The Flow of a Reading & Writing Lesson – Leveraging Reading & Writing Workshop Model
As discussed in a previous blog article “Integrating the Reading & Writing Workshop Model in the Classroom”, the “Workshop Model” provides students with a brief introduction of the learning standard/focus, a model of what is expected, time for guided practice, time for independent practice and time for sharing with their peers.
The structure of Writer’s Workshop, itself, has seen very little change. It is important to note, that there will be many days when Writer’s Workshop does not occur in the classroom. This is due to the simple fact students will sometimes be writing in response to reading. Sometimes this will come in the format of a short response, other times it will be in the format of a performance task.
It is when students complete a performance task that we might not see Writer’s Workshop taking place. Following the completion of a performance task, teachers will be holding writing conferences with students to meet their individual needs. From the trends observed, during these conferences, the teacher will identify the next focus for Writer’s Workshop.
The goal is to teach a couple of close reading modules each grading period, and each module typically lasts anywhere from 3-8 days. During this time, students will be responding in writing daily and, at the completion of the module, they will complete a performance task that requires a lengthy response. When teachers are working together to prepare for the modules they have written, they will need to do some intense backward planning. It will be crucial to consider what skills/strategies students will need in order to work through the module and complete the performance task. The weeks preceding the module will include instruction intended to prepare students for what will be expected. Naturally, the modules are built around the standards, so the instruction will cover the standards students are expected to master at that particular grade level.
As you would imagine, little time is left for direct writing instruction during the course of the module and the immediately following days (this is when conferencing will take place). It will be important to expose students to the type of writing they will expect to complete, so there will likely be some components of the Writer’s Workshop occurring daily.
For instance, let’s imagine a group of first graders will be expected to describe how a character changed from the beginning of the story to the end. It will be necessary to model how to identify changes in characters, etc. in the preceding weeks. It will also be necessary to model how to write a description of a character and the way that character changes throughout the story. This should not be done with the same text. It is important students are given the opportunity to complete this independently.
Therefore; the teacher will need to plan accordingly so the Writer’s Workshop lessons building up to the module will provide the appropriate instruction. Throughout the course of the module, teachers will also be modeling some writing.
Let’s consider the same example, where a group of first graders are expected to describe how a character changes from the beginning of a story to the end, for their performance task. The group collaboration and shorter written responses that occur throughout the module should build up to being able to complete this task. With that in mind, students may be completing a graphic organizer as they work through the story each day. It will be necessary for the teacher to model how to complete the graphic organizer. This can be accomplished by modeling how to fill in the graphic organizer with the first details that support the question or can be accomplished by pairing a text with the main text and the model can take place with the paired text.
Again, the emphasis is placed on guided practice throughout the module that will ultimately prepare the students for completing the performance task. The quality of student performance on the task will create the teacher’s coming lesson plans.
Simplifying the process for teachers, one might choose the same text for shared reading as the mentor text they are using during Writer’s Workshop each week. This could also create a more unified process of reading and writing for students. This will not always be possible, but it seems to make sense to use this format whenever possible. While teachers are following the structure of the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop during the ELA block, students may still be required to respond to their reading in written format.
Here is an online course that can help educators address this issue in their schools and classrooms.