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Managing Reading Workshop Activities

By Margo Dill

Reading workshop is similar to writing workshop. Nancie Atwell has written several books about this concept. With reading workshop, each student is reading his own book at his own level. Some teachers find this hard to manage, but it's not.

Students Choose Their Books

Reading workshop is usually used in third grade classrooms and above where students can choose books on their own. Depending on the reading levels of your second graders, you may be able to implement reading workshop activities with them. Some kindergarten and first grade teachers have more formal reading instruction each day, and then they do a form of workshop during silent reading time. Whether or not you do "true" reading workshop activities in your classroom or a modified version, your students need to choose independent reading books on their own reading levels. They may want your help, especially if they are getting the books from your classroom library or the school library.

You probably did some type of formal or informal reading assessment at the beginning of the year, so you know the reading levels of your students. Many books are marked with a suggested reading level, or you can find a more specific reading level on the Internet by typing into a search engine, "Reading level of TITLE OF BOOK." You also need to consider your students' reading interests when they choose books. You can ask students to fill out a reading inventory, or you can ask questions orally. Does your student like fantasy or realistic stories? Does he prefer fiction or nonfiction? During reading workshop activities, the important thing, especially at the beginning of the year, is for students to find books they love to read!

What Management of Reading Workshop Looks Like

You will do student evaluation during reading workshop, and students will choose books and read them. It looks something like this:

During independent reading time, students should be allowed to sit anywhere in the room to enjoy their books as long as they follow the reading workshop rules. There should be NO talking. Students should be reading. Some students may be doing reading workshop activities such as responding in a reading journal or with post-it-notes, but the majority of their time should be spent reading REAL literature. If you want to provide pillows or special seating, students can use these during reading workshop.

You should be walking throughout the room with a clipboard, note cards, or file folder where you are recording notes on each student. You might not reach each student every day, but you should have an organized system where you "visit" each student during reading workshop activities at least twice a week in the thirty minutes allowed for reading. This student evaluation is what you will use to assess how students are progressing throughout the year and if they are ready to read a higher level book. You can also gather information on how they feel about reading.

The notes you take during reading workshop may be on the title and genre of the book, a one or two sentence summary the child gives you about the book, the page number the student is on when you visit with him, or whether or not he is choosing books that are appropriate for him. You can also ask comprehension questions during the student evaluation if you are worried about the student's comprehension skills.