It can be overwhelming. We attend training sessions and conferences, read professional books and journal articles, search online and join Facebook groups, and try to figure out this thing called Readers-Writers Workshop. I did all of that for years. I still do. I suppose that’s one of the things I love best about this blog: I get to share all my trial-and-error-years-of-learning-and-ongoing-ideas with all of you.
If I said I’ve got it all figured out, I’d be lying.
I think that’s the beauty of this model of instruction. While the routines might be the same: independent self-selected reading, quickwrites, craft study, time to talk and write, conferring… the texts we use to meet the needs of our students and the amount of time we spend on those routines vary, depending on the individuals learning with us in our classrooms.
So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this question: What are the essentials to making readers-writers workshop work? and while my answer might be different tomorrow or next week, here’s what I think the essentials are today:
- We have to build and nurture a community of readers and writers who identify as such and who respect one another’s right to explore, express, and develop in their literacy skills.
- We have to believe that it’s more important to teach readers and writers, speaking to them as such, than it is to teach books — even if they are books we love.
- We have to push back at standardized tests that crush authenticity in reading and writing tasks — and give our students choice. Lots of choice!
- We must be confident in our skills as literacy teachers. We need to walk our talk and continually work to grow our expertise. If we don’t know YA books and other literature our students will want to read, we need to read more. If we don’t know how to teach writers, instead of assigning writing, we need to learn what writers do to craft meaning — and model those things for our students.
- And perhaps more than anything, we have to dedicate the precious time we have with students to the things that help them grow confident in their own literacy skills. Time to think, read, write, talk, listen, and celebrate. Everyday!
There is no one way to do all this. However, if we’ll keep these essentials in our focus, we will find the one way that works for us — and for our students.
Note: This post is a part of a series. It’s based primarily on the most frequent questions about readers-writers workshop asked at our workshop trainings. For more see here.
Amy Rasmussen loves to learn. She reads a lot and writes a lot to figure things out. She loves her husband of 34 years and adores her kids and grandkids. Amy will be teaching senior English when school starts in just a few short days. Follow her @amyrass