Are you looking to start Reader’s Workshop with your secondary ELA students? Whether you are starting at the beginning of the year or somewhere in the middle, I encourage you to take the time needed to purposefully launch each part of the reading strategy.
While there is no one specific way to launch Reader’s Workshop, there are a few components that, if set up with intention in the beginning, will make Reader’s Workshop more effective as time goes on.
1. Routine is Key
I know, this can be said for just about everything we do in the classroom, but its true. Students need structure and predictable routines to succeed a their highest levels.
When you are planning for workshop be sure to include time for minilesson, sustained reading time and reflection or sharing time. How you decide how that time will be divided will depend on your school schedule. Some teachers have 40 minute classes and some teachers have 90 minute classes. In my 45 minute class, I plan 10 minutes for minilesson, 20 min for sustained reading time and 10 minutes for reflection and/or sharing time. The extra 5 minutes are reserved for warm up or other housekeeping tasks.
This schedule is not meant to be rigid. Some days we take more time for the minilesson and some days reading time goes a little longer. The key is that I have established a routine that is consistent and predictable for students.
Our schedule is posted in the classroom and we practice it everyday until students know the routine!
2. Show Off your Classroom Library
Too often the classroom library is an afterthought in secondary ELA classrooms. I say, show off your library to your students! Make the classroom library an open place for all! Devote lessons throughout the year showing off your library or do a book talk while standing near your library. Don’t assume students know how to use or utilize a classroom library.
Tell your students about the books you have in your library, invite them in to look around, touch the books and read the summaries. Allow them to check out the books so they can take as much pride in their classroom library as you do! Make the classroom library a desired place to be in class.
3. Establish Reading Zone
Building a community that values reading means establishing clear expectations of student behaviors during reading time. Students may have come to your class with reading avoidance behaviors – time to squash those behaviors and turn students into readers!
If you can, establish the Reading Zone behaviors as a class for better buy in from students, but Reading Zone expectations should include things such as…
- Bring your book to class everyday
- Be reading the entire time
- Stay in one spot
4. Build Reading Stamina
Don’t be surprised if, at first, your students struggle to read for 10 min or less without getting distracted. By the time students reach middle school and high school they have perfected their fake reading and avoidance skills. Don’t get discouraged, over time, your students will build stamina. I encourage you to start slow with 5 or 10 minute stretches at a time and slowly increase the time until students are able to read for 15-20 minutes of sustained reading time.
If your students have the right choice books – books they enjoy – after a week or so, you’ll begin to have students asking for more reading time. It doesn’t take long if students are reading the right books!
5. Reader’s Notebook
I strongly encourage teachers to set up the reader’s notebook in a way that makes sense for their teaching style. In my class, the reader’s notebook is a simple 1 subject spiral notebook (usually one per semester). At the beginning of each grading period, we glue (or tape) in a new Reading Tracker, To Be Read list and My Favorite Books to Recommend list. The remaining pages of the notebook is where students take notes during minilessons, write Stop ‘n Jots, reflections or complete other tasks as needed. Some teachers like to get fancy – if that works for you go for it – but the readers notebooks in my class are simple. The reader’s notebook is for the students to demonstrate their thinking and new learning. Work that is graded, is done outside the notebook.
Implementing Reader’s Workshop changed the way I approached teaching reading at the secondary level. Once I understood the power of the strategy, it was easy to make the switch from whole class novels to reading workshop. You can read more about the strategy here.