What is Workshop?
Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop is more complex and involved than what I’ll outline here, but it is a way of teaching Language Arts that is more natural.
Essentially, you’ll read great literature and teach quick lessons to join reading and writing while building upon your child’s skills.
If you’d like to dig into this concept more, here are some great resources:
A mentor author can be any published author that is an example of the lesson you’re wanting to teach.
This allows your children to see how real writers use the skill you’re teaching .
For example, when I pull Ezra Jack Keats The Snowy Day, my plan might be to teach words that make sound and how we put them in our writing.
With words like, “Crunch, crunch, crunch, his feet sank into the snow,” and “Then he dragged his feet s-l-o-w-l-y to make tracks,” and “-a stick that was just right for smacking a snow-covered tree,” and “Down fell the snow-plop!” I know I’ve got lots of great examples to teach from.
Choosing a mentor is powerful.
It lets your child zoom in on one learning point, making him or her feel successful as a writer because it’s easy to see how to perform that certain skill.
There will be one small reading teaching point and one small writing teaching point.
The beauty in Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop is that you’ll be able to teach your children based on what their specific needs are.
You can pull from the state standards if you’d like, and as a former public school teacher, I have some thoughts on how this can fit into your homeschool without taking over here.
Here’s the key to your mini-lesson: keep it short and break them up!
First, let’s teach our reading lesson.
For example, let’s say I want to teach children how to make a text-to-self connection.
I’d tell them what a text-to-self connection is and then have places in the mentor text that I’ve prepared to show them examples of this as we read.
Read it Aloud
While we read our mentor text aloud (depending on your child’s ability perhaps they read it aloud or their sight words to encourage beginning readers), show them where your mini-lesson comes to life as a reader.
After reading about Peter waking in the morning to fresh fallen snow, I can say, “I have a text-to-self connection! I love waking up to find it snowed while I was asleep just like Peter. I can tell he was excited because right after breakfast, he put on his snowsuit and ran outside.“
After teaching the reading mini-lesson and reading the book aloud, I’ll share something I noticed that the author did to keep us loving his book and reading more.
For example, I’ll point out how Keats used sound words also called Onomatopoeia.
I’ll ask the children to look back in the text to see if they can hunt them down.
We can write them on post-it notes and stick them in our Writer’s Notebook to use as reference for the next part: writing.
Put the Lessons into Action
We keep both a Reader’s and Writer’s Notebook.
The Reader’s Notebook is for all our good thinking we do about the books we read.
The Writer’s Notebook is for exploration and growth in our writing.
The only rules for our Writer’s notebook is that we all understand this is a place for trying new things and being brave as writers.
This is not the place for perfection!
We love these simple notebooks for younger children.
And these for older elementary kids.
Whether your child is writing a longer or shorter piece, prompted or free write doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that they’re writing and trying out your lesson.
What matters in your Reader’s notebook is that they’re writing what they’re thinking.
Your Role in Notebooks
Here’s what you can get from your children’s notebooks:
- Their thought process and what gaps they have in their comprehension
- What they need to learn next
- Writing goals (we usually set one or two per session–see our homeschool schedule here).
- Spelling needs
- A conversation starter about what they’re reading to conference (talk) with your child about what they’re thinking/learning/wondering.
Apply to Self-Selected Texts
Choice is key to life-long readers and writers.
The mentor text time will be more heavy-handed in examples and your own thinking aloud/writing example alongside them, so they can see what it’s like to read and write well.
Afterward, they should be given an assignment to read from their choice book applying the lessons to their Reader’s and Writer’s notebooks from that text.
For example, if I taught sound words for Writing and text-to-self connections for Reading, I would assign the child to make a couple of text-to-self connections to what they choose to read and write about it in their Reader’s Notebook.
They’d create a story (either prompted or free write) to add in sound words like you picked out in The Snowy Day story.
Take your time incorporating this idea into your homeschool setting.
It can feel overwhelming if you’ve never taught like this before, but I think like me, you’ll find that over time you’ll love it.
You’ll likely see what I did: students growing in their reading and writing, enjoying the process, and feeling like as their teacher you have a really great grip on what they know and where they need to go next.