Reading and Writing Workshop: Virtual Tours of Each Component

By Angela Bunyi on April 1, 2011

Over the past four years I have filmed, edited, and posted countless classroom videos, either here on Scholastic.com or on our class site. I recently realized that I have more than twenty videos that deal specifically with Reading and Writing Workshop. In this post, I'm putting them all together to show the various components that make a Reading and Writing Workshop come together.

Watch me teach an entire writing lesson, listen in as I conference with a student about reading and writing, and click on one of the seventeen video links provided in this LOADED post.

Classroom Layout, Resources, and Setup Virtual Tour

Your classroom layout and setup is a critical component of a successful Reading and Writing Workshop. Students need access to quality literature, comfortable spots to sit and discuss, and an environment conducive to increasing reading and writing stamina. Watch this video in which I explain how I do this:

Fiction Mini-Lesson

Many of the people who request to visit our classroom want to see what a lesson looks like. Luckily, I have an entire fiction writing lesson on video. It is the longest video I've ever posted, but I hope you find time to view it. The lesson was based on suggestions in Lucy Calkins' Units of Study series. I still use this resource in our room and am now working on a memoir unit with the class.

 

One-on-One Writing Conference With Mrs. Bunyi

After a mini-lesson ends, it's time to either read or write (depending on the lesson). Here is a full-length video of a conference I held with a student. It allows you to see what a typical conference entails and how long one generally lasts.

 

Another Reading Conference With Mrs. Bunyi

Here I conference with a student about their reading. Take a seat next to us and listen in.

 

Commentary With One-on-One Reading/Writing Conference

Do you need a little more support? Do you have questions? This video includes conference clips with commentary. If you are limited on time, this is an excellent overview.

 

Time to Share Our Reading and Writing With Peers

After independent Reading and Writing Workshop, it's time to share. Each of the three to five students I conference with each day takes approximately two minutes to share either what they are reading or writing. 

Here is a video of a student discussing a poetry book by Patricia MacLachlan:

The next video supports the fiction lesson and conference. I am including it because the filming all occurred in one lesson: it gives you a clearer picture of a real day in our classroom.

And here is one more sharing clip. In this case, two students collaborated on a shared poetry piece:

 

Guided Reading: Group Work and Notes

This year I have truly struggled to incorporate time for guided reading due to our mandated intervention schedules; however, I do have a few videos that demonstrate how I handle it. In the past, I had an additional thirty-minute block, outside of our regular literacy block, for spelling, guided reading sessions, read-alouds, and share time. 

There are two things I believe I did differently from other teachers with my guided reading groups. First, students used their Reader's Notebook to take notes, ask questions, and jot pictures in a section devoted to guided reading. Secondly, guided reading sessions with me were followed up the next day with a second meeting without me. Often a parent helped students revisit the book, ask questions, create an anchor chart, and partner read.

This video demonstrates group work during a guided reading session:

 

Guided Reading: Share Time

In the past, guided reading charts were showcased at the end of Reader's Workshop once a week. Here's an example from a guided reading group:

 

Writing Publication

With daily reading and writing, it is only natural to provide opportunities to publish your students' writing. I have a few videos that demonstrate published pieces. 

This video is from an author's celebration publication:

This movie was created from a piece of student writing: 

 

Mystery Readers

My colleague Beth writes about utilizing mystery readers in her classroom in depth. When I have mystery readers come in, I try to record a minute of the event to send to the parent or family member via email later that afternoon. Here is a clip from two years ago: 

 

Reading and Writing Resources

I have talked about all of these resources in previous posts, but I also have videos about using a CAFE/comprehension board and a Reader's Notebook. Another video treats assessment and turning in work.

Anchor Charts

When taking a Reading and Writing Workshop approach, don't underestimate the importance of anchor charts. With ongoing units, where each lesson builds on the previous one, it is helpful to record thoughts to reference again later. Here are some examples from the fiction lesson videos above. Note: only display anchor charts if you regularly refer to them. If you don't refer to them, your students won't, either.

