I was first introduced to the "workshop model" almost 30 years ago through a graduate course at the University of New Hampshire. UNH was lucky enough to have Donald Graves, one of the true, great pioneers of the writing workshop on its faculty. I was fortunate to benefit from his tenure there, alas, my career with the workshop model was born.
Fast forward to the present, the workshop model continues to be the cornerstone of my teaching and literacy work with students and teachers. From Don Graves and Nancy Atwell, to Lucy Calkins and the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project, my belief in the workshop approach to instruction has continued to grow and gain momentum.
What does a workshop look like to me? It's an approach to reading and writing instruction that provides authentic reading and writing experiences for all students. The workshop allows students the time and opportunity to spend extended periods of time reading and writing in their classrooms. The approach includes opportunities to talk about reading and writing and share experiences with literature. It is an approach that is rich with opportunity for students to develop into life-long, passionate readers and writers.
It's hard to choose what features are essential to my philosophy of the workshop model, but here are five I hold near and dear. (The order is purely alphabetical!)
- CHALLENGE-Workshops need to be challenging and rigorous. They need to adhere to high standards with crystal clear expectations and accomplishments. Through a workshop, students need to feel the struggle to develop their self-confidence and self-esteem.
- CHOICE-Choice about what books students will read, and what text they will write.
- COMMUNITY-A classroom community that is supportive and rich with opportunity to learn and grow as readers and writers together. A classroom environment filled with wonderful resources that engage students.
- RESPONSIBILITY-Responsibility relies on the student and teacher to set clear expectations and goals for individual growth. This includes assessing need and achievement while tracking progress along the way.
- TIME-Time for students and teachers to read and write. Time to interact with text, reading and writing with each other and independently.
My vision of a workshop is a classroom that "buzzes" with the "hum" of readers and writers. One that is joyfully filled with engaged students and teachers. A classroom where growth is evident, sharing is expected, and the love of the written word is fostered. What's your vision?
Soon to come...component pieces of the workshop!