Apr 16, 2013

My version of a Literacy Workshop...PART 1

Since my last post of my Top 3 Literacy Workshop Apps, (see below) several sweet teachers have mentioned or asked about my workshop model.  I guess maybe I should have started there with my blogging because as a teacher, my literacy workshop is what I am all about!  

I begin my class everyday with what we call BOOK TALK time. This part of my program is a culmination of many, many programs that I have read about, listened to, and learned from at conferences.  I then molded all of those together through trial and error into what I feel works best for me and my philosophy as an educator. One of my favorite writers, Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, has been a wonderful inspiration to this part of my workshop.  She has a new book called Reading in the Wild coming out this fall and I simply can't wait to read it. Our BOOK TALK has grown, changed, and taken on a life of its own over the years.  I truly love what it has become for my students and for me.

During BOOK TALK time, I confer individually with approximately 4 kids on a weekly scheduled basis. During these 1 on 1 conferences, I review what my students have written in their notebooks relating to their novels over the past week, I help them set reading goals for our next conference, help them choose new books so that they always have a reading plan, and I simply talk about, encourage, and enjoy their books with them!  During these conferences I record as much as I can using the CONFER app mentioned in my previous post.

As an extra way of keeping track of what my students are reading for BOOK TALK, and simply as a motivator, my students get to "update" their FACEBOOK statuses as they finish their novels. They save their "update" cards in an envelope glued into the front of their BOOK TALK notebooks so that they have a running tally of how many novels they have read so far each year! You should see them sneak out their stacks to count their books from time to time. PURE JOY!  Added bonus, the FACEBOOK WALL makes a great way to advertise good books!  I even have a "LIKE" stamp, ordered from here, that either I or a friend use to "share the love" of each book on every status! 

While I am holding conferences, my other readers are steadily reading and writing about their self selected novels.  I begin the year only modeling and offering a couple of options for their written responses, however by the end of the year, when I feel they are comfortable with my expectations,  their responses are only limited to whatever their imaginations can dream up!  I make my requirements very clear from the beginning.  Their responses must show evidence of their reading through details, evidence of their thinking through reflections, and evidence of good writing, simply because that is always expected. These are assessed using a very broad rubric to allow lots of room for creativity.

All of this happens over the course of about 20 minutes. I know that this sounds like a lot for 20 minutes, but we have it worked down to a fine art to save precious reading time! When they enter my classroom, they hear quiet reading music, and they immediately report to their seats to begin reading. I tell them as I greet them at the door that I need to see their halos glowing (angle of the head when inside a book) and that their halos glow even more brightly when they have actually crawled deep inside their books are thinking about the text! I have “trained” them that looking around the room during this time, shows that they are not actually on a reading adventure, and at that point I would encourage them to let me help them choose a book that they would want to actually crawl into. It’s amazing how much time is saved when they walk straight to their seats with their WORKSHOP bag, (we’ll talk about that in a minute) and crawl straight into their books without any discussion of what is expected. My students know their assigned conference days and if it is their assigned day, they head straight to my small group table to wait as soon as they enter the room. They of course, read and write while they wait for me, but this saves us a few minutes when they are nearby and ready for the conference as soon as a I wrap it up with the kiddo in front of them.    

Another tip that has helped save time for us is our WORKSHOP bags. Gallon sized ziploc bags are perfect to hold 2 composition notebooks, a novel, and a few supplies. (The one pictured has been monogrammed and decorated with DUCT TAPE. :)) Plus, it is always packed and ready to head to any location in our workshop so that they don't have to look for, or get up for materials. Everything is packed and ready for any reading or writing task assigned, no matter where they are working inside my classroom.  

If you conserve your time and train your readers well, you can truly develop a routine that makes all this possible in a short amount of time.  They of course, have talked their way into adding more BOOK TALK time into our Workshop rotation schedule, which allows them approximately 20 more minutes to read and write about their chosen Book Talk novel.  ;) …(I just let them think it was their idea.  I had it planned all along but, mind over matter, if they think it is their idea, they will enjoy it more! ;))  I don't start the extra 20 minutes until they have built up some endurance and are actually asking for more reading time.  Then it just looks like I am giving in to their requests.  :)

That’s it for the Book Talk portion of my workshop time.   After BOOK TALK, we have about 10-15 minutes for a mini-lesson, and then 3 - 20 minute rotations that I will talk about in PART 2 of this post later this week. :)  I’ll have pictures of my rotation charts with a bit of explanation, along with information about what it is we actually do when we rotate… Information about my small groups, stations, more training and procedures, literacy notebooking information, etc.  

