To: Teach Literacy
Understanding the Readers
Workshop Component of Balanced Literacy
I like to think of Balanced Literacy as a tapestry,
in which a variety of educational threads weave together into
one beautiful creation. It is structured on the premise of to,
with, and by. Aspects of the reading lessons will
be done to the students, with the students and by the students.
These are conducted during workshops which are generally broken
into three parts. These parts are the mini-lesson, independent/small
group work, and a share session.
Small Group Work
| Share Session
| Read Aloud
. Teacher has a purpose
. Group Discussion develops vocabulary and comprehension
. Flexible and short term
. Common Needs are addressed
. Students become Teachers
. Share strategies
. Teachers gain insight
| Shared Reading
. Uses enlarged Text
. Teacher models skills
. Use new skills
. Hone previously learned skills
. Respond to reading in written or verbal form
There are four (4) instructional aspects to the Readers Workshop.
These are the Read Aloud (to), Shared Reading (with), Guided Reading
(with) and Independent Reading (by). The Read Aloud and Shared
Reading aspects would occur during the mini-lesson. Guided Reading
and Independent Reading would occur during independent/ small
During a Read Aloud the teacher reads a text to the whole
group of students. The teacher has chosen the text for a specific
purpose. For example, it may be used to introduce vocabulary related
to a content area topic. The text is generally above the reading
ability of the students but is at the appropriate listening level.
The teacher is not simply reading. It is a rehearsed reading which
demonstrates reading skills such as fluent reading, intonation
and pacing. The Read Aloud is followed by a group discussion,
led by the teacher, about the text. This allows students to improve
their comprehension and increase their vocabulary and knowledge
of the topic.
Shared Reading focuses on an enlarged text. This
could be a big book, a poem written on chart paper, an appropriate
item from the Internet (enlarged) or even a small text enlarged
through the use of an overhead projector. The text should be above
the level of the students but not too difficult. You really need
to know your students and their reading levels. The teacher reads
the text aloud and the students join in. This frequently sounds
like a slight echo. The teacher is demonstrating skills that readers
use to understand text. During this time the teacher is modeling
the use of phonics, grammar and meaning to decipher the text.
The beauty of the workshop model is that it lends itself to individualization
of instruction. The
guided reading part of the model addresses the specific needs
of the students. The text chosen for these groups is student appropriate.
Guided reading is conducted in small groups (no more than 6 students).
These groups should be flexible and generally short term. They
are composed of students with a common need. You may even have
students of disparate abilities in the same group if they are
exhibiting the same difficulty. The text for a guided reading
lesson is focused on the needs of the students. The students have
their own copies of the text and they read independently while
the teacher observes their reading behaviors. The teacher explicitly
guides the students in this portion and addresses whatever errors
the students are making.
Independent Reading affords students the opportunity
to use what they have learned and to hone those skills. The students
select the text, although it must be at their own reading level.
They use the skills which have been modeled during Read Alouds,
Shared Readings and Guided Reading lessons. They can respond to
their reading in written (response to literature) or verbal form
(with a partner or literature circle). The teacher observes their
behaviors, conferences with students and notes possible difficulties
which need to be addressed. These difficulties may be addressed
immediately, through discussion and demonstration, or they may
require the need of a Guided Reading lesson. If the teacher notices
that other students demonstrate the same difficulty, then those
students would form a group for a Guided Reading lesson. If the
majority of the students are demonstrating this behavior, then
the teacher may plan to address this problem in a lesson conducted
during a Read Aloud or Shared Reading mini-lesson.
The last part of the workshop is the Share Session. The students
gather together and discuss their actions during the Independent/Small
Group part. They might read their responses, or share how they
employed a particular strategy during their reading. The teacher
might draw attention to strategies he/she observed. The students
might demonstrate how they used the strategy taught in the mini-lesson.
They might even demonstrate how it didn't help them. This allows
the students to become more critical of their abilities. It also
allows the students to become the teachers. It provides the teacher
with insight into the students' thoughts and provides suggestions
for future lessons. See, it really does all weave together.
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