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Language Arts Department
 


Administration Building
25 Valley Road
Princeton, NJ 08540

Tel: 609.806.4200



WELCOME!

Mark Shelley, Supervisor of Language Arts for grades 9-12
609-806-4280, ext. 3620

Reynold Forman, Supervisor of Language Arts for Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grade
609-806-4270, ext. 5620

2016 SUMMER READING:  Please view our page for required summer reading assignments as well as our suggested summer reading here.

Elementary and Middle School Reading and Writing Workshop


Reading Workshop Format

Components of the Reading Workshop:

Readers Workshop is a teaching method in which the goal is to teach students strategies for reading and comprehension.  The workshop model allows teachers to differentiate and meet the needs of all their students.  Reading Workshop helps to foster a love of reading and gives students chances to practice reading strategies independently and with guidance.  It provides students with a supportive environment that involves them in authentic reading experiences that focus on the strengths and needs of individual students. Reader's Workshop helps students develop strong reading skills through the use of a mini-lesson, shared reading, read aloud, conferencing, independent reading, paired reading, literature response, and sharing. The basic philosophy behind the Reading Workshop is to allow studentsto spend an extended amount of time reading authentic texts that interest them on a daily basis and to provide opportunities to talk about literature. The ultimate goal of a Reading Workshop is always to develop life-long passionate readers.  Reading Workshop helps to foster a love of reading and gives students chances to practice reading strategies independently and with guidance.



Time
Component
10 minutes
Read-aloud (often leads to mini-lesson)
10 minutes
Mini-lesson
20-25 minutes
Independent Reading & Conferring, Small Group Instruction, and/or Assessment
5 minutes
Share

 
Read Aloud (10 minutes) The teacher reads orally and invites active listening and participation from the children. Longer, more diverse, and more complicated texts are selected to provide a rich experience of literature. This provides an excellent opportunity for additional modeling of reading and response strategies. It also offers closure for the reading workshop within the community.
 
Mini-Lesson (10 minutes) Lesson topics are determined by the needs of the class as well as the curriculum. Lessons are brief, whole group, and always involve teaching a specific reading skill or strategy. Topics vary, but typically address the following: procedures, literary craft, reading and comprehension strategies, response, and conventions. During a mini-lesson, teachers model for the students a specific reading skill or strategy. During a Historical Fiction unit, a teacher may show how an author is creating an “emotional atmosphere”—maybe an edgy nervousness on the brink of war—as well as a “physical atmosphere.” They may talk about/chart ways in which the author accomplishes this, then read a bit more, looking for clues to further determine how people are feeling inthis time and place.  
 
Independent Reading and Conferring, Small Group Instruction, Book Clubs, and/or Assessments (20-25 minutes) As the children select new books or retrieve ones they are still reading from their book boxes, the teacher asks each student what she or he will be reading. This provides an excellent opportunity for a brief conference with every child about her or his reading and the books she or he has chosen. It also provides a reliable assessment tool by which the teacher can monitor self-selection and provide guidance when necessary. Once the children have selected their books and conferred with the teacher, they are expected to read silently and independently. While many primary age children vocalize while reading and may need the support of reading orally with apartner, silentindependent reading remains the goal. Silent reading provides the teacher with guaranteed time to meet with individuals and small groups forassessment, guidance, remediation, and enrichment. If a number of students are struggling with a similar skill—say, making predictions based on what we know about a character—then a teacher may form a small group and re-teach the lesson from a different angle. As well, a teacher may form small groups as an enrichment opportunity for strong readers, challenging them with higher-level skills. During a conference, the teacher meets with individual children to talk about their reading and offer brief individual instruction in an informal conversation that may last from 8-10 minutes. Conferences focus on the individual needs of every child, so no two conferences are alike, although the conversation always surrounds books the child has recently been reading. Occasionally, the teacher groups 4 or 5 childrenaccording to their instructional needs and forms a book club. The teacher is then able to address these needs with a common textfollowing a lesson structure that involves preparation for reading, independent reading, and response. Most often, book clubs meet over the course of two or more days. As children become more sophisticated readers, the book club format becomes increasingly independent. Students are assessed both formally and informally throughout the school year. Informal assessments include reading conferences, small group conversations, and teacher observations (i.e.: Does the student consistently choose texts within his/her level of understanding?) Formal assessments include strategy-checks, Reading Journal collections, homework checks, book club conversation reports, quizzes, presentations, and reading tests.
 
