Reading workshop allows students to read books on their levels that fit with their interests. But how do you check for comprehension? How do you meet your reading objectives? How do you assess students?
Many teachers struggle with how to teach reading skills when using reading workshop, which Nancie Atwell has researched and written extensively on teaching with reading workshop. The answer is reading workshop mini-lessons.
Before students begin reading their individual books, you can present a reading workshop mini-lesson about a reading skill such as reading comprehension. For example, if one of your reading objectives is "finding cause and effect," then you can teach this skill with a mini-lesson. If you are orally reading a book to your class, use that book to model how to find cause and effect. If you want students to write a series of causes and effects on post-it-notes or in their reading journals, then model and explain the reading skills on chart paper. Mini-lessons should take about 10 minutes at the most, so you may have to teach more complicated reading skills over several mini-lessons, so you are giving students time for the reading workshop.
After a reading workshop mini-lesson, students find their spots in the room and begin reading. If you want them to have a written response by the end of the reading workshop period, then make sure they have their materials with them. Walk around the room, observe students, and visit with them as you normally would during reading workshop.
Reading Response Journals
Besides reading workshop mini-lessons, you can also use reading response journals to practice skills you've worked on during mini-lessons or to check for reading comprehension. Teachers use reading response journals in several different ways, but here's one way that works for many classrooms during reading workshop.
Twice a week, students must use a part of their reading workshop time to respond in their reading journals. Somewhere in their reading journals, they have an assignment sheet from you, secured to the front page. This assignment sheet will list different ways they can respond to the books they are reading during the workshop time. For example, if you worked on cause and effect last month, one of the assignments may be to list three different cause and effects from the story in the reading response journal. Other reading journal assignments might be for students to write a short summary of what they read that day or to make a connection with another book they've read or an event in their lives. You can modify journal assignments to fit the ability levels of your students. If you have an advanced reader, maybe you expect a three-paragraph summary; whereas with a beginning reader, you are asking for a three-sentence summary during reading workshop.
The important thing is to make sure your students know what is expected from them when they respond in their reading journals and that they are practicing reading skills that meet your reading objectives. Reading workshop mini-lessons and reading response journals will help your students improve their reading skills throughout the year.