Whether this is your first time entering the workshop, or your fifth year, teaching reading and writing using the workshop format is a lofty endeavor. There are so many different working parts that are vital to growing readers and writers. We can’t instantly be perfect in what we do, nor should we be expected to. Teaching literacy is not a skill. It’s an art. That means we will grow and evolve as teachers, readers, and writers as we learn and hone our craft. I have seen teachers try to immerse themselves into the workshop philosophy and be perfect at it, only to become quickly overwhelmed and burnt out. I also lived it. It’s rough and hard, and I felt ineffective. This wasn’t the fault of the workshop and balanced literacy philosophy. Instead it was my overzealousness and aim for perfection. I wanted too much too quickly. This is where goals come in play, taking steps to make us proficient in each workshop and/or balanced literacy component over a period of time. Over the course of this week, I would like to take a look at choosing goals, making goals realistic to help us have the best reading and writing –tastic year we can.
To begin, let’s take a look at what building goals entails, so when we are looking at different aspects of workshop, we can keep this in mind. I am a big follower and fan of Jennifer Serravallo as well as the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). I will be using the same terminology they use and borrow this information from them. As I am a firm believer of walking the talk, it is the exact same process I use when working with students on building literacy goals. It is the same process I use for building goals for myself. It forces me to think deeper about the process I will need to take. It makes it more concrete and not some abstract cloud floating out there that I can fluff off. The concreteness helps make me more accountable and more likely to achieve my goal.
Each goal is the general area on which you are choosing to focus. It would be something like mini-lessons or conferring. Within each goal are skills that you need to become proficient at. Some have more than others. Maybe you are already proficient in some of the skills, but not others. Maybe you are just starting this work and aren’t proficient in any part of this work. Either way, it’s okay. It is a step on the journey. The important part is that you are taking those steps. Getting back to the topic at hand, each skill has one or more strategies. These strategies are what you are going to do to learn these skills. Maybe it is reading a professional resource, watching YouTube videos on the subject, working with a colleague to get feedback, working with a literacy or instructional leader on your campus, or attending a workshop. The strategies are determined on your learning needs, style, and resources available. Everyone’s path may be different. That’s perfectly fine. Remember, it’s about taking the steps to move yourself forward.
So what aspect of workshop do you want to focus the majority of your effort and build a goal on? This is not to say that the other aspects of workshop aren’t important, or that we will coast our way through these areas. We will approximate the best we can on those areas. While doing this, we are picking an area in which we want to focus and improve. I’m suggesting to pick one as I don’t want people to get overwhelmed with trying to be a jack of all trades, but master of none. We all have lives outside the classroom. Trying to do too much does not help anybody and can hurt those around us, so let’s try to keep in manageable.
Here are some suggested areas you may want to focus on. The list is by no means exhaustive:
- mini-lessons: keeping them mini, the different types (demonstration, guided practice, inquiry), connecting them to other learning and read alouds.
- conferring with readers and writers: keeping them efficient, specifically choosing a strategy to teach instead of just picking something random, knowing your students, etc.
- a form of small group instruction: guided reading, strategy groups, etc.
- sharing at the end of the workshop
- planned and purposeful read alouds
- accountable talk
- book clubs
- growing long term student partnerships
It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? This is why some people can get frustrated with workshop. There isn’t an easy go-to manual for everything. Remember that we work on one while approximating the rest. Over the next few days we will look more in depth into a couple of these areas to help explore which one would be the best goal for you. Until then, have a reading and writing -tastic week!