Character_development

Character_external_internal 

Event_timeline

Photos: I used the direct anchor charts modeled by Lucy Calkins the first year I launched this unit. The next year, when I had more confidence and experience teaching the unit, I found I didn't need them. 

Class Project: Reading Takes Us Places

Although I typically have my class create math and science content videos, click through to see an example of a reading video we created using a green screen. The message is that reading has the power to take us places — sometimes places we can only dream of visiting.

 

For a list of content-specific videos created over the past four years, visit our class site video page.

Do you have any questions or comments? My virtual classroom door is open, and I am here to answer any questions you might have. 


Comments

I can't see any of the videos and I REALLY want to see them. What am I doing wrong. Please help!

Hello!

I had to scramble around to find it, but I think this is what you are looking for:

http://blogs.scholastic.com/files/year_at_glance.docx

This is an overview from my time teaching third grade, and it worked when I clicked on the link.

Good luck with your unit writing plans!

Angela

Hi Angela! My co-workers and I are working on our plans for next year, and we are totally inspired by your website. We especially love everything you've written about your writing lessons. Would you mind sharing your "Writer's Workshop Year-Long Overview?" Unfortunately, the link doesn't work on your website. Thank you so much for everything you've shared!

That's great to hear. If I am reading this correctly, you will have time for a reading and writing block (2 hour literacy block). If that is the case, I recommend you read my post on professional books that have impacted me in the classroom:

http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/12/win-my-professional-books-for-free-holiday-extravaganza.html

Also, although Calkin's units can be a little overwhelming, I still suggest you take a look at it if you have the summer and time.

Angela

Hi, Angela. I am back. I recently found out that we will be going to differentiated instruction (so that means I will have one class all day and the ability grouping is out). In a way, I am more excited about this because I can really start to implement a reader's workshop. I have a question..we will still have a separate class for writing. When implementing a writer's workshop, that is a part of reader's workshop time, right? I am nervous about teaching writing and would love any advice on mini lessons or professional books on writing. I spent all morning saving some mini lessons and things about writing and some of Lucy Calkins units but I am getting the feeling that might be a task to implement. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Hello!

That's a hard one to answer. I received my kit a week before school started and struggled with it due to my situation of 5th grade gifted (book suggestions didn't match our needs). In addition, with a grade level change and MANY district changes, it was too much for me to handle. I ended up dropping it with the thought of revisiting it this summer.

However, with that all said, it comes with an "Alternative" unit book that a peer loves and has used all year. I'd check out their site to see if it will work in your classroom. It does have sample pages and portions of the unit. It has the same vibe as the UofS writing.

Overall, how can one not like anything produced by Calkins? :)

Angela

I am back again. :) I am looking at Lucy Calkin's Reading and Writing units. Are they worth buying? I have heard great things about the writing units but not much about the reading units. I would love your opinion before I decide to buy them.

Thanks again for answering my questions!

Brittney

Dina,

Goodness, do I. I have a room full of them, with titles such as The Life of Pi and books by Stephen Hawkins.

Here's what I can suggest for you.

1) Vocab. Collection- 4 to 5 a week that they find fascinating or intriguing. We collect these words and discuss them for our weekly conference. Strategies can also be a focus, even for my brightest students- especially origin of words.

2) Symbolism/Themes- Life of Pi, for example. Does the student REALLY understand the complex symbolism in this story? In my case, yes (the reader is INCREDIBLY talented). Use your conference time to expand this notion as well as theme. In the case of the student reading The Life of Pi, he has an intense interest in world religion. What a perfect book to discuss theme and spark that part of his brain.

3) Genre- Even my strongest readers get in a rut. They may want to stick to the same genre or author and are loyal to this alone. Bless some books. Tell them you thought of them when you picked up "X" book. It will make a profound difference.

For each of these suggestions, you can follow up through the use of a reader's notebook. You can read that post here:

http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/09/the-readers-notebook-grades-3-12.html

Let me know if you have any other questions. I hope that answered yours.

