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Reading Workshop - Fourth Grade


Dear Parents,
I wanted to take a moment and tell you about the Reading Workshop experience that your child will be taking part in this school year. Reading Workshop has three major components.  You can click the link below for a model lesson of reading workshop:

Each Reading Workshop session will begin with a mini lesson that lasts approximately 10-15 minutes. During each mini lesson, I will introduce a specific concept, also known as the teaching point. Most often the teaching point will focus on a reading strategy or skill.  I will explicitly model or demonstrate the skill for the students.  Students then get a chance to practice the skill or strategy on their own or with a partner.  This part of the mini-lesson is called the active engagement.

The second component is  the WORK PERIOD. The Work Period usually lasts around 30 to 40 Minutes.  During this time students are engaged in self-selected texts at their independent level.  They use this time to practice the skill that was taught during the mini-lesson.  Students are reading in book nooks around the room while the teacher holds individual reading conferences or meets with small groups of students for guided reading, strategy lessons, or book clubs.
During this time students are actively engaged in a variety of reading activities.  Students will have a READER'S NOTEBOOK that they will be responsible for recording in daily. Students must record ALL books they read throughout the year in their Readers Notebook. They visit this log often to reflect on their own reading habits, create genre graphs, set monthly reading goals, and help them assess their reading progress.
Students use their Reader's Notebooks to:
  • Record books they've read
  • List books they would like to read in the future
  • Respond to their reading
  • Prepare for book talks
  • Keep track of Partner Reading discussions and meeting times

During the workshop, Reading Partnerships can be formed.  In our classroom, students have assigned reading partners with whom they share a common interest in literature.  Partners are assigned after I became familiar with the students as readers.  When first beginning a Reading Partnership, students agree to read the same chapter book over a period of time.  The book is not read aloud together, but rather partners read the book independently and meet occasionally throughout their reading of the chapter book.  Partners set a specific page number in the book to which they will read before meeting for their first real discussion of the book.  When both partners have reached the specified page number, they get together during the independent reading segment of Reading Workshop. When partners meet they come to the meeting prepared with good questions and connections they have made while reading. The number of meetings held during the reading of a single chapter book depends on the length of the book and the students' rate of reading.  The meetings provide an important time for students to discuss literature in a meaningful and natural way.  It is fun to listen to the great questions that arise and the different opinions that students have about the books that they are reading.  Inferring, questioning, and making connections are all important reading strategies that are put into effect when students meet with their partners.  At the end of a Reading Partnership, the partners must plan and give a book talk on the book that they have read to the class.  The book is then placed in the Student Recommended Books basket for others to enjoy on their own if the partners decide it is one that their classmates will enjoy. Students must read at least one chapter book independently in between their partner reading so that they are also reading books on their own.

Guided Reading is a major part of a balanced literacy program in our classroom.  During guided reading, students read as the teacher guides them through the story.  I pause to ask questions and prompt readers to use multiple reading strategies to decode words and comprehend the text.  Great discussions arise from our guided reading sessions as students learn to make connections to the text, predict what will happen and ask questions as they read, visualize events happening in the story, make inferences, and respond to stories in their reading response journals. It is also a time for the teacher to observe whether or not students are using the reading strategies taught during shared reading and teacher read-alouds. Guided Reading is part workshop time.   

The last component of Reading Workshop is the Closing.  The closing lasts around 5-10 Minutes.  Basically I give students an opportunity to come back to the large group, and share how they are managing their work independently and they also share with the group how they used the strategies or skills from the mini-lesson. 

Reading Workshop is a staple in our daily routine. During this time, students are reading self-selected books independently. They have chosen the books from my classroom library or the school library, and have already made sure the book is at their just right level. While students are reading their books, I am conferring with individuals, conducting guided reading groups or strategy lessons, facilitating book clubs, etc. For this reason, it is important that I have clear routines and procedures in place to keep my independent readers on task and truly engaged in their reading. Below are some management ideas that help make this possible in my classroom.

