Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reading in the Wild - Creating a Workshop Schedule

Hello everyone. I hope you are enjoying our book study so far. The section we are discussing today is something I've been trying to figure out for a while now - creating a workshop schedule. I was so excited to be able to read about someone else's experience and study how they structure their day. I've decided to approach this section in the following way - what are the major questions that Donalyn Miller asks, what piece of advice does she offer for each question, and how can I apply this in my classroom. Hopefully the results will lead me to a newly created and useful workshop schedule. Here we go...

1. How much class time do I have?
Remember to take into account all of the things in your day (lunch, specials, etc.) that demand your students time. Also consider any special programs, rules, or emphasis your school may require. 

My students will receive 80 minutes of a core ELA block that should cover all of the ELA standards - this means reading, writing, language, foundational skills, and listening-viewing-speaking. We also have a 40 minute flexible reading block for interventions, extra practice, and enhancements. The rest of my time is pre-determined by a master school schedule. 

2. Which instructional components am I required to include?
Think about the types of programs, textbooks, intervention requirements, assessments, or student grouping strategies that your school/district require and remember you must try to find time for them in your schedule. 

Thankfully I do not have a specific program or textbook that I MUST implement. I have standards that I must teach, but I am given the opportunity to choose text, strategies, and best practices that work for my students. We do use a school wide fluency, comprehension, and writing assessment for data review purposes and I incorporate those assessments when needed. 

3. What can I change to make time for independent reading?
The author states her core belief that students should be reading everyday. To make sure this happens, she evaluates her time and activities to make sure she has reading time daily. The long term benefits of daily reading often out way the short term benefits of particular activities. 

This is something I did much better at last year and as a result I could see my students love for reading to continue to grow. I also saw them make more connections to content and strategies we were learning. 

4. Remember the rule of thirds. 
The text suggests splitting your class time into thirds. One third for independent reading, conferring, and small groups. Another third for guided practice, and the last third for independent practice. The author covers her curriculum in genre units and alternates with writing as needed. 

I like the idea of breaking my time into these designated segments.  I'm thinking that if I keep this in mind, it will help clarify while I am planning. I know that I have a 80 minute core block for instruction. This block is split into a 60 minute section before specials and a 20 minute section after specials. I already know that the 20 minute section will be time for word work (phonics/vocabulary). So I want to focus my workshop time within the first 60 minutes. My schedule will look like this:

20 minutes - guided instruction mini- lesson
20 minutes - independent/small group practice
20 minutes - independent reading time

I will alternate my mini-lessons and practice activities between reading and writing as needed. 

Donalyn Miller suggests (and I agree) that the focus must be on authentic learning opportunities for our students. Everyone's schedule will look different due to time restraints and requirements, but if we focus on best practices and become reflective teachers - we can do this!

Check out what everyone else has to say about this section of the book for more ideas on creating a workshop schedule that works for you.  Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Love it, Chelsea! The rule of thirds is a good reminder to me every time I read it. Do feel like you have enough time with 80 minutes? I always feel rushed with 55 minutes and can't imagines adding writing! Thanks so much for hosting. :)

    1. I never feel like I have enough time! :) It is definitely a challenge. Some weeks I feel like I'm much better at balancing it. Other weeks I feel like I'm in a race. What I really liked about Donalyn Miller's idea is that it is okay to rotate the reading and writing workshops. My students write and respond about what they are reading everyday, but I know I can't fit in both reading and writing workshops in every day.

  2. Thanks for hosting, Chelsea! There really is never enough time, is there?! The extra intervention time helps. That's nice that you have 40 minutes for that. We had a 30 minute intervention time last year, but it was for math. Toward the end of the year we were allowed to use it for reading as well and hopefully that will continue next year.

    Forever in Fifth Grade

  3. I sure do wish there was more time too! But boy you are really stretched- I have two hours for reading, writing, grammar, word work, etc...! :-o

  4. Yikes! That is a lot in 80 minutes. I think I need to go back and look at that rule of thirds again. Perhaps there is too much movement in my schedule/day.

    Think, Wonder, & Teach

  5. Thank you for sharing! I am heading back into the classroom in the fall after three years in administrative positions, so I'm a little nervous about re-acclimating. Your schedule idea is very helpful!