Angela

Hey Brittney,

I can answer you in three ways because I have taught fifth, third, and fourth (in that order recently). Each year was a little different regarding the approach of teaching.

For each grade I have incorporated picture books for mini-lessons. I remind students that we are reading the books like writers, and that we can use this for craft study (what is the author doing, why are they doing it, and can I try it in my own writing?).

On the other hand, I have tried to utilize excerpts from more advanced novels this year, including adult novels such as Jumpha Lahiri's The Interpreter of Maladies.

Which leads me to your question, which is also mine....curriculum and unit planning. This is THE job I have given myself as well for the summer. There is a plethora of help for K-3, in my opinion. However, it's a little tougher for 4-6.

Lucy Calkin's offers a reading kit that you might be interested in. I started it, but it fell off my plate early on. I have used an integrated approach to reading comprehension lessons, and even at the fifth grade level it is needed. I like Tanny McGregor's book Comprehension for some hands-on lessons. You might want to look at that as well.

Oh, one more suggestion from your readings of the awesome Richard Allington (he just happens to teach at my alma mater)...it's easiest to integrate a skill or strategy when you are not seeing it used well or properly in the classroom. I dislike the idea of waiting to teach a skill/strategy until X month (because, darn it, you planned it out during the summer) when you can see that your kids need it RIGHT NOW. Don't wait for a timeline to tell you what to teach- even if you created that timeline.

And ask more questions if you have any. I have been doing this for three years with Scholastic and still enjoying it. :)

Angela

Hello! I appreciate all of your helpful information. I feel so inspired after reading your blog! My question is regarding reading conferences. Even though you had a video, I struggle with coming up with things to confer about with my above grade level readers. I can easily help my struggling readers develop goals, but I'm at a loss with my high readers. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you!

P.S. What is your view on pictures books in 4th grade? I notice a lot of pictures books in your 3rd grade classroom. I have A LOT of chapter books, but not that many picture books.

Hey Angela! I hope you don’t mind, but I have a couple more questions. When you teach comprehension strategies/skills do you teach them separately or do you integrate them? I am reading “What Really Matters for Struggling Readers,” and it suggests it is more beneficial to integrate them. I have no idea where to even begin doing that. I was also wondering what kind of units you do throughout the year in reading and writing? I am working on planning units for next year. Thank you so much for your help!

Brittney

Hey Lisa,

That was a bookshelf that I formally used in my classroom, but I donated it at the end of last year. I used it for general fiction chapter books and arranged them by last name for authors. The labels you saw matched the coloring for that row as each book had a matching color sticker(eg- Authors with the last name of Br-Ch had a red sticker).

Specific genres were housed in another section of our library (ex- science fiction, fantasy, etc.).

I hope that helps! I have thought about creating a post on library organization....thanks for bringing that back into my mind.

Angela

Hi, In the tour of your room, I noticed you had a tall bookshelf with chapter books. What are the color codes on the left for? Did you give each GR level a color and does that work for all your books, or just those chapter books? I am working on setting up a leveled library, and would appreciate any info/insight and tips! Thanks so much!

Hello Brittney,

I've been in your shoes before, so I know how challenging it is to try something different. One of the things I did was assure administration that my scores would be as strong or stronger than my team and/or expectations.

Here is a list of books that have helped me in the classroom:

http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/12/win-my-professional-books-for-free-holiday-extravaganza.html

For convention instruction I primarily address lessons whole group if I am seeing a lot of using but confusing going on (ex- semi-colons tried out incorrectly). Otherwise, you'll find that your one-on-one meetings are much more effective for this instruction and support (addressing use in context and following up on it with the next meeting).

So, good luck and feel free to post here if you have any questions.

Angela

I love reading your blog! =) We have a reading basal at my school that most of the teachers follow word for word. I hate it! I have changed things up this year by trying to incorporate the reading workshop method. I have not yet tried the writing workshop. It is only my second year teaching, so I am still learning.=)I have invited my principal in to observe some lessons and she has loved them! I have used several ideas from your blog. Are there any books you can suggest for me to get to learn more about the writing and reading workshop? I was also wondering if you teach a seperate grammar lesson or is a part of writng?

