Best Practices: Reading workshop at VCES
Valley Charter uses the reading workshop model as a key element to our balanced literacy approach. The reading workshop model is based on explicitly teaching reading strategies and providing “workshop” time for students to engage in guided and independent practice to apply the reading strategies they have learned to books that interest them and on their “just right” level. For students in grades K-2, there is a separate time of day to learn and practice phonics, which provides the foundation for reading.
Reading workshop emphasizes student time on text. Research shows a strong correlation between time on text, higher order thinking and overall reading achievement. Reading workshop is designed to minimize teacher talk and maximize students’ time on text, with fifth graders reading for nearly sixty minutes in class each day.
The teacher teaches a 10-15 minute standards-based mini-lesson on a specific concept or skill, then students spend the majority of their time engaged in authentic experiences with reading. A key part of reading workshop is teaching students to understand how to read specific kinds of texts, such as fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. The lessons they learn are designed to be transferable from book to book, thus providing them the skills to be lifelong readers and to be able to “read to learn.”
During independent reading time, the teacher leads small groups or works with students individually. This time is crucial for differentiating instruction to ensure that each student is appropriately challenged. At this time, students might all participate in book clubs or other discussions about a shared text.
There are no textbooks in reading workshop, and students select books that interest them at their designated reading levels.
Word work, read alouds, and shared reading are used on a daily basis to support reading and writing workshops (see pictures below).