Quite often teachers ask me what the daily schedule looks like in my workshop classroom.
This is a hard one. I think mainly because it is not about the schedule as much as it is about the routines, or manners, we start putting into place at the beginning of the school year.
I’ve had a lot of adapting to do this year. Moving to a new school and adjusting my lessons to fit 85 minute class periods where I see my students twice a week for sure and every other Friday — sometimes. This is quite a change from 50 minute class periods where I saw my students five days a week.
Our normal routines — and these are non-negotiables that make workshop work — consist of reading, conferring with readers, talking about books, writing in our notebooks, revising in our notebooks, sharing a bit of our writing, and learning or reinforcing a skill, then….it all depends on our workshop task. That’s why writing about my daily schedule is hard.
Here’s the best I can do without going into a long explanation — that has to wait for my book (Penny keeps telling me that my book will never get written if I keep writing on this blog, and I know she is right. Only so much time.)
READ — 10 to 15 minutes. This is sacred and silent reading time. Students choose books that interest them. I CONFER with my readers, always with a specific focus, depending on my reader.
TALK about books. Sometimes I do a book talk, reading a few pages of the book, or holding a book interview like Erika does. Sometimes a student does a book talk, if I’ve talked to her first and know she’s passionate about the book she’s just read. Sometimes I ask my students to just talk about the books they are reading. Shana wrote about the Value of Talk, and I agree completely: “Talk is one of the most valuable tools at work in my classroom.”
WRITE in our writer’s notebooks. Everyday we need to have our students thinking on paper. When I forget, or think we do not have time, to open our notebooks and write — in response to a poem, or a video, or a story, or about the book students are reading, or about whatever — I regret it. Discussions are richer when we write first. Discoveries are more insightful when we write first. Writing is better when we write, just thinking about our ideas, first.
Then, something I learned from Penny Kittle, we always read what we wrote and REVISE. Penny modeled revising with a different color, and I ask my writers to do the same. I simply say, “Read over what you just wrote. How can you make your writing better? Maybe add a phrase or two that develops your thinking more. Maybe change a word or two that adds a punch. Maybe you can remove some words and make your thinking more concise. Where can you add figurative language or a list or an interesting style move?” (When I check writer’s notebooks, I always look for evidence of revision. We work on establishing the habit of revision, daily.)
SHARE some of our thinking. Sometimes we pair up and read our writing to a shoulder partners. Sometimes I ask for volunteers to share out their writing. Sometimes I randomly call on someone (and I usually allow them to opt out at least once if they are uncomfortable reading aloud). Sharing is an important part of our community, and from the first day of school we work on establishing a safe and respectful environment where we can all grow as readers and writers.
Learn or reinforce a skill via MINI-LESSON. (If I introduce something totally new, like one of the AP English Language exam prompts, obviously the mini-lesson will not be so mini. On these days, the mini-lesson time and the workshop time allotment swap places. Sometimes I need the focused direct instruction time because it saves time in the long run.)
Our routines usually take about 35 to 45 minutes. That leaves us about half the class period to hold a workshop. This might be a readers workshop if we are practicing close reading or if we are preparing for a Harkness discussion. This might be a writers workshop if we are composing a piece of writing or studying the moves of a favorite author.
Of course, if we are writing, I change my hat and confer with my writers.
I would love to know the workshop routines you establish with your readers and writers. Please share in the comments.
©Amy Rasmussen, 2011 – 2015