Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reading & Writing Workshop in 42 Minutes . . . Continued

Today I felt a lot like this poor dog trying to fit through the door.  He could do it, if he'd only take another approach!  It happened with my continuing struggle to effectively fit reading and writing workshop into a traditional (42 minute) secondary schedule.

I keep a status of the class chart on a clipboard in which I record which students I conference with during independent work time, and take notes about those conferences.  I always feel rushed during this time, trying to fit in as many students as possible and scheduling those students who need the most support first.  This often focuses much of my attention on the "squeaky wheels" while those fly-under-the-radar kids continue to do just that.  Conferences are cut short, and often I'm left feeling like I got nowhere at all.

Status of the Class Chart
It occurred to me that there's got to be a better way to get quality conferences with students in the time that I have.  I took a look at my chart and started thinking about the kinds of information I was trying to collect about students.  I realized my conferences were filled with too much:  simultaneously conducting an observational assessment and then developing on-the-spot instruction for the gaps in understanding.  I'd have to decide right there whether or not a student was mastering the objective and then create individualized instruction, all within one sitting.  Whoa!  No wonder I was tired at night!  Why was I doing this to myself?

Going back to the poor dog in the video, I realized that Reading and Writing Workshops (the stick) are meant to be taught in a literacy block (the door).  I was trying to squeeze through that door with too many objectives for my conference.  I would have to find another way to get the time a literacy block offers.

I decided to give myself that time by stretching my workshop lesson over two days instead of trying to squeeze it into one.  So, on Day 1 of a lesson I'd give my minilesson, guided practice, and begin independent work time to apply the reading or writing skill. Then, that independent time could stretch over to Day 2.  On Day 1, my conferences were simply assessment:  who is mastering?  Who is struggling?  Why?  I took notes about what my teaching conferences on Day 2 would need to be about.  This gave me time to examine my observations and form small groups where possible and individual conferences where needed.

Plans for small group work and conferences

Why did I not think of this before?  Although I know that taking two days for a lesson that used to take one will eventually lead me to making some tough choices about curriculum, my gut tells me that depth is more effective than width when it comes to immersion in a skill.  I'll gladly scale back on what I teach to become more effective in how I teach it.

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