How is your reading block structured? I used to do shared reading from an anthology, guided reading groups, and Daily 5 centers. Every week I planned lessons for 4 guided reading groups and gathered materials for 5 centers. It took a lot of time! Now, I use a reading workshop model. My students are engaged in meaningful reading, and my prep time is cut in half. Keep reading to find out how to set up a reading workshop in your elementary classroom.
Reading Workshop in the Elementary Classroom
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This year, my school district adopted Lucy Calkins Units of Study. Prior to that, we used reading workshop for our RtII time, so we already knew the components:
- Independent Reading
- Strategy Groups
Every reading workshop session starts with a minilesson. Lucy Calkins spells out exactly what to teach and how to teach the minilesson. Before that, I had to pull my own materials for the minilessons. I used Jennifer Seravallo’s Reading Strategies book. It provides the teaching point, sample anchor charts, and even questions to ask the students. I planned my minilessons around the strategies I knew my students needed.
The minilesson should be fairly quick, 10-15 minutes. First, introduce the students to the day’s learning target. Then, model how to apply it using a text the students know. I usually use our read aloud book. Finally, give the students a job to do during their independent reading time.
After the minilesson, your students will read “good fit” books. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the school year teaching my students how to find books at their independent levels. As they read, they apply that day’s learning target. For example, today our minilesson was on character traits. As they read, the students wrote a character trait and text evidence to support it on a post-it.
While the students are reading, you can pull strategy groups. Strategy groups are small groups of 4 or 5 students who all need to practice the same reading strategy. You pull them together for a few minutes in a small group to model how to use the strategy and practice it with you. Then, they go back to independent reading to practice the skill by themselves.
Find out more about how to start strategy groups, and download my strategy group planning sheet.
During independent reading time, you can also conference with individual students. You might check in with students as they practice a strategy group skill or you might meet with children who weren’t in your strategy group that day.
At the end of the reading workshop time, bring the students back together. Have them sit next to a reading partner and share how they applied the reading strategy. A few students can share out with the whole class, too. The share wraps up your reading workshop for the day.
Materials for the Reading Workshop
There are a few materials that help reading workshop run more smoothly.
- A timer or clock to build up stamina – At the beginning of the year, your students won’t be able to sit and read silently for 30 minutes. You need to build up their stamina by starting out with shorter reading workshop sessions. Each day, I write the number of minutes we read silently on the board. Then, we challenge ourselves to make it longer the next day. Right now, my class can read for 45 minutes.
- Book boxes – Your students will need a place to keep all their good fit books. Book boxes are perfect for this! When my students enter the classroom in the morning, they pick new books. During reading workshop, they take their book boxes to the spot where they’re reading. That way, they have a new book ready, and they don’t waste any time looking for one.
- A well-stocked classroom library – With reading workshop, your students will go through books faster than ever before. You need to have a good selection of books at many different levels. Discover ways to get cheap or free books and how to organize your classroom library.
- Reading pillows – You want reading workshop to be a comfortable and enjoyable time for your students. Reading pillows are one way to do this. I put pillows around my classroom and students earn the right to sit on them when they exhibit appropriate reading workshop behaviors.
- Post-it notes – I should seriously buy stock in post-its. I use them for everything! During reading workshop, my students take notes on the post-its and stick them in their books. That way, when I conference with them, they can show me what they were thinking and where in the book they found the evidence.
Helpful Hints for Reading Workshop
- Spend time setting up the expectations for reading workshop. – Taking time to set up reading workshop at the beginning of the school year will help it run smoothly all year long. Make sure your students are following the expectations, and practice until transitions are smooth.
- Motivate all your students to read. – You might find that you have some reluctant readers in your class. They just flip pages without reading or they stare into space. Have those students set a personal goal for the number of pages to read or the amount of time to read. Another way to motivate your students is with a reading challenge. My students love the “Can You Read the Rainbow?” reading challenge. They read a different genre for each color of the rainbow and get a special certificate when they “Read the Rainbow”. This has motivated some students who never finished a book to read more and try different types of books.
- Use your students’ needs to plan minilessons and strategy groups. – For reading workshop to be effective, you need to know your students. Plan minilessons around strategies your whole class needs. For your strategy groups, look at individual students and their needs. Find out how to use data to drive your instruction.
Download my reading workshop planning sheet at the bottom of this post.
Rock the Reading Workshop
Do you want to use reading workshop, but you’re not sure where to start? Join me for a FREE 5-day email course, and Rock the Reading Workshop in your classroom!
You’ll learn how to:
- Set your classroom up for reading workshop
- Plan for and implement all the parts of reading workshop (minilessons, conferences, strategy groups, sharing)
- Use data to drive your instruction
- Manage your reading workshop
Just click here to sign up, and we’ll get started right away!
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What Do You Think?
Do you use reading workshop in your classroom? What tips do you have for making it run smoothly?
Let me know in the comments below.
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Plus, plan the 4 key parts of your reading workshop with this editable planning template.