Reader’s workshop in the middle school classroom does not have to be overwhelming. Today Kasey Kiehl and I have teamed up to share our best tips for managing the reading workshop model at the middle school level. Kasey and I both use the workshop model in our classrooms and have seen how it has enhanced our teaching practices.
Start small. (Kristy)
Do not try to implement a full reading workshop program in 1 day, week or month. Students need time to build independent reading stamina and interest.
Use interactive read aloud as a common text reference. (Kasey)
For teachers who currently teach reading using a whole-class novel approach, switching to a Reader’s Workshop model is hard to conceptualize because the common text is eliminated. This doesn’t have to be the case. Using an interactive read aloud, which can be anything from a rich picture book to a novel in any genre, is a great way to engage students in the same text and have a common reference point for minilessons.
Provide your students regular access to quality books. (Kristy)
Build a classroom library or bring up browsing bins from the school library. Some public libraries even offer book club sets of novels you can borrow as a teacher.
Let students be reading leaders. (Kasey)
The opinions most middle school students care about are not the opinions of their teachers but of their peers. Leverage this through the use of student book talks. Once you have modelled how to give a book talk, open the floor up for students to give informal book talks to their peers on independent reading material they would recommend. Filling your classroom library with two or more copies of the same high demand books will also encourage students to grab the same book as a friend and informally discuss and enjoy it together.
Learn from the Experts. (Kristy)
Look in your school or district’s professional development library for professional resources by Penny Kittle or Nancie Atwell. These two authors have amazing ideas for creating and managing a reading workshop in your classroom.
Keep a consistent daily routine. (Kasey)
In order to run a successful Reader’s Workshop at the middle school level, consistency is key. Each class period should be structured in the same, predictable routine so that students can feel confident and comfortable. In my classroom, Reader’s Workshop includes Word Study, a book talk, a portion of an interactive read aloud, the minilesson, small group reading instruction which coincides with independent reading and minilesson application time, and a group share at the end.
Use a Reading Clipboard. (Kristy)
Every day my students pass around a reading clipboard that has a row for each student. Each row contains their name and the date as well as spaces for them to write their book title and current page number. I can quickly glance at the clipboard at any time to see who is reading what book and how much they are reading each day. This allows me to tailor my reading conferences for each student.
Use reflection and goal setting. (Kasey)
The goal of Reader’s Workshop is to connect students with books they will love and to become readers who can not only fluently read books, but also think deeply about reading. I recommend having students keep a reading log to track the titles, authors, and genres of the books they are reading. The reading log is not graded or made into a competition between students, but it is a record of each student’s individual reading journey across the school year. The reading log can be used during reading conferences and individual reflection and goal setting to stretch and challenge each student as a reader.
Ensure students know where common classroom tools are located. (Kristy)
Nothing is more frustrating than to be working with a small group and having a student interrupt your lesson to ask where the sticky notes are located. Before you begin small group instruction assign one capable student to be the “teacher in charge” – all questions must go through them unless it involves sickness, blood or death. It is also important to maintain a consistent area for common classroom tools.
Use daily formative assessment. (Kasey)
There is a perception out there that Reader’s Workshop is “fluffy” and not appropriate for middle school students. The truth is, it can be if it is not run with intention. Each day should include a reading minilesson aligned to standards and an application for the minilesson to students’ reading. Formative assessment can be a quick conversation with the teacher, a small group discussion, and guided turn and talk, an exit ticket, a reading response, etc.
About The Authors
Kasey is a middle school literacy coach and has taught middle school ELA to 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students for 11 years and counting. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, dog, and cat. She writes the blog The Literacy Effect and creates balanced literacy resources for middle school teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Kristy has taught ELA and almost every other subject to 7th and 8th-grade students for over 11 years. She is guilty of always having a book in her hand – even at the dinner table! She writes the blog 2 Peas and a Dog and shares her education resources for middle school teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers.