Workshop Model holds promise for improving core instruction in reading and writing

Cedar Falls CSD teachers share learnings as part of a recent training on the Workshop Model.

Cedar Falls CSD teachers share learnings as part of a recent training on the Workshop Model.

AEA 267 Educational Services consultants Barb Shafer, Terry Boezinger, Patty Foster, Heather Gould, Shaelynn Farnsworth, and Drinda Williams are leading a major effort to implement a groundbreaking approach to supporting students in reading and writing. Known as ‘the workshop model,” the approach has proven a successful model to improve core instruction in reading and writing.

“This is the right time because the focus now is on addressing core instruction and creating a framework in which teachers can provide levels of support to all students,” said Williams. “This model really lends itself to the multi-tiered system of support.”

The workshop model is a structured instructional framework. To start, the teacher provides a 10-15 minute “mini-lesson”that has a focused teaching point. At the end of the mini-lesson students engage in a brief guided practice to try out their learning under close teacher supervision. Next there is independent practice, when students apply their learning to their own work–whether that be reading “just right” books they have selected, or as they write on topics of their own choosing. During this independent practice time, the teacher confers with students and provides additional teaching to those who need more support. Finally, students have an opportunity to share their learning.

Currently, seven schools/districts have been selected to participate in a pilot including Central Springs, Aplington-Parkersburg, Orchard Hill Elementary & Holmes Jr. High in Cedar Falls, Grundy-Center, East Marshall and West Marshall. Each of the seven were selected based on a readiness survey and overall goals in literacy. Two teachers from each building or district will receive on-going training and weekly coaching during the first semester of the year. During second semester, these model classroom teachers will also begin learning more about how to be coaches and change agents in their schools. Next year these teachers will serve as model classrooms and they will work with AEA 267 consultants to train others in the school to realize the promise of system change.

“My greatest hope is that this changes a school building, moving them to best practices in a cohesive way,” said Williams. “This is not a shotgun approach where we just spill the professional development out and hope a few get it. It’s got to be a systems change and student-centered.”

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