“One of the seemingly overwhelming hurdles I feel I have is to engage my students with only 45 minutes each day! Do you have any tips or tricks for me to do this?”
Amy’s diagram of all the moving parts of workshop
So many teachers ask this question. When one considers all of the moving parts of workshop instruction–reading, conferring, mini-lessons, booktalks, quickwrites, workshop time, choice–it’s tough to conceptualize how to fit it all in to any duration of class time.
What’s important to consider is what Penny Kittle referred to as the “currency of time”–what you spend your time on, and what will give you your biggest return for the investment of that time, is equally as important as what you DON’T spend your time on. You can make workshop work in any time period, with or without all of these elements in one class period, if you invest your time wisely.
What’s most important for our students? What is the most valuable use of our time?
Time to read.
Time to confer.
Time to write.
That’s it. If I have those three elements in every single day of workshop, I feel our time has been well spent. Every workshop classroom will–and should!–look a bit different. That’s one of the most valuable things about workshop: not only does it provide for student choice, it gives teachers autonomy, too.
Here’s what I responded to Kerry:
“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 Independent Reading, 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. (I try not to let a unit go longer than 3 weeks.
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)
Those days were PACKED. There was really no free time, so kids who were absent, kids who had questions beyond workshop or conference time, etc. really had to come and see me outside of class (after school, lunch, etc.). And, there was a lot more homework…we just didn’t have time for everything during 45 minutes.”
How do you make workshop work in any duration of time? Share with us in the comments a brief outline your daily schedule, please!! It will be invaluable to see the variety.