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Distance Learning & Workshop: Keeping the Integrity

In a recent workshop with two of our favorite writing teachers: Carl Anderson and Matt Glover, they talked about how you could do a workshop both synchronously and asynchronously.

One of the main things they suggested is, if possible — to do a synchronous workshop. 

When we’re back in brick and mortar, the synchronous workshop structure will most closely resemble what you’ve been doing during distance learning. Kids will have a much smoother transition. This had us thinking about the many teachers trying to figure out the best way to keep the essence of the workshop.

Teachers ask us, How will this look in a digital world? And how can I smoothly transition if we go to a hybrid model or back to brick and mortar sometime soon?

The synchronous workshop most mirrors an in-person workshop.

Here are some recommendations on how to keep the essence of your workshop when teaching remotely so that when you’re back in brick and mortar, things go smoothly.

  • Start with a quick set up routine: Ask kids to gather all their materials and get ready before logging on for reading or writing workshop. This will mean having a place to write, tools to write with, and any physical or digital texts they need. If you haven’t taught this as a lesson and it’s taking a long time, consider a lesson on coming to the screen prepared with your materials and ready to learn.
  • Quick mini-lesson: Teach one strategy and model it, then kids can try it in break-out rooms with a partner, hold up their example (if they’re doing it on physical paper or with a physical book). Carl and Matt suggested that it take you no more time to plan this lesson than deliver it — aim for 10 minutes. They suggested having 3 things in your arsenal to make this happen quickly.

1) Mentor texts (for writing), a familiar read aloud or shared reading text (for reading).

2) Your own writing to demonstrate from for a writing lesson. A text to demonstrate from for a reading lesson (shared reading or read aloud works best)

3) Student writing samples for a writing lesson. Student reading response samples for a reading lesson. (These may be written or maybe things kids have said or you jotted down to share with the group as examples. You’ll need these most when you’re asking kids to write about their reading).

  • Kids write or read: Try to keep this to a similar length of time as you would in person. During this time, here are some options:
    • Create one break-out group per student, and then you can pop on with them to do conferences or put a group together easily without them distracting the whole group or main Zoom or Google Meet room.
    • Tell them to lower their volume and call up the student you want to start conferring with first. Let the next child know when you’ll meet with them, and so on.
    • Go into a breakout group with one student or a small group and leave the rest in the main room. If you’re nervous about not seeing the whole group, you can log into Zoom on your phone or iPad and your computer so that one user is in the main group, and the other is in the break-out group. This gives you the ability to be in two places at once. 
  • Have kids set a timer or let them know how long they’ll read and write for so you can bring them back together for a teaching share/wrap up. It might be nice to send these to kids or encourage kids to use timers at home. Some parents may even be able to buy a timer for them. Finally, highlight someone you spoke to during conferences or small groups that day or choose something to celebrate with the whole group in the main room. This will be your wrap up and will be the closure of your workshop.

This is so similar to what we do in our classrooms.

Doing workshop this way will allow us to easily come back to the classroom and have the same structure. Kids will be ready!

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