Friday, October 23, 2015

The Anatomy of a Workshop Model

When I envision a reading/writing workshop model, I see a lot of moving parts, parts that are predictable, sequential, seamless and flowing.   The pieces of a workshop model in either reading or writing share the same major components. They are:

  • The Mini Lesson
  • Independent Reading or Writing Time
  • Individual or Small Group Conferring
  • Sharing and Closure

I try, and I use this term very loosely because success with this is tough, really tough!  However, when I plan out my workshops I truly aim to keep a  20-70-10 percent ratio in mind.  Namely, 20% of the time for the mini-lesson, 70% of the time for independent work/conferring and 10% for sharing and closure.  This is much easier to do with a 60 minute class, the shorter the class, the greater the challenge.

The Mini-Lesson
The mini lesson is the foundation of the workshop model.  My greatest challenge remains in keeping the lesson short, concise, and to the point so that kids quickly get to the heart of the workshop and spend their time reading or writing and I spend my time conferring.  It's a great goal, but in a 40-50 minute class those 8-10 minutes fly!  Yet, I still remain optimistic that one day it will be short, and it will be good!

Independent Reading or Writing Time and Conferring
In her book, The Art of Teaching Reading, Lucy Calkins stated, "We can't learn to swim without swimming, to write without writing, to sing without singing or to read without reading."

The heart of workshop is when kids are engrossed in reading and writing.  Independent reading and writing time for kids is just that, it's kids reading and writing.  During this time teachers confer with individuals and/or small groups.  Reteaching, coaching, encouraging, and even prodding kids along is the bulk of a teacher's workshop.  A time when we watch kids set and achieve goals, master new skills, and practice others.

Sharing, to be honest, is the part of workshop that gets the most neglected in my classes.  Although I know how important it is, how much it means to kids, how much it lets me see their growth over time, time is the culprit.  I've promised myself that we'll start sharing earlier, we'll make sure everyone has a chance to share in some way with a partner, a team, whole class, something! Some days it works, others it doesn't, but it doesn't mean I don't keep trying, it's a goal, I'm working on the strategies to achieve it!

What does your workshop look like?  What are your successes?  What personal goals have you set for yourself?  Keep at it, it will happen!  Some days will be better than others, but they'll all be worth it!

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