Think about a time when you learned something new. What was it that helped you learn? Was it a topic or activity that you were greatly interested in? Did someone model how to do it? Were you able to practice with the guidance and support of someone who knew how? Did you have the opportunity to discuss how to do it with others who were learning? Did you receive specific feedback that helped you make adjustments? Did you have many opportunities to practice your new learning on your own? Chances are that most of these elements were present as you learned. All of these elements of learning are experiences that students encounter in a workshop classroom.
The workshop framework is not new to education; however, it has made a comeback in light of exciting research that highlights its effectiveness in student learning. In a workshop classroom, teachers assist learning by providing focused teaching through various methods in a whole group setting. Teachers also meet with small groups where the teaching is tailored to meet the specific needs of the group of students. To further customize the learning, teachers meet with individual students to discuss different reading and writing strategies. Finally, the workshop framework provides opportunity for students to work together, share with each other, and learn from their peers. While area schools are primarily focused on reading and writing workshops, the framework can be applied to any subject including math, science and social studies.
Teachers who have adopted this instructional approach have reported exciting results in their classrooms. The workshop framework along with thoughtful analysis of student reading and writing data as well as collaboration with colleagues have helped teachers make significant strides in closing the achievement gap and promoting independent critical thinkers.
At a time when state legislation is calling for stricter guidelines on reading proficiency, it has become increasingly important that schools and parents work together to encourage reading and writing. There are many things that can be done at home to continue the great work that is happening in our schools. Simply reading to and/or with your child and allowing her to discuss the books she reads goes a long way in supporting the efforts made by teachers in any classroom. Research indicates that the single most effective method of promoting reading and writing proficiency is providing children with the opportunity to “practice” their reading and writing. Imagine the world’s great athletes or musicians. They spend countless hours practicing their sport or instrument. The same is true for great readers and writers. While “practice” might not always make “perfect,” it certainly goes a long way to make “better!”
Patty Foster is a Literacy Consultant with Area Education Agency 267. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 65,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.