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Constructing a Readers’ Workshop

Janelle Cox

 

If you’re looking for a way to turn your reluctant readers into successful readers, then constructing a readers’ workshop is the way to go. This format gives students the tools that are needed for selecting and comprehending literature so they will become successful readers and writers.

Here you will learn the elements that will help you structure your readers’ workshop.

Setting up Your Classroom

Setting up your readers’ workshop in a well-organized manner will ensure that students will be able to pursue their goals toward reading and learning. Use the following tips when setting up your classroom.

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Create an open area where the entire class can come together for discussions. Desk clusters can be arranged for small groups working together. Utilize bulletin boards to remind students of the daily readers’ workshop schedule. When students and teachers work together to create their learning environment the classroom functions better which fosters students learning.

Materials Needed

High-quality literature along with other reading matter is essential for any readers’ workshop. Of course books are the backbone of the classroom library but other reading materials should be included as well. Brochures, magazines, catalogs, newspapers and such are all important to include in the classroom library. A variety of different types of print, such as maps, posters, and theme park brochures will inform and educate students. Other materials such as props, puppets and dress-up items can help students retell stories. Writing materials like journals, paper, pencils, highlighters and other art supplies should be included for responding to literature read. Easels and paint supplies can be set up near the classroom library for students to express what they read.

Creating a Schedule

Studies show that children that who spend more time reading tend to be more successful readers. With that said, it essential for teachers to create a schedule that allows students to read, write, reflect, listen, and talk. Through these skills, and a lot of practice, students will have the luxury of time to read, be able to think about what they have read, share it with others, and make discoveries through writing.

When creating your readers’ workshop, ideally it should be held for about one and a half to two hours per day. This allows for enough time for students to read independently (or with others), listen and share, respond to what they read or listened to in writing or drawing, and participate in group lessons, mini-lessons, or related activities.

If teachers find it hard to schedule an uninterrupted block of time for readers’ workshop, they can schedule different blocks of time throughout the day. For example, students can meet for 45 minutes in the morning for readers’ workshop, then again in the afternoon for an hour for writers’ workshop. Another way to schedule is to allot certain days for certain activities. For example, mini-lessons and read-alouds are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while silent reading and response journals would be on Monday and Wednesday, and so on.

Grouping Students

In readers’ workshops, students are NOT grouped by ability, last year’s placement or test scores. Instead, students are grouped according to their needs and interests. These groups change with the interests and needs of students throughout the school year.

Teachers can find out about students’ interest and needs by conducting interviews, through surveys,and by observing habits. Experienced teachers find that guided reading groups of no more than six students work well because it allows enough time for each student to be heard. Students can also be grouped heterogeneously or homogenously. Teachers can group students heterogeneously for a literature discussion, then homogenously for students who need help with a particular area.

Structuring your readers’ workshop will take time, and patience is required. But in the end, experienced teachers have said that the benefits makes all of the heard work worthwhile. The best part is that teachers get to see their students develop their literacy skills, as well as their ability to read and write.

Do you implement a readers’ workshop into your classroom? Share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.