The Workshop Method


Components of the Workshop Method

  • Independent Reading and Writing
  • Conferencing
  • Mini-Lessons
  • Writer’s and Reader’s Notebook
  • Sharing and Publishing

Resources for the Workshop Method

Drive- Daniel Pink; Write Beside Them – Penny Kittle; Book Love- Penny Kittle; The Book Whisperer- Donalyn Miller, Readicide¬- Kelly Gallagher; Why Workshop?- Richard Bullock; Using the Workshop Approach in the High School English Classroom- Cynthia D. Urbanski; The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Readers- Sheridan D. Blau; Thinking Through Genre- Heather Latimer; Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers- Tom Romano; Fearless Writing- Tom Romano; Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader’s Notebook- Aimee Buckner; 100 Quickwrites- Linda Rief; Inside Writing- Donald Graves and Penny Kittle; What’s the Big Idea?- Jim Burke; Sentence Composing for High School Students- Don Killgallon

Important Points for the Workshop Method

1. Model functional groups

  • As a class, discuss what group members are doing.

2. Provide structure and expectations

  • Establish group norms
  • Scaffold (Reading Workshop- read shorter, more accessible texts and move to more difficult ones; Writing Workshop- students need the most help in the middle of the process.)
  • Have some type of assessment- entrance tickets, exit tickets, broad reading questions, notes taken during discussion, before and after introductions, peer edit using rubric, etc.
  • Group members hold each other accountable. Students decide if they can effectively contribute to the group’s discussion. If a student decides he is not prepared, then he sits at a side table and gets caught up on the reading. The student completes the day’s assignment in class or at home. The discussion is the reward for having read.
  • Reading Workshop: Provide students with the workshop dates and final due date of reading. They decide as a group how to divide the text.
  • Writing Workshop: Provide students with the workshop dates and final due date of writing piece. Each group will need to be ready for that specific day.

The Reading Workshop

Reading Workshop Tips:

  • The first response to a text should take place before any discussion, so that students have nothing and no one to rely on but themselves.
  • Students should first respond to a text on a personal level (reader response). Then how the writing evokes certain feelings and ideas. And finally the author’s purpose.
  • Find ways for the students to take responsibility for making sense of texts and figuring out textual and conceptual problems that we undertake in our roles as teachers. As long as we teach students what meaning we’ve constructed, then the experience of learning is ours, not theirs. We will continue to receive essays that parrot what we have discussed in class. As Louise Rosenblatt said: “Taking someone else’s interpretation as your own is like having someone else eat your dinner for you.”
  • When it’s teacher-centered, “the assumption is that I am going to teach a literary work, I am going to do so largely by telling students about it. As if what they need to learn is what I have to say about it.” -Sheridan Blau, The Literature Workshop

Organizing Student Reading Groups:

  • consist of 5-6 students
  • are student-created
  • have clear norms and expectations
  • push each member to be the best he can