Thank you so much for sharing your ideas! Your blog has made me look at teaching in a very different way!

Brittney

Justine,

I can relate (in an odd way). Our schedules were arranged by Central Office down to the very minute. Example- recess is from 12:09-12:29...that specific.

But I am not complaining. We have an hour for S.S./science, one hour for math, two hours for literacy, and 30 minutes for intervention. That's pretty good!

Happy Tuesday,

Angela

Thank you so much for answering my questions! You are so lucky to have the ability to do two full hours of Reading/Writing instruction- with our scheduling, I'm lucky if I can get an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon!

I really look forward to reading more of your strategies in the future :)

Justine,

I never mind answering questions. Ever. I have been "new" in a grade level many times (complete 2-6 spectrum). I'm still learning myself. :)

Here's the answers to your questions. Feel free to ask more:

1. How often would you say your instruction is large-group based? The workshop model follows this time-frame in our room: 15 minutes for a concentrated whole group lesson, 35-40 minutes for reading, 5 minutes for share time. I then repeat with a writing block and end with 5-10 minutes of share time. The literacy block lasts one hour for reading, one hour for writing. Two hours total. If your school pushes interventions or a balanced literacy approach, an additional 30 minutes can/should be added for guided reading, spelling, vocab. etc. instruction. I conference with 4-5 students a day for individual conferences.

2. How much time in each school day is dedicated to Reading/Writing instruction?

2.5 hours (see above)

3. In my school district, it is very rare to get any kind of parent interaction, especially when it comes to assistance at home with literacy skills being worked on in the classroom. Our families are typically living in very low-income households, and most parents struggle to make ends meet. Furthermore, many of them have not received adequate education themselves! How do you suggest implementing the types of instructional strategies you have found successful in a classroom where parents are not as involved/typically do not have the capacity to provide substantial support outside of the classroom?

Good question, and one that I can slightly relate to by simply being an upper grade teacher now (parent help is harder to solicit). Also, I started off in your type of environment. If you have working parents, you have working parents. You won't be able to change that. However, this might help for those that have time and lack confidence...one year I purchased 8 copies of The Seven Keys to Comprehension by Susan Zimmermann (Amazon had them dirt cheap) and used it to help with parent confidence and bribery. I wrote a letter and invited parents to attend an interest meeting for tutoring and passed out the books for keeps. I also promised that if they helped I would treat them well and remember them on holidays (which I did). It made a difference...and the easy to understand book helped the volunteering parent feel more confident when I would say we were addressing making connections, for example.

I hope that helps! If you need more detail, let me know.

Angela

Hey Becky,

You can download the decoding board signs that I created here(eg- The Chunky Monkey):

http://www.mrsbunyi.com/decoding_strategies.html

Smiles,

Angela

Hello Angela, First of all, thank you for sharing your videos! I am a first-year 3rd Grade teacher, and I struggle to find enough time to plan truly engaging lessons in Reading and Writing, especially with all of the NYS testing that we are accountable for in the 3rd grade. Watching your videos definitely gave me some great ideas! I have a few questions for you, if you don't mind! And please forgive me if you've already answered these questions...

1. I am truly in awe of your Reading/Writing conferences and the frequency with which they occur. I am curious- how often would you say your instruction is large-group based? It seems like you have so much one-on-one time in your room, which is something that I strive for in my own instruction.

2. How much time in each school day is dedicated to Reading/Writing instruction?

3. In my school district, it is very rare to get any kind of parent interaction, especially when it comes to assistance at home with literacy skills being worked on in the classroom. Our families are typically living in very low-income households, and most parents struggle to make ends meet. Furthermore, many of them have not received adequate education themselves! How do you suggest implementing the types of instructional strategies you have found successful in a classroom where parents are not as involved/typically do not have the capacity to provide substantial support outside of the classroom?

