why workshop?

we aren’t just teachers of reading and writing workshop. we’re believers in reading and writing workshop. we also believe anyone who has the chance to visit a classroom using the workshop model would be believers, too.

the reality, though – and we know this from experience – is that doing workshop well is hard. it takes time and a lot of learning to feel confident. it’s easier and maybe, therefore, tempting at times to assign everyone the same book or hand out a worksheet to practice a writing skill. like all (almost all?) hard things, though, workshop is worth it.

it’s worth the years (for real) it will take to feel confident you’ll find teaching points when you confer with readers who are all reading different books. it’s worth the constant reflection and adjusting of your teaching and responses to students so that you move from feeling like the independent work time part of workshop is chaotic to feeling like it’s productive for students. it’s worth the loss of control you experience when you hand the decisions over to your students so that they become empowered.

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speed booking to celebrate reading

you can picture speed dating in your head: two rows of people facing one another, talking in pairs. when a timer goes off, one row of people move down one person and begin talking to their new partner. and so it goes, until they’ve talked to everyone or time is up.

speed booking works the same way, except the conversation is focused on books rather than one another.

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celebrating reading with character posters

this post will focus on creating character posters to share during a reading celebration. we have used this celebration method at the end of a unit of study that focuses on character, which is often a unit during which students plan and read at least one book with a partner.

when planning for a celebration using character posters, we think about the focus of our unit and what our expectations should be so that students can show their work toward these focuses. because we devote a day of reading workshop to creating the posters, we want to make sure that they are valuable, and so we have them double as a way to celebrate and share each reader’s work during the unit and a summative assessment for us of their work during the unit.

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gallery walks to celebrate reading work

this week we focus on gallery walks as a way to celebrate reading work. as the name implies, this type of celebration is structured like a museum gallery walk and is an idea that we’ve borrowed from mary ehrenworth, a staff developer at tcrwp.

during a gallery walk, students open their reader’s notebook to a page that they are particularly proud of and leave the notebook out at their seat. we sometimes place large post-its in at each table for gallery walkers to leave feedback. once all the notebooks are out, students travel around the room looking at the work that other students have done. we ask that students travel quietly and provide written feedback on each notebook that they read.  when the walk is over, students return to their seats and look over the feedback that they’ve gotten from their peers. we will also provide positive feedback (compliments) to students during this time as well, and travel around the room with students.

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when met with struggle, focus on strategies

we’re sure that many of you are like us and have hung on carol dweck’s research on the benefits of a growth mindset for your students  – benefits for them as people, as learners, but also benefits for your classroom community – and looked for ways to help foster this kind of growth mindset in your kids.

in a recent article we read, dweck addressed some of the misunderstandings of her research around mindsets. one area that stood out to us was the dangers of praising the effort when a student is struggling or failing. dweck said, “teachers were just praising effort that was not effective, saying “wow, you tried really hard!” but students know that if they didn’t make progress and you’re praising them, it’s a consolation prize. they also know you think they can’t do any better. so this kind of growth-mindset idea was misappropriated to try to make kids feel good when they were not achieving.”

it’s well-intended, and feels good, to offer a student who’s struggling, and even failing, some praise, often in the name of boosting her confidence. dweck got us thinking, though, that we certainly don’t want to be encouraging our students to continue doing things that won’t lead them to growth or success. our goal is to have students accept challenge and failure as a chance to grow and do better, to see challenge and failure as a chance to change and improve.

what, specifically, can we do to support students who are struggling? what feedback or prompting is beneficial for us to give?

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