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Literacy Partners

9 Simple and Smart Ways to Prepare for Workshop in the Fall

The countdown is on for summer 2023! Closing out the year with students and getting the classroom cleaned out are two of the top priorities as the year comes to a close. And while August may feel lightyears away, it somehow always sneaks up on us.

Before heading out on your well-deserved summer break, here are nine helpful tips to help you feel ready to launch your workshops in Fall 2023.

Tips for Creating a Strong Workshop Environment:

New school year, new you! Creating a vision for your classroom environment can save you time and stress at the beginning of the year.

1) Assess your gathering area placement:

Your gathering area is an essential space within your room that helps build community, increase student engagement, and demonstrate clearly in front of students throughout your day, not just in workshop! You’ll want to make sure that the space you designate as your gathering area…

  • Has enough space for all students to gather.
  • Is right in front of your doc cam, so students can see you demonstrate clearly.
  • Allows for your anchor chart to be displayed as you teach. This might be on a chart stand, easel, or whiteboard.
  • Allows you to sit in front of your students. You might have a teacher chair, stool, or wobble seat.

Pro Tip: Sit at the front of your gathering area with your students, rather than stand, to invite a feeling of togetherness.

2) Plan and sketch your table grouping arrangement:

Every August, I somehow managed to bruise every inch of my shins, moving desks around until I found my ideal table grouping layout. I could have saved a lot of time and pain (both physically and emotionally) if I had sketched out a design in June! We encourage table groups of 4 to 6 students so that:

  • Students can easily collaborate with one another and share materials
  • You can confer one-on-one and with table groups at their eye level so other students can hear you
  • Both you and students have clear pathways to move freely around the room

3) Create a vision for your anchor chart displays:

Once you know where your gathering area and table groupings will be, you’ll want to make sure that you have a spot reserved for anchor charts. Students will continually reference the anchor charts you create, so having a highly visible display area is key.

Pro-Tip: Test out different seats around your room to make sure all learners can see the chart area.

4) Do a library intake:

The library is the heart and soul of your reading workshop. Your students will shop for books, explore new series, and get excited about the genres you cover. In August, start with a smaller library and build it over the year so that your books are changing and there’s excitement around new books. As you look through your current library, consider:

  • Are you organizing books into bins or baskets so students can easily access them?
  • Are books sorted in a way that will excite your students?
  • Are there books that need to be repaired or retired? No one likes to read a tattered book.
  • Are there titles or genres missing?
  • Do the books in the library reflect your students’ developmental levels AND interests at this age?
  • Are there multiple copies of books you can use for your book clubs?

5) Complete a writing center intake:

Just as the library is at the heart and soul of your reading workshop, the writing center is an essential component of your writing workshop. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you survey your current writing center setup:

  • Is it in a place in my room that’s accessible to all writers? Can they reach or grab the materials they’ll need independently?
  • Does it feel organized, or do I need trays or paper sorters to help declutter?
  • Will I need to replenish items next year, such as sticky notes, staplers, date stampers, or extra pens, or scotch tape?
  • Did I have mentor texts that matched our current unit of study available in the writing center?

Take a Look at Your Teaching Books

6) Gather and Assess your Read Alouds

That dreaded question, “Where in the world did that read-aloud book go? I swear it was here last year,” still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Pro Tip: Setting your read-alouds aside in a special box or bin away from the rest of your books can save you the headache.

The end of the school year is also a great time to assess whether or not your ‘tried-and-true’ read-aloud needs an update. When selecting strong read-alouds, we encourage you to pick texts that:

    • Will be of high interest to your future students
    • Match the genres you’ll be teaching throughout the year
    • Give opportunities for deep thinking
    • Are racially affirming
    • Provide windows and mirrors, meaning students have the chance to either connect with the book directly or experience a new way of thinking or living.

Pro tip: Order multiple copies of beloved read-alouds to keep in the library for book shopping! No one wants to be fighting over the only copy of Dog Man

7) Review your Writing Mentor Texts

Just because you’ve always used the same mentor text for realistic fiction doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. In addition to locating all of your mentor texts for the year before you leave for summer break, consider the following things as you review the texts:

  • Do these texts correctly align with the genres I teach?
  • Did my writers like and/or respond well to these texts?
  • Do these texts have ample craft techniques I could highlight for my writers?
  • Do I have more than multiple mentor texts for each genre?
  • Do I have several copies of my mentor texts to keep in the writing center for writers to look through

Save Student Work for a Strong Fall Start

8) Save Reading Response Entries

It can be extremely helpful to mine your current students’ notebooks across multiple reading units of study. These can be used to show your future readers how to craft a strong reading response. Scan or copy these entries and then, using a sticky note, list the qualities that make the response exemplary. This will make it easier for you to remember what to highlight to your readers next year.

9) Save Student Writing Pieces

The same is true for writing pieces! Scan and hang onto student writing pieces from the current year so that you can show your future writers strong samples for each unit of study. Once you’ve collected these pieces and sorted them by genre, list the qualities or craft techniques present in each piece on a sticky note.

Workshop Materials To Stock Up On

Here’s a brief list of items you’ll want to make sure you have ready to go on day one of school in the fall.

With a simple plan like this in place at the end of the school year, you’ll save yourself plenty of time and stress when it’s crunch time to get back to school.

You might also like these articles as you head into the summer break:

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