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7 Moves in My Workshop Schedule

return and talkThis summer, we’d like to return and talk about some of our most useful, engaging, or popular posts.  Today’s post, written by Amy in 2015, reminds us how we might structure our days in a workshop classroom.

Please return to this topic and talk with us in the comments–what are the moves in your workshop schedule?


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 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.

READ — 10 to 15 minutes. This is sacred and silent reading time. Students choose books that interest them. I CONFER with my readers, most often 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

fabian

Fabian was so excited to share an insight from his book I could not get the camera to take the photo fast enough.

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, then ask them to write down any titles they think they might like to read next. 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 books 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 partner. Sometimes I ask for volunteers to share out their writing with the class. 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 community 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

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4 thoughts on “7 Moves in My Workshop Schedule

  1. […] Workshop routines are established for and run with the same outcomes in mind. […]

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  2. Designing a Unit in Workshop: Just Try It | November 15, 2016 at 7:45 am Reply

    […] know that teachers who engage in a workshop classroom often have many of the same routines in their schedules:  time to read, time to write, time to talk.  They often have many of the same components: […]

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  3. Kristin August 5, 2016 at 8:11 am Reply

    Found this post super helpful but what about those who have 45 minutes or less? I want to make the jump to workshop (reading AND writing every day) but I can’t wrap my head around making it work with only 43 minutes….please help!

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    • shanakarnes August 6, 2016 at 7:08 pm Reply

      Hi Kristin! Here is what I recently wrote in an email to another teacher who had the same question…I hope it helps!

      …….

      What I did when I taught those shorter classes was essentially break up my typical workshop into two days, plus I had lots of activities that I always did on certain days of the week. Fridays, for example, were free-write Fridays in writer’s notebooks, and every Monday always had a sentence study lesson to learn grammar. We always started with 10 minutes of independent reading, then moved into EITHER a mini-lesson or a quickwrite, then had either a reading or writing workshop. We had a long workshop every few days or so applying the previous day’s mini-lesson, which they only had a short time to practice the day before.

      So, let’s say I’m teaching Macbeth:
      Monday: 10 min IR, 10 min sentence study (using a mentor sentence from the text or a related thematic text like a poem), 15 min mini-lesson on some aspect of whatever part of the play we might be reading that day, 20 min of reading the text with a directed reading activity (close reading type of stuff)
      Tuesday: 10 min IR, 15 min mini-lesson or quickwrite (maybe a journal prompt on the nature of evil or something), 20 min reading of the play
      Wednesday: 10 min IR, 5 min reminder of yesterday and Monday’s mini-lessons, 30 min reading of the play
      Thursday: 10 min IR, 15 min vocab activity, 20 min directed reading activity (discussion, etc.)
      Friday: 10 min IR, 10 min free write, 25 min reading of the play

      I’d do that for about 3 weeks until the unit was done.

      Let’s say I’m teaching narrative writing:
      Monday: 10 min IR, 10 min sentence study (using a mentor sentence from a model narrative), 15 min mini-lesson on a writing skill, 20 min writing time (content creation day)
      Tuesday: 10 min IR, 10 min mini-lesson follow up, 25 min writing time (lots of revision or tweaking here)
      Wednesday: 10 min IR, 5 min reminder, 30 min writing workshop (lots of one-on-one conferring with a combo of content creation and revision)
      Thursday: 10 min IR, 10 min vocab activity in notebooks, 10 min writing mini-lesson based on previous day’s workshop, 15 min tinkering workshop
      Friday: 10 min IR, 10 min free write, 25 min writing time (straight content creation)

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