Integrating the Reading & Writing Workshop Model in the Classroom
With the implementation of more rigorous state standards, teachers are expected to combine reading and writing in the ELA block to encompass all components of literacy. In the past, reading and writing were taught in isolation in many classrooms. Writing was taught through Writer’s Workshop, and instruction was often prompt-based, while reading was taught separately through Reader’s Workshop. Although the Workshop model was often used to provide instruction in both reading and writing, the two were seldom connected to one another.
Research has shown that comprehension is improved when students write about what they read. Shanahan (2006) says, reading and writing are connected, as they draw upon common knowledge and cognitive processes. Students should be provided the opportunity to respond to the text they are reading, write summaries about texts and learn the process of writing. Additionally, students need ample opportunity to read and discuss text of their choice across multiple genres. Just as writing about ones reading increases comprehension, reading extensively improves writing skills.
Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop follow an approach that can maximize student learning and reading and writing. The Workshop Model was originally developed by Carmen Farina and Lucy Calkins as a way to teach writing but is now used in many classrooms.
The Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop approach typically includes a teaching point that addresses the standards, a connection that focuses attention on the lesson, a mini-lesson where the teacher demonstrates what is expected of the students, independent practice, conferring with individual students, guided practice, and time for students to share with their peers.
When following the Workshop model students are given choice in which text they read. Students read, discuss, write, and share in small and large groups. Teachers hold “book talks” and introduce new books so that students have numerous titles in which they may choose self-selected reading. Teachers also have book lists in which students may choose between 3-6 titles and form small book clubs or literature circles. Students learn to take pride in their work as they work through the writing process and practice the habits of published authors. Teachers introduce mentor texts in which students analyze and model an author’s craft and style.
Considering the Physical Arrangements
In order for the Workshop Model to flow smoothly, teachers must consider the components of Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop when setting up the classroom. It is also important they initiate certain organizational structures for students. Desks should be organized so students can collaborate throughout the lessons. A comfortable space for Independent reading should be established (often times this contains a large carpet, bean bags, oversized chairs, lamps, etc.). This space should also include an ‘Author’s Chair’ used for students to share pieces they have been working on in writing. This chair can also be used by the teacher during Shared reading lessons to maximize the space. A table where teachers can work with small groups of students for guided reading instruction and regrouping for writing instruction is a necessity.
Adequate space for anchor charts students can refer to when they come to points of struggle in both reading and writing are important. Some charts are most appropriately posted near the Independent reading and writing corners, while others are more useful near the guided reading table. It is equally important that students have a routine for organizing their reading and writing. A three-ring binder titled ‘Literacy Workshop’ could encompass components from reading and writing and help to give a concrete example of the connection between reading and writing. Notebooks could include portions of text students are responding to in writing, and multiple sources students can refer to when they are in need of examples of brochures, advertisements, how-to pamphlets, etc. Thoughtful organization of the Reader’s and Writer’s notebooks will allow for the natural connection between reading and writing.
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