3 Important Parts to Plan for Reading Workshop

launching reader's workshop upper elementary

Reading instruction is a true highlight of my day! 

I love everything about reading time in my classroom. I love reading aloud to my students, teaching reading strategies, talking about books, and of course bringing what we do during reading workshop into content areas. 

I have always loved to teach reading, but my love grew even stronger after attending the Reading Workshop Summer Institute at Teacher’s College with Lucy Calkins. This week-long seminar helped me develop and maintain a structured workshop model in my classroom and create an atmosphere to help my students develop a deep love and excitement for reading.  The best part was that I was able to take what I learned and make it my own to work for me and my students' needs.

The first year of implementing this structure during our reading block I saw a huge increase in student engagement during reading. Students strengthened their reading comprehension skills and written responses to texts. They were also highly engaged in serious and meaningful discourse about the books that they were reading. Reading became the time that we all looked forward to each day!

Reading Workshop reading format follows a specific schedule within a given block of time. It begins with a short mini-lesson and is followed by a large chunk of time for students to independently read and apply reading strategies that they have been taught. Reading Workshop time wraps up with a short sharing session. Since independent reading time is the most critical part of this block, it should make up the largest portion of your reading time. Smack in the middle of independent reading is a mid-workshop break, my students' favorite part of reading!

When I plan and prepare lessons for reading workshop, I think about what I call the 3 Ts: TEACH, TRY, & TALK: 
  • What do I want to teach? 
  • What do I want my students to try? 
  • What do I want to hear students talking about in their reading discussions? 
I consider these three components the most important part of planning for reading workshop lessons. Planning out each of these carefully allows me to maximize the time we have during reading. I carefully select and plan mentor texts, independent tasks, and partnership activities to complement the teaching point so that all three of these Ts are interwoven and students move throughout the reading block seamlessly.


reader's workshop forms and planning

Thinking about what you want to teach for any lesson is an important part of the planning process, but it is especially important when planning a reading lesson for reading workshop

Your objective needs to be concise as the mini-lesson portion of the reading workshop is only 5-10 minutes long. One way to approach planning your objectives is to use the umbrella strategy.  To do this, begin with a specific reading strategy you want to teach and list the different lessons within each.  Each lesson idea becomes a day's teaching point

For example, summarizing is too broad to teach in one mini-lesson. Break apart summarizing into five chunks and teach one idea each day. This will ensure that you stick to the 10 minutes allotted for your mini-lesson and have a clear and concise teaching point for each day's lesson. This also allows time for students to learn and practice the skills needed to summarize over a week's time and allows you to scaffold as you teach each skill. Grab an umbrella planning organizer for FREE below.

#2 TRY

launching readers workshop upper elementary

What I love most about the workshop model is that it allows so much time for students to try out and practice different reading strategies each day; both the strategies they are learning in the current unit of study, as well as strategies they have previously learned that still apply to their current reading. 

During one day's reading lesson, I plan for multiple opportunities for students to try out the strategy taught during the mini-lesson. Students will try it during the mini-lesson, while independently reading and during our reading conferences. You can plan for students to complete a task or assignment, think graphic organizertake notes, think jotting, or you can create scaffolding questions to help each student along in their understanding, think small group work or reading conferences. No matter what tasks you assign, planning to support students as they try it out and practice multiple times in one day is critical for student success.  


reading question stems and discussion starters

 Good readers talk about the texts that they read, and good teachers plan many opportunities for students to talk about what they are reading. 

Create an anchor chart of your book talk expectations and create a small paper copy for students to keep in their reading notebook as a reference. To help prepare opportunities for students to talk during the lesson, create questions or statements that you want them to discuss and debate. This is especially helpful during the mid-workshop break to keep your students on task. Each day, students should be discussing the books that they are reading and the reading strategies they are using multiple times. Student discussions take place during the mini-lesson, the teacher-student reading conference, the mid-workshop break, and at the end of reading workshop during share time. 

Talking about texts takes a lot of practice. I spend much of the beginning of the year practicing and rehearsing how to talk about books and using discussion starters to help keep the dialogue about books "going".  The discussion stems we use are designed to help students engage in meaningful discourse using their critical thinking skills. These discussion starters go beyond just summarizing or restating a part of the text. By creating an anchor chart and student reference sheet of discussion starters your students will be expert book talkers in no time! Grab discussion starters  for FREE below.

When you sit to plan each lesson during reading workshop, don't just plan the teaching point. Remember the three Ts. Plan what you will TEACH, what you want students to TRY and many opportunities for students to TALK about the strategies they are using. These expectations show your students that you value what they think and have to say about the books that they are reading.

If you are getting ready to implement reading workshop in your classroom, you might be interested in this resource to help you kick off your school year! 

launching readers workshop upper elementary


You might be interested in reading:

Check out my favorite reading workshop activities HERE

reader's workshop anchor charts

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3 Important Parts to Plan for Reading Workshop

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