Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop is a way of teaching Language Arts that is more natural.
Essentially, you’ll read great literature and teach quick lessons. You’ll 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:
The following is what you’ll need:
1. Mentor Authors
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 into 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’ve got lots of great examples from which to teach.
Choosing a mentor author is powerful.
It allows your child to zoom in on one learning point. It makes him or her feel successful because it’s easy to see how to perform that certain skill. Our students mimic our mentors. It’s easy as that.
2. A Reading Mini-Lesson
You’ll need one small teaching point.
The beauty in workshop is the ability to teach children based on their specific needs.
You can pull from the state standards if you’d like. I have some thoughts on how this can fit in without completely taking over here.
Here’s the key to your mini-lesson: keep it short and simple!
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 marked in the mentor text to show them as we read.
They then try to make a connection to the same text aloud. This will help you assess their understanding.
3. Read Alouds
Reading aloud to children is so important. In your mini-lesson, it’s vital.
After reading about Peter (from the example above) 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.“
Never be afraid to stop reading aloud to practice your teaching point. Allowing your child(ren) to attempt this while you’re reading aloud teaches them something important. They are learning how to be critical thinkers as they read on their own.
3. Writing Mini-Lesson
Your reading and writing lessons will come from the same text.
Share something you noticed the author did that’s evidence of great writing.
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.
4. Lessons in Action
We keep both a Reader’s and a Writer’s Notebook.
If you’d like to learn more about them, this book as well as this book are both great resources.
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 it’s 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, it write doesn’t matter.
What does matter is they’re practicing what good writers do.
What matters in your Reader’s notebook is that they’re writing what they’re thinking. As you can imagine, this is an amazing tool. You’re able to keep such a good pulse on where your children need support. This also allows you to celebrate their achievements.
Your Role in Notebooks
- Your own thinking aloud/writing alongside them is huge. Allow yourself to show them how you make mistakes and overcome them. Let them hear how a good reader thinks as he/she reads.
- Gather their thought process and use it to decide what gaps they have in their comprehension
- Decide what they need to learn next
- Writing goals (we usually set one or two per session–see our homeschool schedule here).
- Finding spelling needs
- Adding a note for them to prepare for discussion with you about what they’re thinking/learning/wondering.
5. Self-Selected Texts
Choice is key to life-long readers and writers.
After your mini-lesson, your students(s) 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 then create a story (either prompted or free write) in their Writer’s Notebook to try adding 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 give both teacher and student some grace.
You’ll likely see what I did. Students growing in their reading and writing. An enjoyment of the process of learning. The knowledge that you have a great grasp on what your child(ren) know and where they need to go next.
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