank you! Carrie

Beth, I am so glad that you are back to blogging. I have been a blog reader of both you and Angela. I love all of your ideas and how you organizer them. Your reading workshop video was great for me to reevaluate how I use my time during Reader's Workshop.

Also, I really like how you compared guided reading and strategy groups. Ever since I read The Daily Cafe this summer I have been unclear what to focus on during small groups. One question I still have is if strategy groups are for specific skills that need to be worked on with various levels of students do you not focus on a specific skills during a guided reading lesson? Does that make sense? For you is a guided reading lesson more looking at the story comprehension as a whole and whatever the "tricky" part is? Could you explain your thinking a little further? I would greatly appreciate it.

Secondly, I was wondering if when you conference with students if you set any individual goals to work on with the student? or is the conference to assess how a student is reading (fluency) and comprehending currently in their independent reading?

Hi Lynette!

That is great that you are doing so much research on reading workshop before having a classroom of your own. Your future students will certainly be lucky!

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!

I hope this helps answer your question. Good luck with the remainder of your pre-service teaching!

-Beth

Allison,

Being a new teacher is definitely overwhelming. It always seemed to me that just when I got comfortable doing one thing, I was expected to do things differently. When I look back at my third year of teaching, it looks so different than what I am doing now.

First of all, your concerns are completely normal. In fact, there are probably many teachers who have been teaching much longer than you who feel the same way.

My suggestion to you is to take baby steps. Instead of thinking about how you can change your entire reading program, think about what small changes you can take to make your current reading program more like what you envision it to be five years from now. If it is a reading workshop approach that you are looking to take, think small. Maybe this year you can just work on organizing your library (an essential component to reading workshop). Or perhaps you can just make it a goal to give your students more time to read self-selected books by provising them with time for purposeful individualized daily reading as often as possible.

As soon as you get these things going, you can focus more on improving the content you are teaching. Perhaps you can take the summer to look at everything you teach throughout the year and see how you might be able to create smaller units of study that can be presented to students as collections of related mini-lessons.

Whatever way you look at it, it still probably seems like an overwhelming task. Just remember that you do not need to change everything at once. It is likely that you are already doing some great things in your classroom. Keep up the good work, and try to gradually take steps toward improving your overall program.

Good luck!

-Beth

Hi Beth! I have become a big fan of your sites. I am a pre-service teacher and am doing research on reading workshops in the hopes of conducting one in my classroom someday. I love all of your strategies and you have made the idea of a readers workshop very appealing. My question is how would I do a readers workshop in a district where they also use basal readers (which I am NOT a fan of). They have a 120 min reading block in the morning so I know there is time. I'm just not sure how to structure it so that I do the required basal instruction and allow students to explore reader's workshop.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Nina,

Thanks for posting on the blog! Hopefully you will continue to find the new content that I post throughout the year to be useful in your own classroom!

-Beth

Beth--do you have any recommendations/tips for new teachers? I just started my third year of teaching and still not happy with my reading lessons... but trying to completely change it seems very overwhelming.

Thanks, Allison

Hi Beth

I get so many wonderful ideas from your website and blogs. I just wanted to thank you for sharing them!

Thanks!

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