Amy and Shana posted earlier this week about our upcoming presentation with Jackie Catcher at the NCTE Annual Convention in Atlanta.
Amy is going to discuss perspective and assessment, Shana will share insights on unit
planning, Jackie is focusing on mini lessons, and I’m going to try not to pass out from sheer terror/excitement/nerves/exhaustion/adrenaline.
If I can meet Penny Kittle without
incoherently mumbling some nonsense (Oh my goodness. I love Book Love. I mean love. Did I say love already ?), I’ll consider that a win too.
Or, perhaps most importantly, I’ll be speaking about workshop routines.
Establishing routines to support the non-negotiable components of workshop was one of the first considerations of my district when the high school ELA team started our move to workshop last year. We run on an A/B block schedule with 86 minute classes, and structure
is key to make sure all workshop components get their due time.
I was thinking about it tonight when I was putting my three year old daughter Ellie to bed (which, by the way has been going on now for over an hour because she’s needed several “one more” hugs). Every night, without fail, my husband and I work Ellie through the process of pajamas, books, teeth brushing, more books, several kisses (for Ellie and all nearby stuffed animals), one last story, several more kisses, and a hug.
I’d be lying if I said it went perfectly each night.
Case in point, Ellie just came out and asked what I was doing. I seized the opportunity and asked if she had a message for you all.
She’d like you to know that she is wearing leopard pajamas.
So…how to segue past that one?
I give up. That kid’s good. Yes, I gave her another hug too. Anyway…
Workshop routine. What’s its purpose?
In my opinion, it’s to provide comfort, consistency, and (hopefully) somewhat predictable outcomes.
When Nick and I take Ellie through her bedtime routine each night, she knows what’s coming. She knows we’ll be there with her, whether she’s cooperative or…spirited. She knows that each component of the routine has a purpose, because we make them clear. She knows, or at least experiences, the consistency that leads to that predictable outcome which is a warm bed and sweet dreams.
Yes, she fights it sometimes. Yes, she enjoys some parts more than others. Yes, it’s occasionally exhausting. But we know the net benefit. Our darling daughter is sent to dreamland with a positive experience, consistent expectations, and security.
Workshop routines are established for and run with the same outcomes in mind.
Students need daily practices, without fail, that strive to build capacity for critical thinking, community with peers, and rapport with instructors. They need a classroom structure that promotes a gradual release of responsibility so they can study craft in order to emulate that craft. They need time to practice. Time to explore. Time to be in control of their own learning. Time to be readers and writers.
In our district, that’s a pretty structured 86 minute class period, per Penny Kittle’s suggested breakdown of daily activities:
- 10 minutes silent reading/conferring
- 5 minutes attendance/agenda/book talk
- 15 minute quick write
- 15 minute skills based mini lesson
- 38 minutes workshop time
- 3 minute wrap up/sharing/homework
In my opinion, it’s the components that matter. The timing, especially in an even shorter class period (See Amy’s post on workshop in a 45 minute class period or Shana’s post with her ideas for workshop in a short class– it CAN be done!), are necessarily brief to allow for work in all areas, provide time for students to put into practice what they are learning, and maintain momentum around specific skills by linking components in a class period. For example, have students look for specific craft moves in their independent reading, write about them in a quick write, see them reflected in the mini lesson, and work to incorporate them into their own writing during workshop time. I’m even organized enough sometimes to tie my book talk directly to the craft move we’re discussing. Sometimes.
My students know what to expect each day. They know they can count on time to read, make choices in their learning, have guided instruction on college and career readiness skills, and workshop time to put those skills into practice.
Well, I know they have those things. Their perception of the class structure is often described as “fast.” As in, “Wow. That class period really went fast.” And it does. There’s always a lot to do. There’s always a lot to talk about, write about, read about, think about.
There’s, of course, always room to grow too.
Routines to add around writing fluency (weekly one pagers), mini lesson variety (demonstration, explanation/example, guided practice, etc.), use of writer’s notebooks, conferring, providing formative feedback, and the list goes on.
Workshop aims to empower students, teachers, and entire learning communities through a shared love of reading and writing to promote literacy.
Leopard pajamas or no, the routine of workshop provides a consistent safe place for all stakeholders to learn and grow. Sweet dreams.
I’ll be sharing more about moving to the workshop model and workshop routines in more depth on Sunday afternoon, from 1:30-2:45, in room B211.
Will you be at NCTE? Please let us know in the comments. We would love to meet you!
If you can’t make it to Atlanta, you won’t be missing out–tune in to Twitter using the hashtag #NCTE16 during our session times to join the conversation.