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Reading is perhaps the most complicated yet most necessary skill to teach elementary students. This is a skill that will truly affect the rest of their lives. Phonics, fluency, comprehension…so much is involved in becoming literate, but what is the most challenging part of reading instruction? The buy-in!
Have you ever heard a parent say “My kid is not a reader”? Have you ever looked out at your class and seen kids blanky staring into their books, drool forming, and their eyes are drifting into sleep? There are so many students who are convinced that reading is not for them or simply hate reading. Teacher heart = broken. I have witnessed these situations more times than I can count. What is confusing to me is that reading should be fun.
With so many genres and topics, I am truly convinced that there is a book for everyone and that everyone is a reader if given that right book. Our challenge as educators is to find that right book for every student in our class all while teaching the grade-level reading standards. This is no easy feat. The good news…there is a way to make that happen: Reading Workshop.
What is Reading Workshop?
Reading Workshop is an instructional practice where teachers provide mini-lessons on key reading skills and students practice these skills using books that they choose. Yes, books of their choice. This part is critical. This is where you get that buy-in. By allowing students to choose their own books, you increase engagement, encourage active reading, and instill a love of literature over time.
Reading Workshop is usually divided into four parts: mini-lesson, independent reading, student conferences/intervention, and partner sharing. Each lesson will ideally include all four components. Luckily for us, there have been several books written about how to successfully implement Reading Workshop. I HIGHLY recommend the following two books if you are looking to learn more: Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study curriculum.
I know what you’re thinking…Is this type of reading instruction effective? Although I am not going to cite any research or refer to any longitudinal studies (they do exist though), I will address my experience as a classroom teacher and discuss the benefits I have witnessed after implementing reading workshop.
The Five Goals and Benefits of Reading Workshop
#1 Reading Workshop helps instill a love of reading.
Remember those students who you saw blankly staring into their books? Well, imagine those students now eagerly turning pages in a corner of your classroom and waiting for their turn to talk to you about the last chapter they read. How? You may ask…Reading Workshop. I know this transformation seems unrealistic and perhaps unbelievable, but I assure you that it will happen. It just takes time. Over the course of the year, students will slowly learn that books are not just classwork or homework assignments. They are ways that we can experience new places and learn about topics we are interested in. They will learn to love it!
Confession time…When I was an elementary student, I hated reading. GASP! Now, I was a strong reader, but I never enjoyed it. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized how much I love to read. Why? It is simply because as an adult, I was able to read books that interested me. For example, every summer, I read books about teaching ideas and pedagogy. As a kid, I would have never guessed that I would like nonfiction! Who knew?!I just needed to find the right topic.
This is true for kids. They just need help finding the right book.
Now, I have some ideas that will help students find the right book quicker, and I will share these ideas in my next blog post on 9/4/21. For now, just trust me, this process works.
#2 Reading Workshop increases student engagement by allowing for student choice.
As educators, we know that student choice helps increase engagement, but sometimes it can be challenging to find ways to encourage student choice while following the curriculum and teaching grade-level standards. Reading Workshop is the perfect way to allow students to have some control over what they learn by allowing them to choose what they read.
Students love browsing through our library to find their next book selection. I often highlight seasonal books or books that are related to what we are learning. Students also really love teacher recommendations. I will dive into some ideas on how best to recommend books to students in my next blog post. For now, feel free to check out this resource. I would use the Book Interest and Reading Preferences forms in the first two weeks of school.
#3 Reading Workshop strengthens reading skills and allows ample time for intervention.
There has been tons and tons of research on the strong correlation between consistent, independent reading and literacy. Basically, the more students read, the better they get at it. The difficult part is getting students to read. As educators, our daily schedule is so busy. Fitting in multiple subjects a day is a true balancing act. However, we must schedule time for students to just read. The beauty of Reading Workshop is that most of the time is allotted for independent reading. Don’t feel like this is “wasted time”, however. While students are independently reading, you can pull groups of students for some targeted intervention and/or enrichment. Essentially, Reading Workshop can double as intervention time. It is ideal for small group instruction!
#4 Reading Workshop is perfect for differentiated instruction.
Reading Workshop lends itself to differentiation. Since students are all reading different books at different levels, the small group lessons will naturally be geared towards each student’s learning needs. This may sound overwhelming…Don’t worry. It’s not!
The key is to solidify ONE target objective for the daily lesson. For example, maybe one day you are focused on citing evidence to support a claim. You start off with a mini-lesson on how to make a claim by analyzing a character, using evidence from the text to support it. Then, when you release students to read independently, they will practice that same skill using characters from their own books.
There have been so many great books written on this subject. Check out my recommendations on this Pinterest board.
#5 Reading Workshop builds classroom community.
I often say that the classroom library is the heart of my classroom. What I mean is that a love of literature is evident in all we do. I have a whole corner of my classroom dedicated to my library. Equipped with special seats, a cozy rug, and tons of books, this space is truly loved by my students. In this space, there is an area where students can recommend books, create a classroom wish list, and show off what they are currently reading. I often find students browsing through the titles that other students are reading and then asking those students for book recommendations.
In addition, I have a bulletin board to celebrate student successes. Throughout the year, students earn points by reading books and completing small book assignments. Once they reach various thresholds, they earn reading awards. They then sign this board. Students absolutely LOVE this!!!
What I have noticed is that over time, reading becomes an integral part of our classroom culture. I often overhear students at recess and lunch discussing books they want to read next. These comments even come from “reluctant readers”! I have even had students start their own book clubs over the weekends or during the summer. It is truly inspiring.
My students bond over books. Reading is a big part of who we are as a class. Reading Workshop is to thank for this.
Other Blog Posts to Help You Implement Reading Workshop
|5 Tips on How to Launch Reading Workshop Successfully||Learn how to level books, celebrate student successes, and recommend books to students.|
|Reading Workshop: Incorporating Classroom Book Clubs||Learn tips and tricks on how to successfully add book clubs to your reading workshop.|
|Reading Workshop: Book Club Discussions||Facilitate student-run book club meetings in 3 easy steps!|
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