Share (10-15 minutes) The children are invited to respond to their reading in both oral and written ways. During this time, students can share their successes or struggles with a particular strategy. These shares are often instructional in nature as well. For example, a teacher may have taught a mini-lesson on organizational strategies for note taking from nonfiction text. During the “share,” students may show the class their own note-taking strategies. This helps to increase everyone’s skill repertoire. Every day the children meet with a friend for book talks, brief conversations that share reactions and responses to reading. About once a week, the children write more formal responses in journals or traditional book reviews. The children write independently and freely, althoughthe teacher occasionally provides a prompt to guide the response.  Connections between reading and writing are encouraged. Writtenresponses are always shared with peers and the teacher in order to maintain purpose and audience.



Writing Workshop Format

Components of the Writing Workshop:

The workshop model recognizes that, in order to achieve maximum success, writing instruction must be differentiated (that is, each students’ individual needs must be addressed.) When students are able to choose their own areas of focus, it generates an unmatchable level of writing enthusiasm. The class often takes on the buzz of a newsroom, as students prepare to plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish their pieces.  Some units of study naturally support certain types of skills. That is, we might talk about developing setting during a narrative unit, while focusing instead on developing coherent arguments during an essay unit. Each unit, however, goes through the writing process “cycle” of generating ideas, planning, drafting, revising, and editing. Teachers promote skills related to all cogs onthis wheel, with each phase taking a certain number of days.  Sometimes parents wonder where grammar and punctuationlessons “fit” into Writing Workshop. These lessons occur during the editing phase of each unit.




Time
Component
10 minutes
Mini-lesson
20-25 minutes
Independent Writing & Conferring, Small Group Instruction, and/or Assessment
5 minutes
Share


Mini-Lesson (10 minutes) During a mini-lesson, teachers model a specific writing skill or strategy. During a Research Essay unit, a teacher may show how a student can create a certain tone by the words the student selects. That is, if students are arguing that sharks should be a protected species, we may use words like “majestic” or “magnificent” in their essays. Though these words aren’t technically a part of the argument, they help to set a favorable tone for the poor sharks. During a Feature Article unit, a teacher may show samples of figurative language (similes, metaphors, etc.) in magazine articles, demonstrating how authors can use this language to great effect in nonfiction.
Independent Writing and Conferring, Small Group Instruction, and/or Assessments (20-25 minutes) Following the mini-lesson, students will research, note-take, and/or write independently for 20-25 minutes. They may also use this time for peer revision and/or peer editing. While students work, they may apply the just-taught strategy, or perhaps apply other strategies from their writing “toolkits.” Conferring is the core of the Writing Workshop. Teachers will meet with each student approximately once per week; during this time, teachers are able to determine the student’s understanding of recently-taught strategies, and teach a new skill specific to that child’s needs. For one writer, that skill might involve learning to "stretch out" an important moment ina story; for another, it might involve showing how to move through time with more subtlety (rather than, “the next day…the day afterthat…”). Naturally, the lesson depends on the student’s skill level as a writer in that particular unit. It is interesting to note that a student may be particularly strong in one area (for example, fiction), while struggling in another.  A teacher may also be facilitating a small group lesson. If a number of students are struggling with a similar skill—say, weaving a quotation into a Literary Essay—then the teacher will form a small group together and re-teach the lesson to deepen their understanding.  Students are assessed both formally and informally throughout the school year. Informal assessments include writing conferences, small group conversations, and teacher observations (for example, is a student committed to peer editing to the best of his/her ability?) Formal assessments includestrategy-checks, writing notebook collections, the checking of homework, quizzes, the collection of writing folders (which contain drafts,revisions, and edits), and final publications. Students are assessed on all elements of the writing process, not simply the final product.
Share (5 minutes) Following the block of time allotted for Independent Writing, teachers will often have a “share.” During this time, students can share their successes or struggles with a particular strategy. These shares are often instructional in nature. For example, a teacher may have taught a mini-lesson showing how to use a timeline as one tool to plan a narrative. During the “share,” a student may show the class how he or she used a storyboard or a mini-book to plan instead. Everyone benefits from this sharing of ideas.  Many classes typically have a “Publication Party” at the end of each unit, giving students the chance to enjoy others' writing, as well as with their parents! This celebration provides an authentic audience for their writing efforts, and acts aspowerful motivation for each writer to strive for his or her best.
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