Reader’s & Writer’s Workshops
What is Workshop?
THE WORK-SHOP METHOD OF INSTRUCTION IS RESEARCH-BASED METHODOLOGY THAT ADDRESSES VARIOUS LEARNING STYLES HOLISTICALLY.
STUDENTS ARE GUIDED IN CLASS THROUGH THE PROCESS OF READING AND WRITING RIGHT IN CLASS, SO THAT AS THEY EXPERIENCE CHALLENGES THEY HAVE THEIR TEACHER TO EXPERTLY HELP THEM ALONG. THEY ARE ALSO ABLE TO MOVE PHYSICALLY, REINFORCING THE CONCEPTS THEY LEARN KINESTHETICALLY.
INHERENTLY DIFFERENTIATED, THE STRENGTHS OF THE WORKSHOP APPROACH IS THAT STUDENTS MEET REGULARLY AND ONE-ON-ONE WITH TEACHERS AND DOCENTS AND SPEND TIME PRACTICING SKILLS IN CLASS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF THEIR TEACHERS ALLOW-ING THEM TO GROW AND LEARN AT THEIR OWN PACE.
This program is in effect school-wide from PreK through 6th grade at St. Mary’s. Based on the Workshop method developed at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, this program helps teachers and students to regularly and accurately assess a student’s reading ability (fluency and com-prehension) in order to help him find books that are “just right.” Studies show that students only improve their fluency and comprehension when they are reading books exactly at their ability level or slightly higher.
Classroom libraries are leveled based on the alphabet with emerging readers being at an “A” level and adult readers at a “Z”. Once students know their reading level, they are able to make “just right” choices. The teachers are then able to teach mini-lessons on various reading strategies, and students apply those lessons to books they can fluently read. This means that lessons make sense, resonate with the students and help them to grow as readers.
Students read at school under the guidance of their teachers from between 30 –60 minutes each day based on age and ability level. They are also taught how to reflect on their reading in reading journals, discuss their thoughts and impressions by “buzzing” with their classmates and make various types of connections to their reading.
Our students have shown tremendous improvement in their enthusiasm toward reading and their stamina.
What makes good writing? Though styles may differ, all good writing shares some common traits. At SMS, we teach students The Six Traits of Writing, to help them break down the merits of the well-written word. The Six Traits are: Idea, Conventions( grammar), Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Organization and Voice. When each of these traits exists in proper form, the product is good writing.
In workshop, students are given writing prompts in various genres and are taught how to develop an idea through the use of a graphic organizer. After moving on to their first draft of an essay, they get to pick two of the Six Traits they would like to work on during Workshop. Here, they meet with teachers and parent docents to read over their work and improve those individual traits. Their second drafts are peer-edited for grammar and their third drafts are graded.
All of this takes place in class only. Students are given between 1—3 hours a week to write in class and no workshop assignments ever go home, so that teachers can be sure that students are turning in only what they have written themselves. Also, students feel less overwhelmed by the prospect of the blank page, as they always have a teacher there to help guide them at ability level. As a result, our students’ writing skills are a notch above the rest!
Tried and Tested
“I have dyslexia and I didn’t like to read, but now that I know how to pick a book that’s just right for me, I love to read!” —4th grade student
“Good writers need to write lots of drafts. That’s what makes them good.” —2nd grade student
“I love Reader’s Workshop!”—3rd grade student