Readers' Workshop or Bust

Once again I'm linking up with my pal #TeacherMom for some Buidling Back to School goodness on reading....

So, the last few years I've considered an overhaul in guided reading time for my students.  I've been a major Debbie Diller fan from day one and have loved using her Literacy Workstation & small groups model in my classroom.

But...9 years later, I was starting to get a little bored with it.  And thought it needed to be beefed up just a bit.  I had seen and heard a ton of stuff on Readers' Workshop and Daily 5 over the years and had read up on both.

But I just kept going back to Debbie Diller, because....well, honestly, it's really hard for me to see how Readers' Workshop would work effectively in a first grade classroom with wiggly 6 year olds.  Asking kids to read quietly--aka be STILL--every day for long enough to get at least 2 reading groups finished effectively??  This just seems like something better suited for 3rd graders and higher.

Am I the only one who has thought this??  Please, tell me I am not alone in my concerns....

And then, I moved to a new district with the expectation of Readers' Workshop in my first grade classroom.

Sigh...guess that was the push I needed to figure out how I was going to make this model work for me.  And, actually, I was super excited for a fresh start!  So, here it goes!

What I love about Readers' Workshop:
1. Mini-Lesson to focus the entire class on a specific reading strategy.
2. Book shopping for books on a child's level.
3. Focus on comprehension with responding to literature.

What I don't love about Readers' Workshop:
1. It's not hands on enough for my struggling readers and ELL babies.
2. It's mostly independent.  And six year olds are social...and need to be social.
3. What about all of those low readers who just can't read very long on their own? I'm counting on my emerging readers to read and analyze a text quietly on their own...that doesn't add up to meaningful time spent for those kiddos.  Plus, I just see behavior problems with this part...

What I love about Literacy Workstations:
1. It's hands on practice of skills that students have already learned with the teacher in class.
2. There is no introducing stations each week...students already know what to do.
3. Students collaborate with partners on their work

What I don't love about Literacy Workstations:
1. There are a gazillion focuses and objectives happening at the same time...which causes a lack of coherence.
2. Not all stations have an accountability piece for their work.

So, after much reflecting, I've come up with a way to combine the two...and get the best of both worlds.  Here's what my Not-100%- Readers' Workshop routine will look like {Shhh...don't tell on me!}

10 minute mini lesson: This is straight from Readers' Workshop and to add some cohesiveness.  We will focus on reading strategies and model whole group.
50 minute independent practice: This is a mesh of Daily 5, Readers' Workshop, and Literacy Workstations.  I still have a stations work board.  I am still assigning stations.  But they are all literacy based...and most have a literature response piece that ties with our mini-lesson goal for the week or our phonics goal for the word work parts.  I tried to use the Daily 5 model when building these...each station ties back to one of the daily 5 in some way...but I choose what they do.  And it's with partners, not independent.  Here are the stations I came up with that best mesh with Readers' Workshop:
1. Classroom Library/Read to Self - book shopping and response sheet
2. Buddy Reading - with response sheet
3. Buddy Reading - yes, I have it on there twice...needed 12 stations so I had to double up.
4. Read to Self - RAZ kids - this is a online reading computer program that is individualized with student levels with quizzes at the end...yes, it costs money, yes our PTA paid for it! :)
5. Read to Self - Starfall - honestly, I'm the least okay with this one because star fall can get out of hand.  We will see how it goes.  Still thinking about the accountability piece on this one or if there is a better website for practicing reading skills... #keepinitreal
6. Big Idea/Content Reading - students close read informational texts together and respond
7. Listening Station - listen to a fluent reader read a book and respond
8. Word Work, Phonics - students will do a phonics sort to tie in with our weekly phonics goal
9. Word Work, Sight Words - students will practice reading, writing and spelling sight words through sight word games from my sight word packets.
10. Word Work, Read-Write-Draw - students will decode words with our phonics feature for the week and illustrate their meaning to show they are actually reading the words.
11.  Writing Station - students will be sequencing sentences or stories they read and responding.
12. iPad Station - students will practice first grade skills on Teach Me First app.  This is my favorite app because it's a mix of skills and students love the coin incentives.  PLUS, I can track their progress and it's individualized!  No, this does not directly tie in with our readers' workshop goals each week, but it's a worthwhile station that just had to stay.  Plus, anytime you can put headphones on two more kiddos and it's an engaging and meaningful learning activity, there's a little more peace and quiet for all.  Win-Win.
10 minute share time: This is also a mesh...sharing what worked, what we learned, and what didn't work.

I'm 3 weeks into school and Readers' Workshop is still not up and running completely.  So, here's a look at how I've worked to set routines up for this in my room...

Day 1, we set our I can list expectations.  We have read over these at the beginning of each Readers' Workshop.

We also charted ways to be a book lover....this phrasing is new for me and I LOVE this idea from Readers' Workshop.

And then we started modeling and practicing literacy stations...Here's a great example of why I just couldn't go 100% Readers' Workshop.  I'm a firm believer in kids listening to reading.  It's a great way for them to hear fluent readers use good pacing and expression.  Plus, kids with headphones on are always quieter...which is a double plus during reading groups! *wink*  This year, I'm without my year long set of listening we're sharing a laptop at this station and listening to a story of my choice from  Once we are officially started, I will post the cover of the book they will listen to on the I can list.

Love all of my extra drawers in my new room.  Makes station storage so much easier!!

Here's a look at our Buddy Reading practice.  This is carried over from literacy stations too...and can also be found in Daily 5 {Read to Others}.  But this year, I've upped the game and added a response sheet for this one too that will match our weekly comprehension goal.

I've loved having a station for content in the past...where students practiced what we'd been learning about during our unit time.  So, to make this work with Readers' Workshop, I've added our Scholastic news subscriptions to this station!  I am sorting each magazine by which unit they fit best with as I get them in.

Each week, I will place a new magazine in the Big Idea station tub.  Partners will work together to close read the magazine and respond to their reading on the back by answering questions together.  We modeled this together once already and will probably model it again before we start.  I'm excited about this compromise with content and responding to literature for my own Readers' Workshop model.

Friday we began talking about Read to Self {from Daily 5...and essentially all of what true Readers' Workshop is}.  We started by talking about stamina...a huge thanks to my teammate for explaining exactly what this looked like in her classroom!  It was just hard for me to visualize!

In the past, I've talked about staying focused while your reading, 3 ways to read a book during classroom library station, yaddy yadda....but I love this word.  It's so official.  And kids love big words.  And I loved actually charting it out! I saw a ton of charts on this on Pinterest, but I wanted to find a way to combine the charts into an all-in-one place for stamina.  So we charted builders and breakers for stamina and practiced reading independently.  And after 2 tries on the same day...we made it to 5 minutes of quiet on task reading.  YAY! We've set our goal for 20 minutes, and hopefully we will be there soon.  This is something we will practice every day now until we start full Readers' Workshop.

Friday, students read from their familiar reading in their browsing boxes...which includes a sight word reader we made together the first week of school, library books, and poems from their poetry folder... 
Not much to read...which is why I was super happy with 5 minutes.  

Next week, we will start talking about shopping for books on their level so they'll have more to choose from...I'm a little nervous and excited about how I've decided to combine this with literacy stations...and I'll be blogging about it soon!  Follow me on Facebook, Blog Lovin' and Instagram to keep up with my journey with Readers' Workshop.

How do you make Readers' Workshop work for your littles?  Does it actually work for you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. I love, love your stamina poster. I seriously need to get on that. Maybe that will help my kiddos do better with their stamina-building. They're pretty all over the map. Today, we finally got up to 3.42 minutes... woot! Woot! Gotta celebrate the small things in the first week of school! :)
    Lots of great ideas,

  2. I LOVE how this is laid out! I think your students are really going to surprise you this year with how well they do! :) Way to go jumping into a new adventure! :)

    Denise Hill, #TeacherMom

  3. I really enjoyed your post. I loved your honesty about how overwhelming organizing all of the different pieces to readers' workshop can be. But you're on your way, and I'm sure your students will enjoy the freedom that stations can bring. I also really liked your stamina and book lover posters. Nice work.

    Sugar Cube Learning


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