Monday, December 28, 2009

Reader's Workshop - The Elements (Part One)

The day to day routine of Reader's Workshop can be broken down to a number of activities, which can be arranged according to your own time table and students. Here I'm going to describe some of the elements and give some ideas how I use them in my own classrooms.

 Short, whole class lessons of about 10-20 minutes give structure to your Reader's Workshop. Lessons will vary, depending on your grade, your syllabus and your class needs, but there are any number of topics you can cover in this time.  Mini-lessons are often quite interactive, with students involved in discussions, brainstorming ideas and drawing conclusions. One of the most successful types of mini lessons were class discussions, where a particular topic was debated with students referring to a wide range of books. Some of these discussions became quite heated as students scrambled to find new examples to back up their ideas.

Book Talks
I often compare getting kids to read with selling things to them. They definately react to bright, colourful covers, they will try books more willingly if they can actually see the book covers, and they really respond to recommendations from each other and myself. I try to have a book talk three to four times a week, in which students and myself 'sell' a book to the rest of the class. Often the books I book talk are old favourites or brand new books to the classroom library, while the students book talk a book which they've recently enjoyed. Students particuarly enjoy taking their place in my teacher's chair at the front of the room.  This coming year I will be trying to theme the books a little more, like the book talks I have here.

Individual Reading
This is where the real power of Reader's Workshop comes through. Students choose their own book (though, I do prefer them to read fiction or memoirs) and read. They can sit/lay anywhere they like (within reason) and they silently read for up to 45 minutes. This concept has caused worry with a number of substitute teachers who worry that they will get bored or disruptive, but I haven't found that - mostly because the students can choose their own books, so they've usually got something which they are very engaged in. I did, at the beginning, start with a shorter amount of time, and built it up, but I found that the students were actually disappointed when the time was up. Another bonus of the extended time was that the students began to choose bigger and more complex books, feeling that they would have enough time to become engaged with those books.

Next week: Conferencing, small group lessons and book letters.

References - most of these ideas originally came from Nancie Atwell's The Reading Zone and Beth Newingham's website. I highly recommend both of them.

Want to read more? Have a look at my overview of Reader's Workshop and then you might want to check out my book talks or Reader's Workshop Tools.


A Reader's Community

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Queensland, Australia
A Reader's Community is a place to find ideas, information, resources and recommendations about Reader's Workshop.

This Blog has five main types of posts.

About Reader's Workshop - information about Reader's Workshop in my classroom and how it works

Reader's Workshop Tools - resources you can access and use to help you with reader's workshop

Book talks - Book recommendations of two or three books centred around a particular theme

Book letters - in-depth reviews of one particular book

Reader's Workshop Links - Short links lists to help you find more information
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