Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Let's Begin: The Guide to Reading Workshop

Like many of you, I have been highly anticipating the new reading units of study by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at TCRWP. I was very fortunate to be able to pilot one of the units last February, so I knew that the units were going to be fantastic.

When my units arrived (and let me tell you I literally met the UPS man on my driveway, LOL), I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I tore open the box, ripped off the cellophane and excitedly looked at the shiny new books. I was so pleased to see that they were formatted like the writing units of study, so I would understand the general format of the lessons. They also have post-it notes for your anchor charts - a teacher's dream come true!!!!

At first, I planned on opening up the first unit of study, but then I stopped. Instead, I found the "Guide to Reading Workshop." Although I have used the reading workshop model in my kindergarten classroom for years, I thought it would be a good idea to read their guide first. I wanted to see their "vision" for reading workshop, and I am so happy I read this book first. If you are going to use the units of study, I encourage you to do the same thing. Read this guide before you open your first unit of study :)

My Favorite Parts From the Guide to Reading Workshop:

  • First, I just love how this book is written. I feel like I am having a conversation with Lucy. It's as if we are sitting down in my classroom and she is discussing my students, our goals, and my plans for the year ahead. It confirmed many things I already believed about reading and young students but it also challenged my thinking and introduced me to new ideas. The guide also promotes conversation between colleagues. In fact, I just met with a first grade teacher and we read through the guide together and discussed how these ideas and concepts can be addressed in our classrooms.

  • The book clearly outlines all of the important parts to having a balanced literacy program for your classroom. For me, their structure for reading workshop was the same as my kindergarten workshop. For example, you begin with a whole-group mini-lesson, transition to independent reading time, move to partner time and then end with a share. You also conduct one-to-one conferences and small groups during your workshop.  The guide also talks about shared reading, read-aloud and word study and how you can schedule these into your literacy block. The guide really appreciates the demands of the elementary classroom and shows you how you can easily include all of these essential parts of balanced literacy in your schedule. 

  • I really appreciated the pages that talked about the challenges readers face in specific levels of text. For example, they describe specific skills that a child reading a level A or B book would need in order to progress. I found this so helpful and I plan on keeping these pages close when planning for my small group work or one-to-one conferences. 

  • Something that has always been difficult for me is how to maintain the notes or data I receive from my small groups or one to one conferences. The guide gives such great ideas. I plan on using the grid/recording sheet from the primary guide (page 69) as an effective way to record my notes. They also give really nice examples of motivational posters for building stamina. I find this to be one of our biggest challenges in the beginning of kindergarten. I am thrilled when they can sustain independent reading for even 5 minutes, so the goal sheets/charts they provided as examples will be really helpful. 

  • Finally, the pages about shared reading were awesome. I do shared reading every day with my class. In fact, it is one of my favorite parts of the day. The guide clearly explains different skills you can teach every day of the week using the same text. I typically use big books for my shared reading, but this year I plan to also have a "warm up" as suggested in the guide. I am really excited to try this with my class.

There is so much more to this guide, so I hope you take my advice an read through the entire book. As I said, it really helped me frame my vision for reading workshop so I was better able to understand the lessons in the first book. 

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