How to Implement a Reading & Writing Workshop

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  • 0:00 Literacy Education
  • 0:55 Reading & Writing Workshop
  • 3:38 Tips for Implementation
  • 6:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

The workshop model of literacy instruction is popular because it has been shown to improve student reading and writing. During this lesson, we'll examine what the workshop model is, including its basic components, and how best to implement it.

Literacy Education

Brandy is a new teacher, and she's very excited to teach her students how to read and write. But she's nervous, too. She's not exactly sure how she should best teach reading and writing. Should she have every student reading the same thing at the same time? Should she let them write whatever they want? How should she organize the time she has with her students?

Brandy is teaching literacy, or reading, writing, and speaking. And her questions center on how to teach literacy, a question that many teachers face.

There are many different ways to approach teaching reading and writing. Brandy has heard that the reading and writing workshop is particularly good. But she's not sure what it is or how to implement it in her classroom. To help Brandy out, let's look closer at the workshop model for teaching literacy and how teachers can get the workshop model up and running in their classrooms.

Reading and Writing Workshop

Ok. Brandy knows that she needs to teach her students how to read and write. She has two class periods with them every day, one dedicated to reading and one dedicated to writing. But that's a lot of time to organize, and she's not sure what to do in that time.

Brandy knows that she wants to implement the workshop model of literacy instruction, which involves teaching strategies for reading and writing through individualized attention and whole-group reflection.

That sounds a little confusing to Brandy. What, exactly, does the workshop model look like in the classroom?

In a workshop model, every day will include one period of reading workshop and one period of writing workshop. Each workshop will include three elements:

1. Mini-lesson. In the workshop model, the teacher only stands at the front of the class and teaches for 10-15 minutes. That means that Brandy will have to keep her lessons very short and focused. For example, she might include a short lesson one day on how to use subtitles as a guide when reading non-fiction or how to add in sensory details to a writing piece. Whatever she teaches, she'll want to make sure it is a small enough chunk for her students to learn about it in 10-15 minutes.

2. Practice. The bulk of the class period in the workshop model involves student practice of about 30 minutes or so. During this time, students can work individually, in small groups, or with Brandy to practice their reading and writing. For example, after Brandy's mini-lesson during reading workshop, she might send students off to read independently. She could pull one or two students aside to work with them on their reading, and she could also have a few students work together in a small group without her.

One of the hallmarks of the workshop model is that students are reading and writing things that interest them. As a result, not all of Brandy's students will be reading the same book or writing the same story. Instead, she might have students all reading different books at levels that are appropriate for each student, and include stories and themes that are interesting to the individual students.

3. Share. After students practice their reading and writing, the whole class comes back together for the last five minutes of class to share what they've learned. During this time, students all reflect together on how they are growing as readers and writers. Brandy can help guide their share time by asking questions. For example, after teaching students how to include sensory details in their writing, she might ask, 'Who wants to share a sensory detail that they included in their writing today?' or 'Who struggled to add in sensory details?' This share time allows students to talk about what they are doing in the reading and writing workshops and also to think about how to continue to grow.

Tips for Implementation

Brandy likes the structure of reading and writing workshops: moving from mini-lesson to practice to share and reflection. But she's a little worried about implementing the workshop model in her classroom. What does she need to do?

There are some things to think about when implementing reading and writing workshops. They include:

1. Strategies. Brandy will want to focus both her reading and writing mini-lessons on strategies that successful readers and writers do. She won't have time to explain how to write an entire persuasive essay in one class, but she can make the strategies she teaches bite-sized to help students learn. For example, she might focus only on writing a good opening sentence, or how to sum up the essay in a closing paragraph.

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