In a few short weeks, our semester changes, and I will meet my new tenth grade Pre-IB class. Next year, most will enter the International Baccalaureate program, and they will spend two years doing a great deal of focused literary analysis. My job over the semester will be to get them primed and ready for that.
Over the last few years, I’ve switched the structure of my regular academic classes to include reader’s and writer’s workshop. While I’ve included many elements of a workshop approach in my IB and Pre-IB classes, I’ve only dabbled with them, feeling like I just don’t have the time with those classes to devote to the workshop approach. This semester, however, I’m going to dive into it with my tenth grade class, because my experience with my seniors shows me that it works. My premise is that if I provide them with the choice and opportunity to explore and experiment with the techniques of great writers, then they will be better able to do the literary analysis expected of them in the IB program.
So how am I going to do this?
First off, I’m going to divide the week in two. Half (2-3 days, depending on the week) will be spent in workshop mode; the other half, on full class study. This post will be about my plans for the workshop part of the week; my next post will be about our full class activities. As with all of my planning, I’ll start with a healthy dose of PEAs (Purpose, Engagement & Assessment):
1. MY PURPOSE
My main goal with reader’s workshop in my regular classes is always to install a love of reading and to increase reading stamina. With the Pre-IB’s it’s a little different. Most of these kids are already voracious readers, so I don’t need to turn them on to it. While I will always emphasize the joy of reading, with these guys I need to start looking very closely at author purpose and technique. The trick will be to do this in a way that does not interfere with the whole premise behind reader’s workshop — to give them choice and freedom.
My goal with both reader’s and writer’s workshop will be to investigate what makes great writing, and the techniques writers use to engage their readers. As we journey through the reader’s workshop portion of our week, I will start every class with a mini-lesson that will lead into a reflection or short assignment for the students. Then, they will have at least fifteen minutes to read.
The workshop approach is perfect for focusing on active learning. I will spend time at the beginning of class using mentor texts to illustrate techniques, as well as in modelling my own writing. However, the bulk of the work will be in the students’ hands as they look for examples in their novels and attempt to replicate it in their writing.
Students will be asked to purchase a notebook to use during workshop. We will use it for responses as they read their novels and explore the way the authors create meaning with their words. Writer’s workshop will also begin with mini-lessons and mentor texts that teach them techniques, but most of the time, students will be creating, conferencing and revising. We will regularly use workshop stations to not only help them stay focused, but also to provide time for them to conference with me and each other.
Because each student has choice about their reading and writing, and because they will be focused on the process, they will be actively learning, not just passively taking in information.
3. ASSESSING THE LEARNING
One of the biggest questions I get about using a workshop approach is about assessment. I’ve already written a post about how to plan it for the whole workshop. Check that out if you want an overview.
The assessment during the first few weeks of my workshop will be formative only. I will give verbal feedback during class discussions, asking questions and probing if I feel they need to move in a different direction. For example, if I ask for a response about how writer’s pull the reader in with their opening lines, I may get this response: it makes me want to keep reading. I will respond with: why? Can you read us a portion of the opening that you find engaging? What is it that makes it so? My experience is that students need some coaching on how to give good, well-developed answers, so we will do a lot of that in the first few days.
At the end of the first week, I will ask them to pass in any written responses that they have completed, and I will give them feedback only, and not a mark. I will also aim to conference with each of them in the first two weeks. The conference will focus on what they like to read, as well as their strengths as both a reader and a writer.
So, that’s the plan for my first few days and weeks of the workshop portion of my class. My next post will focus on the focused work we will do on the non-fiction section of the course. Stay tuned!
Would you like to get some support as you plan a workshop approach in your secondary classroom? Join my Facebook group, Secondary Reader’s & Writer’s Workshop Support. Send me your email to email@example.com, or search this link.
Do you have any questions, concerns or suggestions for how to plan reader’s or writer’s workshop in your classroom? Please leave a comment!