I look forward to hearing from you, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your expertise :)

Take care, Justine

I'm wondering where I can find copies of the ideas for your fun board. Did you come up with the terms like 'chunky monkey' or is there a place that I am able to download these? Thank you!

Thanks for all the kind words. A nice treat before going to bed in a minute...

To answer your questions regarding ability grouped reading lessons. Are your groups fixed for the year (ex- You always have the students that need extra support)? If so, I'd worry about that entire organizational plan. If the groups are flexible, based on pre and post tests, let's say, then your mini-lessons will simply be based on your students needs as a whole. For example, I have always found grammar mini-lessons for writing very easy. I simply teach what I am noticing is being used and confused. I leave the minor errors to my individual conference time (and who wants to hear about quotation marks for the thousandth time when only two need help?).

The other thing I would urge you and your team to do is find more time for writing each day. Beyond the writing assessment, I deeply believe that writing is just as critical as- let's say- math. Think about the importance of writing with just about ANY job and job path. It's a big one. My husband struggled so much in his nursing classes due to the written papers. He would just say, "I can't write!" He ended up becoming a school counselor instead and found out that he struggled just as much to write those papers as well in the process.

So, I promise my students at least 35 minutes of independent reading and 35 minutes of independent writing every day, even when time gets crunched (which is often). Every single day. It's a hard one to promise- and I struggle with this at times- but I fully believe in its importance.

And now it's time for bed. I hope you don't view my suggestions as mandates. Just something to think about...something I feel pretty passionate about. :)

Much respect,

Angela

That is awesome that the students get to the point where they are responsible and interested enough to create their own anchor charts. I love it.

I am going to make sure that I incorporate mini meetings with each student per week because after reading what you have said, watching the videos and thinking how much more the climate can change (for the better) based on teacher-student relationship. A student will be more willing to help you help them if they feel you are there for them. Metacognition :)

The calmness - I can imagine it would make you cringe because it's not manufactured. As I read it, I thought it has to be in your delivery and presence for them. Also, the modeling of behavior towards you, classmates and, respect for class. They were very respectful of each other.

Our school is ability grouped for reading. Does that make a difference in how reading workshop and writing works? They are also ability grouped for writing (our state test is over now so there is no more writing, except for fifteen minutes at the end of reading)?

Bee,

Great questions.

Anchor Charts- What I did was conduct guided reading lessons during the additional 30 minute slot in the afternoon. The following day, during our literacy block, I would have a parent come in to revisit the book and jot down notes on large chart paper. As you could see in the video, the group was creating their own notes, however, this was after months of modeled meetings (probably May for the clip you are referring to).

Meetings with Students- Small group and individual meetings are important, but I lean more towards individual conferences for true growth. Because of this I meet with students once a week for an in-depth individual conference (about 5 a day at ten minutes each) and guided reading meetings once a week with a follow-up meeting with a parent.

Calmness- This is the number one, by far, most asked question when visitors come to my room- "How do you get them to be so calm and actually do what you ask them to?" I almost cringe each time because I still haven't come up with a good answer for this. This is the only strength I have that I don't know how to explain. I'm not sure how I create this each year except that I am HUGE on modeling certain behaviors at the beginning of the year. HUGE. I am also very upfront with my students about my feelings on extrinsic rewards and the damaging message they send to students. This combined with my very calm demeanor during the literacy block really helps. And the videos above show both third and fourth grade. Most are fourth, but the mini-lesson is fourth and the conference with commentary that shows much of the class during a lesson and our literacy block are from third.

I hope that helps. If it doesn't, please ask away. I am here for you. :)

Angela

Hello, I watched all of them and took notes. I have a few questions though. When you have the students create their own anchor charts, do they do this after they have read independently or partner read? How often do they do this a week? How often a week do you meet with students (reading or writing) or do you make sure you meet with all students per week and start again next week? One more thing, I was impressed with the calmness and attention your group had during the fiction mini lesson. That was third grade? If so, how do you establish that. I know it must be from the beginning but do you do mini lessons on proper social skills in class too? Sorry so long!

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