Sunday, September 1, 2013

Workshop Management

Only a few more days until our students join us back at school.  I feel as though for weeks we have been making plans, preparing classrooms and bulletin boards, and talking about curriculum for the upcoming school year... I am so ready to throw kids into the mix and have conversations around them and their work.  

The anticipation this time of year brings always reminds me of the importance of starting the year off right with classroom management, especially within a Reading and Writing Workshop.  As I spoke with colleagues last week about preparing for new Units of Study and the many assessments in September, we found ourselves recognizing that in order for curriculum to be implemented effectively, assessments to be accurate, and instruction to be powerful and motivating, students must have a clear idea of the classroom expectations.  Thus, in the beginning of the year, when everything seems to be going a million miles per hour, we need to slow down and set up our classroom guidelines, which will have great impacts on how smooth the entire school year will go.

Below are some points to consider when setting up a Reading or Writing Workshop and what I have found successful:
  • Meeting place:
    • Will your students come to a spot on "the carpet" or floor during mini lessons? (I suggest that students in grades K-8 come to a meeting spot for mini lessons.  The mini lesson is short... only 7 minutes long.)
    • What are the behavior expectations? 
    • Will students sit near partners? (I had my students sit with partners.  This was easier when students participated in turn-and-talks.)
    • Will students sit in an assigned spot or same spot? For how long? (With most of my classes, students sat in similar spots for the mini lesson.)
  • Turn-&-Talk:
    • Who will students turn and talk to during mini lessons?
    • Which partner will begin to share first?
    • Is the meeting place open enough for your to mingle and listen in to conversations?
    • Will you have students share out ideas to the entire group after turn and talks? How will you keep it quick? (ie: "I will take 3 ideas.") (I would always mingle and listen in to see how students were understanding the concept being covered.  I occasionally would prompt or ask a student to share out at the end of the turn-and-talk.  This was especially effective for quiet students.)
  • Student Materials:
    • Will students need to bring anything to the meeting area for mini lessons?
    • If they do, how will you communicate this to the for an easy transition?
    • If they have materials at the carpet, how will you manage so they are distracted? )ie: "I will know you are ready when you are sitting on top of your writing folder and your pencil is beside you on the floor.")
    • What materials will students need during independent work time? 
      • Students may have reading bins with their books, pencils, post-its, reading notebook, etc.
      • Writing station with extra materials: drafting paper, scratch paper, extra pencils, colored pens for editing and revising
  • Teacher Materials:
    • Do you have your materials to build anchor charts near your meeting area?
    • How will you stay organized- (Have a basket with markers/post-its/etc?)
    • Do you have your anchor charts from previous lessons visible for students to access during mini lessons and independent work time? (I different sections of walls dedicated to subject areas: Reading Workshop Wall; Writing Workshop Wall; Math Wall... all that had anchor charts we had built as a class)
  • Transitions:
    • Transitioning to and from the carpet:
      • Dismiss by bin color
      • Dismiss all at once
      • Volume
      • While students are waiting for others to come to the carpet before a mini lesson
        • My workshop usually was after recess.  I would have a message on the board/projector indicating the materials needed, and what to do while waiting (re-read sticky notes from last time, read over what was written last time, etc.)
  • Independent Time
    • Where will students work? Desks? Floor? Choice? (My students chose a location depending on "What would work for them as a reader or writer".  If there were problems, we would meet and discuss why things weren't working and what to try next."
    • Will students work near partners? (Yes)
    • What materials will students need? (Students could have book bins with all of their materials needed: post-its, pencil/pen, etc.)
  • Other:
    • When is it acceptable to use the restroom/get a drink/sharpen a pencil? (Unless it is an emergency, students did not interrupt workshop time to use the restroom/sharpen pencils/get drinks.  Students knew to use restrooms during natural transitions/breaks.  During morning work is when students sharpened pencils and filled water bottles.)
    • Book Shopping... When will students select new books?  (I scheduled library time about every other week.  Otherwise, students book shopped during their morning work.)

Student Book Bins

As you think about kicking off the new school year, consider your routines and procedures.  It is important for students to know the expectations of the classroom.  Practice these routines and procedures often and if the class doesn't meet the expectation, "Try it again." :)   

Please share other considerations and ideas you use in your classroom!