Sunday, February 14, 2010

About Reader's Workshop: I know they're reading because they write about it

Last time I posted on this topic I wrote about how we talk so much about books and reading in my classroom and how much that gives me. Unfortunately, that can be hard to put down in front of someone at a moderation meeting. So we do some writing about our reading. There's two main ways that we do this

Book Letters
Every two weeks the students write me a letter about the book they're reading, focusing on particular aspects or questions. They are given a task sheet with basic criteria to meet, and an example written by me to help guide them. The areas that are covered in the letter are areas we've been learning about and thinking about (for example, the students wrote a letter about their own reactions to a book, when we were talking about how we, as individuals interact with books).

I find the informality of the letter works really well here. This isn't an essay or another formal piece of writing, just a letter to their teacher - one reader to another. Some of the students are quite informal, referring to conversations we've shared; while others take a more basic approach to their letter writing.

I know a lot of teachers use this style of writing, and often respond back. I'd like to start responding with the students - even if it's only three to five at a time - to let them know I value their thoughts on their books. I also know a lot of teachers have these book letters written into the students Reader's Notebooks - I keep mine on lined paper though, as I have a tight photocopy budget, and these are easier to refer to when it comes to reporting!

Mini Lesson Tasks
For some mini lessons students complete short written activities in their Reader's Notebook. Ideally these are modelled by myself first or as a piece of shared writing.  Last week we did this with character maps and it was really interesting to see how the students saw their characters. I am cautious to keep a time limit on this though, as I know some of my perfectionists would love to spend hours on this if they were only allowed - must remember that the focus is reading!

A word of caution - whenever we assess reading, we need to make sure we are assessing reading and not writing. Over the past few years I have had students who struggle to write things down, but have amazing thoughts when they can record it or they have a scribe. Too many times these students are branded as low achievers in areas they actually know a lot in because they struggle to write.

Read the post that started all this here


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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