Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Organize Time in Reading and Writing Workshop?

I found one of the biggest challenges as a teacher was how to utilize time. When I first moved to a school where I was supposed to use Reader's Workshop, Writer's Workshop, Centers/Stations, and Guided Reading, I quickly became overwhelmed with how to plan it all, ensure I was prepared for it all, and how to organize my time. I never discovered a magic solution. How do you organize workshops in your classroom? I taught two fifth grade classes ELA and Social Studies. Some days I had one 45 minute period for ELA and some days I had two periods for ELA.

If you have the opportunities to learn from mentor teachers, I think this is always one of the best learning possibilities. However, we also have to recognize that as teachers we are all different and what worked for one teacher may not work for me or you. I experimented with a lot of methods: one period of Reading and one of writing, alternating days between Reader's and Writer's Workshops, and even alternating weeks.

All of these methods had their own advantages and disadvantages. Doing one period of each helped me feel like I gave reading and writing equal attention. Although, I found it was difficult to get all my reading groups in this way. Ideally, I wanted to try doing reading groups while my students did independent reading and independent writing. Independent reading was always pretty good, but most of my students wanted a lot of help and conferencing while writing so I always found small groups during independent writing difficult to manage. When doing Guided Reading, I found alternating days between Reading and Writing worked fairly well sometimes. I would see several reading groups on Reading days and do a lot of conferencing/helping on writing days. With Literature Circles, I found for the three weeks we read novels I would make our writing related to what we were reading. I found doing a separate genre of writing while keeping up with four novels per two classes (so between 4-8 novels) to be too much. Usually after a round of literature circles, we spent a couple weeks doing a large writing project or several samples of a genre of writing.

I tried a lot of lesson plan/time organizing templates and methods. I found a lot of inspiration on Laura Candler's website. She has some rotation schedule templates for managing center/stations and ideas on literacy menus. I thought I would share some of the lesson plan templates I created in case some people might find them useful.

I hope maybe this was helpful. I would love to hear your ideas on how you divide up time for stations, Guided Reading, Literature Circles, word study, Spelling, Reader's Workshop, and Writer's Workshop. Essentially, how do you balance a Balanced Literacy classroom?

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