I would love some comments on how you do workshops in your classrooms.  I find that my workshop is always growing and changing as I learn more and more from others who use similar formats, so please share with us what you have found works well for you.  Twitter is an awesome way to connect and learn.  Feel free to use any of the connection buttons on the top right to connect further with me so we can talk more about literacy workshops and other literacy related topics.  Have a great day!


  1. I love The Book Whisper, that book inspired me to start a Reading Workshop this year for the first time. I had no idea there was a new book coming out this fall. I'm off to add it to my wishlist!
    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. Best book I have ever read...changed my career! :) She is so motivational!!

  3. I loved reading about how you have set up your workshop. It does take a while to establish the rules of workshop, but it sounds as if you have it all down to a science :) I'm sure your students...no, I know your students LOVE those minutes of being able sit down with a good book as soon as they walk in your room.

    Fun in Room 4B

    PS~ I love the Facebook wall...but you already know that ;)

  4. Your blog title fits me to a tee! I found your blog blog hoppin'.
    Your workshop sounds great! I am going to go see the conferring app you're talking about! Thanks for sharing. OH yeah! I am a new follower!
    Second Grade is Out of This World!

    1. Thanks Hilary! Glad you liked it and thanks for stopping by!

  5. Wow! Love this and pinned it so I can find it again later!

    x Serena x
    Magic Mistakes & Mayhem

  6. Thanks Serena! :) Glad you liked it.

  7. I love the way you to your literacy workshop. I have tried this a few times and wasn't happy with my outcome. I will definitely be pinning this post to refer to for next year. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Sandy~I must admit that there has been a lot of trial and error over the years! Keep working at it until you find a system that works for you and you will love it! Thanks for stopping by! :)

  8. What an awesome post full of great ideas! I love the facebook status updates:) I am tweaking all the time and have pinned this for future reference. Thank you!
    Fourth Grade Flipper

    1. Thanks for the comment Holly! :) Do you do a workshop model in your classroom? I'm always looking for adjustments so I would love to hear what you do. :)

  9. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! All of it!! Starting the reading workshop model next year in 6th grade and need all the tips I can get! :)

    I'm going to use the facebook wall most definitely!

    I Run Read Teach

    1. So glad you like it! I truly feel like this model is the best thing I have ever done for my students. They love it and I love it! I don't really have behavior problems because they aren't in one place long enough to get bored so they don't act out. I'll be posting more about the other parts of my model either this evening or tomorrow. Thank you so much for the kind words. :)

  10. I also love The Book Whisperer and can't wait to get her new book. I am mulling around how to organize my 4th grade ELA classes. I have only 90 minutes with 3 groups to teach it all. I love the Daily 5 and Cafe as well...not sure how to make it all work.


  11. Oh my gosh! I love how much time you have to teach reading!! I want to be in your class. :)

    Great post about how you run your workshop. You have totally inspired me. I missed this post originally, but Nicole at Tadpole Tidbits reposted about your wonderful Book Talk board and like buttons...oh my.. LOVE! Buying! Doing! Loving!

    I'm so impressed with your reading response notebooks too. Wow! Any tips on how to get those started? How about a First 20 Days Guide? :)

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, expertise, and wisdom.


  12. This is exactly what I was looking for to plan for the upcoming school year. I have my students for 50 minutes so I will modify this but I LOVE IT! I have not tried this model but am anxious to try it. I will keep a link to your posts for sure. Thank you!

  13. I love the idea of the "like" and "dislike" stamps ~ I'm ordering them now! We use the Daily 5model and have 90 minutes for reading workshop and 30 minutes for writing. I really like the idea of Book Talks and want to do more with the kids sharing their like with the class. We'll see, I'm still trying to figure out how I want that to work. Thanks for sharing your great ideas!


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