Reader’s Workshop is a teaching method that has been around for many years. Its main focus is to foster a love for reading within our students, and to differentiate, or personalize, instruction in order to accommodate the learning needs of all students. Reader’s Workshop follows a very similar format to Writer’s Workshop. First the teacher models a reading strategy during a mini lesson. Next students engage in a large block of time where they independently apply their reading strategies in “just right” (independent level) books while teachers move about the room to quietly conference with individual students. Last, the students meet to share what they learned as readers. Reader’s Workshop is a child-centered approach to teaching reading that brings the “real” world of reading into the classroom; students select their own reading materials, read at their own pace, and talk to others about what they have read. Teachers collaborate at each grade level to develop the Units of Study and pacing guides based on their ongoing assessment of students. Reader’s Workshop is a highly organized structure requiring many hours of preparation by the teacher and extended time for students to read, think, and converse about books on a daily basis.
It is important to spend time each day teaching students about letter sound relationships, spelling, and strategies for encoding and decoding words. The field of "word study" provides students an opportunity to manipulate words (and parts of words) in meaningful and enjoyable activities. Reading ability can develop dramatically as word study lessons develop experience with: letters and their corresponding sounds; components of words, such as roots, prefixes, and suffixes; patterns of how words are spelled, such as word families; as well as its spelling or pronunciation. Word study activities call for active problem solving. Students are encouraged to look for spelling patterns, form hypotheses, predict outcomes, and test them.
This portion of the workshop is designed to help students learn how to problem solve increasingly challenging texts with understanding and fluency. The teacher works with small groups of students reading at similar levels, selects and introduces texts to readers, supports individual students as they read instructional level texts , and engages the readers in a discussion after reading. These groups are flexible and students are grouped and regrouped according to ongoing observation and assessment by the teacher. The teacher helps students learn to use reading strategies, such as context clues, letter and sound knowledge, and syntax or word structure, as they read a text or book that is unfamiliar to them. The goal of guided reading is for students to use these strategies independently on their way to becoming fluent, skilled readers.
Shared reading allows students to participate in reading material that may be beyond their reading levels (frustration level). All children can easily see the text and illustrations, and the teacher and students together read and think about the story or poem. Shared Reading is an interactive reading experience. Children join in the reading of a big book or other enlarged text as guided by a teacher. Student interactivity is the distinguishing feature of Shared Reading versus Reading Aloud. Shared reading models the reading process and strategies used by readers. The teacher deliberately draws attention to the print and models early reading behaviors such as moving from left to right and word-by-word matching. Shared Reading creates a risk-free environment, allowing children to focus on the enjoyment of the story.
The teacher works with a small group of students on a particular skill, such as fluency or summarizing. The students in the group may be reading at the same level, or different levels.The teacher begins by explaining the strategy they will be working on and then "coaching" each student as they practice the skill with their own book. Like Guided Reading groups, these groups are flexible and students are regrouped according to need.
Students work in small groups or "clubs" to study a certain genre, such as mystery, fantasy, historical fiction, or books with strong social issues. Each club reads the same book, writes about the story, and has discussions to share their ideas. Students must work cooperatively to set goals for their reading, and for their discussions.
To read more about Reader's Workshop visit the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, located at Teachers College, Columbia University website.