When I taught elementary school, back in the day, I attended a 2-week long workshop that changed my life. Seriously, folks....no exaggeration...it changed my life. It was on reading and writing workshop. It completely changed the way that I taught the many, many 5th graders that I ended up teaching over the years, opened up a job as an educational consultant, and is now changing the way that I teach my own children. It's amazing when, what seemed like an insignificant event, does that for a person. Once I was hooked, I couldn't get enough information on this topic. I read every book that I could get my hands on. Some of the gurus that have fabulous books about this subject are Lucy Calkins, Irene Fountas and Gay Pinnell, and Patricia Hagerty. It's hard to sum up that intensive workshop in one blog post, so let me start by giving you an overview of reader's workshop. It is basically a way to arrange the block of time that you spend on reading instruction. Here's a chart to show you the parts of reading workshop:
Most of my reader's workshops start with a mini-lesson. This is typically a 10 minute, short (hence the word mini) lesson, where my kiddos gather together on the floor so I can teach them something that will help them become better readers. There are 3 different types of mini-lessons: procedural, literary and strategy/skill. When I teach a mini-lesson, it is based on what I've observed to be the need of my kids. I don't plan my mini-lessons weeks in advance. And those of you who know me well, know that is sometimes a challenge for this type-A momma. When I first started my workshop in our homeschool, I started with procedural mini-lessons, such as:
When the mini-lesson is over, we move into what we call "5 minutes of silent reading." I must come up with a better name for it, but for now, that will have to do. We all grab our books and read for 5 minutes without talking. That includes me. Not everyone has this component to their workshop, but I love it. I'm modeling for my kiddos and it helps everyone start off on the right track for our workshop time together.
Once the 5 minutes is over, my kids keep reading, but I take my handy-dandy clipboard that holds my chart and I conference with each of my kiddos everyday. This is where the magic happens, my friends. My kids have been trained that when I come up beside them, whether that be in their chair, on the couch, wherever they are....they are to point to where they're at in their book and begin reading to me out loud. This is typically where I get my ideas for future mini-lessons. I just love me some individualized instruction:) I can check their fluency, see what they do when they come to words that they don't know, have them narrate for me, the possibilities are endless here. My clipboard also contains this sheet that has a list of conference questions that I can use to ask them more about their books. Just last week, conferencing with my kids led to mini-lessons on fiction vs. nonfiction, how leads hook us, and what to do when you come to a name that you can't pronounce.
After we have a substantial chunk of reading time, we then end our workshop time with my kids' favorite part....share session. This takes no more than 10 minutes with my 2 kiddos. They each take turns sharing about what they read that day and then we get to ask them "thick questions." More on thick questions later. There are times during our mini-lessons where I might ask the kids to mark something with a post-it note as they are reading that day, so they can share it during our share session. For instance, when we talked about why authors use descriptive language in our mini-lesson, each of them were to mark at least 1 phrase or sentence from their book that showed their author doing this. There is so much more that I could say about workshop, but I'll save it for future posts. Let me just tell you that when I was in a traditional school setting, the growth that I saw in my students was incredible. Not only in their academic grades and scores, but in their love of reading/writing and their confidence. The results have been the same as I've tweaked this approach and used it in my own home with my kiddos. Give it a try, homeschooling friends and school teachers. You will be so glad that you did.
Thanks so much for visiting. I'm Heather. I'm a wife, mother and educator who loves trying to make beauty of the life around me.