Modified Readers/Writers Workshop in the 7th Grade Classroom

image from icanread

All summer my mind has been in high gear trying to wrap itself around what my classroom experience will be like next year.  I know I will be teaching an incredible age group of students at an amazing school with a stellar team.  I know I will be an English teacher and what our curriculum is.  But that still left me with the big question; what will this look like in my room?  5th grade I knew what it looked like.  5th grade I had 90 leisurely minutes to get through reading and then another 75 for writing.  What luxury!  But 45 minutes every day for both reading and writing what does that even look like?

So I did what I always do; reach out both locally here to my awesome colleague Wendy, but also globally to amazing people who have been answering my questions.  So I think I have an idea of what it will look like, a more tangible plan has been forming in my head, so now I do what I always do; share.  Because I cannot be the only 7th grade English teacher wondering how to do this!

My crazy ideas include independent reading EVERY DAY.  This is not a typical thing I have heard in 7th grade due to the limited time for teaching, but Jillian Heise, who I admire, gave me the perfect idea; to use it as the very first thing when students enter.  That way every child has a purpose and routine as they enter the room.  I am free to check in with students, gather what needs to be gathered and otherwise just observe/assess/and ask questions.

Up next will be the mini-lesson, I will be alternating days between a reading and writing focus, however, there will be both every day.  This is where my skills of not blabbering will be tested.  The mini-lesson needs to be short!  This is where picture books come in handy, as well as using the same text for both.   That way students are familiar with the text on the second day but we can change our lens with which we view it. Also, the Global Read Aloud text “One For the Murphy’s” will be used as our mentor text for the 6 weeks of the project, ensuring that we participate in the read aloud.  And yes, I set up my rocking chair and easel in a corner just for this purpose, students can choose to sit on the carpet or in chairs as we listen, discuss, and reflect.  

Then on to conferring and independent work time. I will be meeting with small groups and one-on-one with students for the next 15/20 minutes.  During this time students will be writing or reading, whatever the focus is for the day.  That does mean that some kids will get more independent reading time, and I am thankful for that.  I fully believe that if we want kids to be great readers they need to read as much as possible.  I am hoping to meet with 2 small groups at least every day.  This may be totally unrealistic, but it will keep the pressure on me.  I will also spend time popping down next to students as they read for informal check ins, cutting out time wasted of students coming to me.  

We will end the 45 minutes with grammar, blogging, random mini-teaching points as well as show-and-tell.  Yup how-and-tell.  Thank you John T. Spencer for the idea.  If we are to live a life of readers and writers, we need to build a community and show off what we hold dear.  Show and tell allows us to share a slice of us, plus it can lead to deeper reflection for the audience of the reaction they have to something.  This won’t be every day, probably on Friday’s, but it will happen.

This is all tentative and should really be entitled “Pernille’s crazy ideas for modified workshop.”  But it is a start, a tangible start, that gives me something to work with and work on from the very first day of school.  There will also be days of Mystery Skype, Skyping with authors, longer assignments, speeches, and presentations.  But those will come as needed.  And with my independent reading class I will get to implement 20% time every Friday!  So yeah, I may not know what I am doing yet, but I have an idea, and it is making me so excited to get started!

I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” can be pre-ordered from Corwin Press now.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

7 thoughts on “Modified Readers/Writers Workshop in the 7th Grade Classroom

  1. Thanks for sharing your thinking! Beginning class time with the chance to read is something our kids really appreciate, I think. You’ll have to keep us posted about how it all goes!

  2. Good luck, Pernille. I like all the components of your plan and that you envision to alternate reading and writing conferences. Looking forward to hear how it’s all going after a few weeks.

  3. I so appreciate this post as I grapple with the idea of squeezing reading/writing workshop into a one-hour block. What a brilliant idea to alternate the two and use the same mentor text. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and vulnerability. I feel so much better about implementing the workshop.

  4. Hi Pernille,
    This sounds great. You read my mind! Although I won’t be doing exactly what you describe above, there are many similarities to how I am going to do reading/workshop in my class this year. I hope you blog about this again and I will try to, as well.

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