Writing and reading workshop are powerful methods to teach English. But, how can secondary teachers, who have less than an hour with their students, do it all?!?! I think I have found the solution!
Here are the two different schedule options depending on if you are in a reading or a writing unit. In this article, I’ll walk you through the writing unit schedule. Read about the reading unit schedule here.
10 Minutes: Reading
Students walk into the classroom, open their books and begin their independent reading. I start a timer immediately after the bell rings. While students are reading, I facilitate conferences. I carry a clipboard with me at all times and document who I talked with and what we talked about. There are many, many topics we cover…
- Components of a plot
- Character development
- Figurative language
- Point of view
- Critical reading skills like making inferences, predictions and connections
- Prologues & epilogues
- Nonfiction text structures
- Table of contents
- Recommending books
- Finding good books
- Making inferences
- Author’s purpose
3 Minutes: Reading Mini Lesson
After the timer goes off I say, “Finish the page you are on”. Once all books are closed I teach a short reading mini lesson. I usually cover one of the skills listed above or do a quick book talk to get students excited to read a new book. Some days I forgo the mini lesson and have students discuss their books with their group. I also have students do book talks in front of the class and with their groups. Students keep a running list of books they want to read and books they’ve read in their notebooks.
2 Minutes: Transition to Meeting Area
After my reading mini lesson I say, “Please come to the meeting area” and start the timer again. After all students are seated somewhere in the meeting area I stop the timer and write the time on the board. Students compete with other classes for the best time. The best time I’ve ever recorded was 20 seconds! Students sit on desks, tables and on a remnant carpet.
10 Minutes: Writing Mini Lesson
This precious ten minutes is purposeful, to the point and is the only time during the period that I have for direct instruction, so there is absolutely no student talking. Students know that they need to listen intently during the mini lesson. This is not the time for them to raise their hand to ask questions. I make sure that students know “work time” (see below) is when they can ask clarifying questions and get help. Sometimes the mini lesson will require students to speak to their partner but I never waste time calling on students to answer individual questions.
After the mini lesson, students look to the whiteboard at a list of “Work Time Choices”, so they know exactly what their options are during work time!
24 Minutes: Work Time
It is so important students have choice during work time. During a writing unit students are working to publish a piece of writing and are aware of a looming publishing date. During a reading unit students are working toward finishing a class novel by a designated date in order to participate in a three day long socratic seminar discussion. The image of my board above includes work time choices relating to the novel Chains.
While students work I am conferencing. Conferences last five minutes max. I compliment, listen and provide one tip and then I move onto the next student. It is honestly the most challenging yet important and effective part of writing workshop. The challenging part is assessing quickly.
The main tip I have for this is to ask students how they think they are doing. Students are usually pretty aware of what challenges they are facing, all you need to do is ask.
Read more about conferring here. Conferencing allows teachers to assess quickly what students know and need. Students benefit so much from immediate feedback!
5 Minutes: Closure
Always set aside a bit of time at the end of workshop for students to reflect on what they learned, accomplished and plan to do next. I often tell students to turn to someone next to them and explain one thing they learned today or rate how much they accomplished or read a piece of their writing or share a summary of what they read or set goals for next time.
Students need time to debrief and you need time to assess what is working and what might need to be tweaked. Getting student response and feedback is vital to deciding what mini lessons and conferences you will put into action tomorrow!
I know it seems impossible to teach both reading and writing workshop in one period, but I am here to tell you it can be done! I hope that this article has inspired you to try it out for yourself. If you found this article at all helpful, feel free to share with your community…
Photo Credit: olly/stock.adobe.com