A scaffold is a scaffold…

As a curriculum coordinator this time of the year gets blurry. I have begun to mold what our summer curriculum work will look like, so naturally I forget that it’s still the current school year and start thinking and feeling like we’ve already moved into next year. A question that I’m going to pose to our grade level curriculum writers is this: what are we going to do differently next year than we did this year? How are we going to continue moving down our path of becoming a workshop district? It’s hard. What do teachers need? Support? Resources? A scaffold? A scaffold!

When we teach our students complex or multi-step skills we break them down, right? Make it more digestible. Isn’t it the same when it comes to teachers implementing workshop in a classroom? Scaffolding workshop implementation expectations make implementation manageable and sustainable.

Maybe this is the time you flag this post and come back to it in May or June when your school year actually ends. Or, ask yourself what went well this year, and what you can do next year to make it even better for your students.

Best advice I received and try to share is this: be okay with organic or grass-roots growth. Just let it happen. Not everything needs to happen at once, or even in one semester, or in one year. I know that’s difficult to hear, especially for English teachers, but take a deep breath and repeat after me…it’s okay to go slow.

So, how do you add one more layer of workshop into your English classroom?

1.What “workshoppy” things do you already do? 

As a district team, we began with a list of “workshop” things. Teachers circled what they were already doing in their classroom and then chose ONE thing to commit to trying in the upcoming semester.

Our list included: Independent Reading, Independent Writing, Conferring, Mini-Lesson, Grammar Instruction, Vocabulary, Structure, Classroom Library, Balanced Literacy Model, Small Group Instruction, Notebooks, Share Time, Collaboration, Mentor Texts, Classroom Culture/Community, Goal Setting, Assessment

What I saw and heard is that our English teachers are already doing a lot. So when it comes to being a workshop teacher give yourself slack, give yourself grace, and give yourself credit. YOU are already doing great things for your students.

2. Where do you start?

I think you have to start by asking yourself what you believe and why you believe that. Shana wrote about some must reads for teachers considering workshop and for me personally this was a great place to start. I bought and read the books she shared. Amy shared a post: Citing the Research That Drives Your Practice. I read it and nodded, a lot. Then I dove in to what I thought my district could do.

⇒ Two key things: the first is independent reading

Our district was able to bring Amy Rasmussen and Lisa Dennis in for two days last summer (repeating this summer) where they shared and defined workshop with about 50 teachers. It was magical to say the least. My big takeaway was how important independent reading is within a workshop classroom. Because of that, we began asking teachers to incorporate 50 minutes of in class reading per week (break it up however you want/however it fits your classroom routine/structure).

I recently went to a PD led by Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher where they shared their new book 180 Days which reinforced the work we’ve been doing. No surprise, I immediately bought the book and cannot WAIT to finish it and talk to all the people about it. In the book they share a chart regarding independent reading which shows that if students add basically no outside reading to their routine, but add 10 minutes per day in class (or 50 minutes per school week) they are able to increase their word exposure by 556%! Is there an easier way to increase word exposure than this? <– that’s rhetorical, of course. 😉

⇒ The second key is conferring. 

Same training with Penny and Kelly; I’m immersed in taking notes when Kelly begins to talk about why they sit down beside kids to talk with them about their reading and writing. At this point, I was so engaged that I stopped taking notes mid-sentence and just soaked it all in. So, please no judgement on this sure to be mis-quote. Kelly said something to the effect of conferencing doing more and telling you more than anything else can: it’s 1:1 teaching, it’s a response to intervention, it building relationships, and above all it tells you what kids know and what they don’t know. Wow! No program or worksheet or multiple choice test can give you all of those things.

3.Where do you go next?

If you’re not a part of a campus or district where workshop is an expectation or recommendation, start with your campus and/or district vision. What does your campus/district want the student learning experience to look like, and how does workshop instruction fit into that description? Keep digging into the Three Teachers Talk blog posts. There are so many different perspectives from all over the United States (and outside, too!).

And now, I leave this last nugget from the 180 Days PD with Penny and Kelly…

responsive teaching

If we are responsive to student’s needs they will be engaged in the work that we’re asking them to do. Maybe that means you start by incorporating choice in independent reading, or bring in relevant articles when studying nonfiction versus pulling out the same ‘ole file folder with the same ‘ole speech you do every year, or maybe it meanssitting beside students to talk about what they think.

With the end of the year rapidly approaching now is the time to really reflect on how this year went and what can be done better or different next year. What “workshoppy” thing do you want to try?





Tagged: , ,

6 thoughts on “A scaffold is a scaffold…

  1. mrsturnerblog April 6, 2018 at 8:18 pm Reply

    Ahhhh! Thank you for the validation! I love that you’re encouraging self-reflection as part of the process and that encouraging everyone to take one step at a time rather than do it all at once. I’m on the journey to workshop, but I’m trying to take it slowly by adding in things here and there. My classroom is much more “workshoppy” than ever before, but in the next year or so, I expect it to be even further in that direction. Thank you for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • andreacoachman April 9, 2018 at 12:01 pm Reply

      Good luck on your journey!! I hope that you find your next workshoppy piece to implement and run with it! 😀 Thank you for taking the time to read my post.


  2. Keely Gaertner April 6, 2018 at 9:42 am Reply

    You are soooooooo lucky to be able to be at a workshop that had both greats promoting their book!! I just received mine in the mail after I anxiously awaited its arrival after pre-ordering on amazon over a month before it’s release. Boy, was the wait worth it, and everything “workshoppy” that any teacher, new or well seasoned, could need to know is there in raw form. It even has videos of the greats….in action…. I feel like I just won the professional development lottery.

    I always wondered what it actually looked like in both their classrooms. I love they way they approached the differences in their classrooms which supports ten fold that workshop can be used in any classroom no matter time, space, or students. I was already a fan and have been using workshop for years, but even I have been throttled in to the next level with ideas on how I can revamp my workshoppy stuff.

    I know this is not the only book needed for workshop, but it is definitely new and speaks to my heart. I really believe that all campuses should invest to add to all the other great books out their to aide teachers venturing into workshop for the first time or trying to find new inspiration. It is worth more than it’s weight in gold and knowledge!!!

    And I, like you, am already looking forward to next year and the greatness that will ensue.

    CHEERS to a great end and to what ever comes next!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keely Gaertner April 6, 2018 at 9:45 am Reply

      **** there****


    • andreacoachman April 9, 2018 at 11:57 am Reply

      Yes, Keely! It was an out of body experience being there with them. And, Donalyn Miller was there as an attendee! So amazing. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to read my post. Best of luck with revamping your workshoppy classroom. 😀


What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: