We’re implementing a reading and writing workshop this semester in my fourth grade class called “Read/Write Now,” and this simple, effective program may soon be proving helpful in teaching these two most crucial subjects in classrooms across the country.
First, each student selects a book they wish to read. We’ll spend 30 minutes per day reading silently, keeping a log of our reactions to each chapter or section read. Each student will then meet individually with me for a conference and a mini-lesson, in which I’ll monitor their progress and provide some guidance in successful reading strategies.
Collectively, we’ll meet and discuss the books we’ve read, and each student will give an oral report. We’ll engage in discussion of the books, and when a round of books has been read, students will be encouraged to trade books, giving them a chance to read the other stories that their classmates have reported on and discussed in class. Finally, I’ll assess each student’s progress, gauging their comprehension of the material and their ability to read aloud from it and summarize the major plot points.
In the complimentary writing workshop, we’ll start by having students organize their thoughts on a short story they’ll be required to write. First, we’ll identify who their hero or protagonist will be, and what dilemma or obstacle they must overcome. Next, students will write a rough draft, and we’ll go over it in one on one sessions. I’ll assess their progress, as I make suggestions to aid them in revising the draft, to expand the story and clarify meaning, and edit spelling, grammar and punctuation. We’ll read the revised draft to the class, and respond to class feedback in polishing the story.
Ah, but here’s the really clever part: through the miracle that is Kinko’s, we’ll “publish” a class book of short stories – which we’ll sell for exorbitant prices at the spring fundraiser, thus defraying some of cost of the enormous raise I deserve.
By implementing this workshop, we can excite our students, and capture their imagination. We can get students enthused about writing, an activity they often loathe. Additionally, we can excite parents, who can then be expected to give us heightened support in teaching their children to express themselves through the written word. The reading will inform the writing, and the writing will reinforce the strategies necessary to become a good reader.
And the cash from the class short story book won’t hurt either.