Reader’s workshop is a wonderful framework that allows readers to flourish, but it can also breed a sense of anxiety when it comes to the idea of holding students accountable for the time they spend reading during the workshop. This anxiety is heightened by being relegated to being virtual and or hybrid.
Create the Culture
I want to point out that my favorite way to address the idea of accountability is that of creating a classroom culture of readers. My students knew that whether they loved to read or not reading was not only what we did in our classroom but also who we were. This meant that every spare moment was spent reading. Whether it was an unplanned interruption to the day or sitting in line waiting to take our class picture students knew that they were to be reading.
This commitment meant that I worked hard to make sure that my classroom library met their varying needs. It meant that I collaborated with my librarian if my classroom library lacked the access to good fit books that they needed. It also meant that I took the time to get to know them and their interests so that I could make book recommendations that they would find relevant and valuable.
Another way that I built a culture of reading was to assign monthly or quarterly, depending on the group of students I had that year, book talk projects. Students were assigned a genre, but were allowed to choose their own book. A list of project options were offered and students were asked to choose a different project each month.
When students presented their book talk project to the class it included a synopsis of the book as well as their recommendation. I often assigned a genre that had already been taught in class so that students would have the necessary skills to successfully navigate that genre. I would then work with my librarian to let her know what genre we were reading that month and they would pull a wide range of titles from the shelves for students in addition to reviewing genre characteristics with the students before having them check out books.
This approach helped create a sense of urgency for both students and parents. In class students knew that the project was coming up so they would use independent reading time to read their book talk project books. At home parents were also aware of the projects and would encourage students to read their books. It was a win win all the way around. Students were also encouraged to read widely because they were reading books outside of their normal reading diet.
Stop and Jot
This is a strategy that we often teach students to use to help them hang on to their reading. These post-it notes act as bread crumbs for us and help us get to know our reader’s better.
My favorite way to introduce this strategy was during guided reading. I often started with teaching students to monitor their comprehension on each page of text they read, teaching them to ask themselves who and what the text was about.
One way to do this virtually is to assign students a jamboard that they can create digital sticky notes on. The sticky notes could be based on the day’s mini lesson, your guided reading lesson or any goals that the student is working on or just based on something that they found interesting to stop and jot down.
Reading Response Options
Reading response activities are another way to ensure that students are engaging in deep reading. A simple reading response notebook could be used for students to jot down their wonderings in. Of course this requires modeling but after a while it becomes a place for them to document their reading and a place for you to see what goals they may need to put down or pick up based on the thoughts they wrote down.
You could also have students use a reading response choice board to ensure thoughtful responses to what they have read. Of course as with anything you roll out to your students this should only be assigned after careful modeling has taken place.
Another approach could be to have students fill out a reading log each time they read with pages read or time read and a short, stop and jot about what they read. As previously mentioned Book talk projects are another great way to not only hold students accountable but also build a reading community.
Confer with students
Conferring with students is a thoughtful and systematic way to keep students accountable. One way to manage your conferences is to set appointment times with students that you want to confer with. This will help you manage your conferring time and create a sense of urgency with students surrounding their reading. If you are working on setting goals in reading this will give them a “due” date for trying out the strategies that you discussed with them. You could choose to confer with students individually or in small groups based on their goals and needs.
As with anything planning is essential to success. Using a conferring template could help you not only prepare for your conferences but also keep track of what you worked on with your students.
Deliver your mini lesson. Ask students to implement the mini lesson in their independent reading books. Then have them go off and read. Confer with students to check on them. Make note of any challenges students are running into. Check in with students mid way through their independent reading time to reteach your mini lesson or address anything that you saw students struggling with.
In a virtual reader’s workshop have students set a timer for a predetermined time in order to come back together as a class for a midworkshop-teach. Students read independently either in breakout rooms or just on camera while you confer with students that you have predetermined to meet with and check in on the goals and how the mini lesson application is going.
Choose one of the above strategies and give it a go. Then tag me on social media and let me know how it went and what other ideas you may have. I look forward to seeing how it goes. Let’s continue to learn together.