At the beginning of the year, we determine rules about independent reading time in our classroom. One rule is that you must find your own place to read and not distract other readers. For some students, this is hard. They would rather sit together with their friends and pass the time. For this reason, I have a book nook rotation schedule that is switched everyday so that every student has a certain place he or she should be reading. We don't want to spend our reading workshop time arguing over who gets which spot.  So, we frequently rotate our Book Nook spots.

Each reader has his or her own book box.  Readers are asked to keep enough books in their box to last them for at least a week of independent reading time. Without Book Boxes, my students would spend more time browsing the classroom library than they would engaged in text. You can either have designated shopping days where 4-5 five readers are allowed to switch out the books for new books in their book boxes, or you can just have readers visit the library when necessary. I always make sure that readers visit the library in the morning (if necessary) rather than during the independent reading block of our reading workshop. Selecting books should not take away from important time spent engaged in text. The book boxes are kept on a special bookshelf in the classroom library.

Unfortunately, I cannot watch every reader during the workshop. I am often busy conferring with individuals or meeting with small groups. For this reason, my students complete a quick checklist that helps them monitor their reading behavior each day. The things on the checklist are determined by the students during a mini-lesson. The checklist only takes about 2 minutes at the end of independent reading everyday. This checklist adds an accountability factor to the workshop and serves as a constant reminder of expected reading behaviors. I look at my students checklists often and use them as points of discussion for some of my readers during the time we confer. 

While my main form of assessment is done when conferring with readers or meeting in small groups, I also want to hold students accountable for authentic reading when they are not working directly with me. As students read their books, they are asked to use post-it notes to record the thinking that they are doing as they read. After they get done with a book, they remove the post-it notes and organize them onto paper.  I like to look at these pages to assess students level of thinking, and I often refer to the post-it notes when conferring with readers.

Reading Workshop always occurs immediately after we start our language arts class, I tell students that they need to go to the bathroom before we start. (Of course in emergency situations students must be allowed to go to the bathroom, but emphasizing the need to go before instruction begins leads to far fewer students leaving the classroom during this time.) Students must always check the book nook schedule in the morning so that they know exactly where they will be reading each day. Students must also have their book boxes ready before independent reading time starts so that there are not groups of students browsing the classroom library during the time that they should be engaged in their texts.
B.E.A.R. stands for Be Enthusiastic About Reading
Each night, students will bring home a book to read - usually a chapter book.  A book will come home every night and will be returned to school every morning.  During Reading Workshop in our classroom, students read books from their book boxes.   At the end of Reading Workshop each day, students will choose one or two books to take home to fulfill the 15 minute reading goal that I ask of them each night.  Books finished at home will be added to the students Reading Logs at school.

Researchers have found that time spent reading is the main indicator of reading success as students progress through elementary school.  Obviously, students who spend more time independently engaged in text are exposed to more words, more facts, and more background knowledge than their peers who only read when asked to do so with their teacher while they are in school.  For this reason, I have set a goal for all students to read for at least 15 minutes each night during the school week.  The minutes should be recorded in the BEAR Log and returned to school each day with a parent signature.  

A total of 20-30 minutes for four days each week will be the goal for each month.  If students cannot meet the 20-30 minute goal on a given day, the time can be made-up on another day or during the weekend.  I do understand that many students are involved in other activities that make some nights of the week very busy!

Reading Workshop is one of the most valuable times of our day.  Using Reading Workshop as a springboard along with other Northwest District reading/writing/spelling initiatives, we are going to have an AWESOME school year.  I look forward to learning about your child as a reader.  I look forward to hearing their thoughts on literature, and helping those reluctant readers become LOVERS of READING.  My goal is for every child to not only enjoy reading, but to become a life long reader. Reading does open so many doors.  You can travel anywhere in the world inside the pages of a book.  I can't wait to open THAT door for your child!  We are going to have such a great year at Clara Love!
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