I received this question by e-mail today:
Hello Mr. Needleman, I was wondering if there was an Internet source or a book that gives ideas for Workshop? My school is a “Ditto” and “Worksheet” IWT kind of school and I am scrambling for ideas. I am starting IWT over today and am hoping for ideas soon. I have asked fellow staff members but other than the worksheets, they have not been of help. I teach 3rd grade and my students reading abilities range from None-to 3rd. Thank you so much.
And it reminds me of a question I asked my coach, “Where do we find all these fabulous activities to do during Workshop/Independent Work Time?
It took me a while to realize that it’s not about finding and adding additional material to your day. It’s more about extending and expanding the work you are already doing in class. If you agree that Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites then you probably agree that there are probably enough worksheets in the Open Court Reading Program that we don’t need to add any more while students are working independently. Instead, this is the time that students get authentic experiences putting the skills the workbooks expose them to to good use.
Here are some program areas you can extend for IWT/Workshop:
Blending/Word Knowledge (students practice reading the words, complete word sorts, or use the letters to make new words—like Making Big Words books) Decodables (partner reading, highlighting target sounds or high frequency words then sorting those words) The Concept/Question Board (when do students have a chance to interact with the board, answer questions, and add to concepts? If students have brought in artifacts this is when students can explore them, write about them, and ask questions) Inquiry (not so much the Inquiry Journal but real inquiry and research…find the answers to your questions…read a book, find a web site…make a book, a poster, an oral presentation, a movie, a puppet show, etc. to present your work) Writing (students complete writing projects you’ve started together, write a letter to the class pen pals, or write to (gasp) communicate perhaps a song, a poem, a play…if you’ve ever modeled it they can do it) Reading (students can read for pleasure and explore books related or unrelated to the units…they can log books they read, prepare books reports, write a sequel, or do something else Beyond Book Reports. Reader’s theater (it’s free and increases fluency according to research)
Over time you can add some of these activities as well which might be may do’s:
- Listening center (students listen to tapes of the stories or other audio like famous speeches)
- Multimedia center (a computer with headphones allows students to watch unit related movies or explore links
- Games found at the 99 cent store, as you find them add them to your repetoire
You may notice that all of these activities require very little preparation. I was criticized on my post about differentiation for expecting all teachers to be superstars. I don’t. I admit I’m a lazy teacher and all of these activities will take you less time than running off worksheets with more engaging and beneficial results. It’s not about working harder but working smarter and letting go of an attachment to ditto machines.
I invite my readers to post their own ideas and any questions you have below.
For additional information on Independent Work Time/Workshop see related posts.