This year I added Reader's Workshop to my Language Arts Curriculum. My students and I already loved Writer's Workshop and were excited to follow the workshop model in Reading as well. I knew that if I wanted Reader's Workshop to be successful in my classroom, I needed to create a supportive environment that not only taught reading strategies, but fostered a love of reading. I thought about our experience with Writer's Workshop and how we worked together to become a personal learning network of thoughtful, passionate writers. I realized I needed to apply those same ideas and values to Reader's Workshop.
We started by looking at ourselves as readers. What do we like to read? Where do we read? How do we select the books we read? Next, we completed our MAPs and F&P testing so we would have more information to help us select “just right” books. I gave each student a book bin which they filled with fiction and nonfiction books of their choice. We used our right books as we moved through our mini lessons and learning targets. Conferences were more productive because students were reading books at their level. They were proud of their understanding and could contribute more to book club and pair share conversations. They wrote beautiful jots supported by textual evidence.
My students and I love to share our knowledge with others, especially our Kindergarten buddies. We had just learned about text features in nonfiction, so we decided to use our favorite books in our bins to introduce these features to our buddies. Each student used their Post Its to identify the features and prepare their individual mini lessons. When we met with our buddies, each 6th grader shared their book and skillfully explained the features and their purpose in a language that their younger buddy could understand. I was so proud of my readers. Not only were they demonstrating the understanding of text structure, they were all workshop teachers that day.
Then it happened. I noticed that the conversations in class were about the books they were reading, and not just during Reader’s Workshop. They would come into class in the morning and while I took attendance they would talk about what they read the night before. I had students taking their books out to recess so they could read a few extra pages since they felt they didn’t read enough during our workshop time before lunch. I started to panic. I looked at my unorganized classroom library and worried that I did not have enough books to keep up with my ravished readers. I made a desperate plea to my classroom parents for donations of lonely books from their homes. Our PTO generously donated some funds so we could order new books too. I asked students what they were reading and ordered only the books they suggested. The books came right before spring break. A few of the books came out of the box and went immediately into backpacks headed to warm destinations.
Once we got our books, my students and I worked together to make our library beautiful. Each student took a few books and used their Chromebooks to identify the genre and reading level. We organized our books in bins by genre. We were so proud when it was completed because it was a class effort.
We have a digital classroom library on BIblioNasium. Each student has a digital bookshelf to keep track of the books they have read. They can recommend books to classmates and search for new books so they always have a book waiting on their shelf.
My hope is we can continue our reading momentum into the summer. I will keep our BiblioNasium accounts active and encourage my students to update their bookshelves. They can recommend books to classmates for summer reading. I will also keep our class blog live and encourage students to blog about the books they are reading as one of the independent blogging ideas. We have written to authors in our blogs, like Ralph Fletcher and Peter and Paul Reynolds, and they have generously commented on our posts. My students know that our blogs have an authentic, global audience, so they want to continue to blog over the summer. This will be a great place to continue their excitement and passion about books with their classmates and global community during the summer months.