Literacy Partners

Mid Workshop Interruptions To Build Stronger Readers and Writers

I’ve taken up running again — and I have to be honest, I don’t love it. Every time I have to do it, I groan to myself and try to think of all the reasons I don’t want to do it. And here’s the crazy thing — when I do it, I feel a rush (maybe you’ve heard of “runner’s high?), and when I finish my run, I feel incredible.

My doctor has suggested adding more cardio into my wellness routine to help lower my cholesterol. Anyway, Dr. B suggested a running app called “Couch to 5K” to help me get started.

Before the pandemic, I ran a mile before lifting weights several times a week and went for runs around my neighborhood regularly, but once we were home all the time, I stopped. Following my doctor’s advice, I downloaded the app and got going.

The good thing about this app is that it starts slowly, and then the runs get longer. There’s a warm-up, lots of walking breaks in between, and a cool-down — all of which I look forward to. One of my favorite things is the woman who cheers me on as I go.

As my sneakers hit the pavement and I heard her say, “You’re halfway there!” It got me thinking about our kids during workshop.

During writing or reading workshops, we often expect kids to work independently for long stretches. We want them to read or write anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes without stopping.

Many adults couldn’t focus for that long without getting distracted, but we expect kids to do it. We check our phones, get a snack, use the restroom, or look out the window and daydream.

One of the highlights of an independent reading or writing workshop is the mid workshop interruption.

The mid workshop interruption is a moment about halfway through the independent portion when you stop the kids to give them a little tip or push. And it’s genius for keeping students focused and engaged.

There are many things you can do to give students a nudge. Here are some options:

  • Celebrate something a student is doing well. Name it, show it to the class quickly, and encourage everyone to try.
  • Highlight a more developing reader or writer for something. This will make students feel great and can highlight them as “experts.”
  • Reference a chart to remind kids of what they can do to keep going.
  • In a writing workshop, encourage kids to do a bit of editing. This might sound like, “Writers pens down, eyes up. I want to remind you that recently we learned about using paragraphs so that our readers can follow our writing. Read through your writing to see if there are some places you need to make a paragraph. And remember you can insert that little paragraph arrow, so you remember when you work on your final draft.”
  • Do a fishbowl. Gather the kids around to watch one student’s work and celebrate what they’re doing. Encourage everyone to give it a try.

The mid workshop interruption is important, even if kids are in the flow of quietly reading and writing.

Many educators worry about interrupting their students when they’re focused and working away. There are some great reasons why we should try the interruption.

First, more advanced readers and writers have something new or more sophisticated to try. On the other hand, some kids could be losing steam, and you may not even realize it. Pausing will give them a boost.

It’s also an opportunity to review something you’ve already taught, highlight something you’ll teach soon, and could be an excellent opportunity to make a student or group feel proud by admiring their work in front of the class.

As you get started, here are four tips for making your mid workshop interruption effective:

  • Keep the interruption brief — it should be only 2 to 5 minutes for a quick pause.
  • Remember, it’s not an assignment — you’re giving kids an option if they need it. It may not fit where most kids are or the work they need to do as a reader and writer. Invite and encourage them to do it, but there’s no need to hold every student accountable for trying it.
  • Show an example or demo- often. I see teachers simply name something they see and move on. Showing a model on the document camera or smartboard or bringing a student up quickly to show what they’re doing will give kids a visual and let them see how to do this work and what it looks like.
  • The whole class doesn’t need to try it right then and there. Remember, this is about exposure over mastery. The goal here is to infuse some new energy into the workshop and keep kids working independently.

The mid workshop interruption is a powerful tool for endurance and keeping readers and writers focused. And the more they’re focused, the more likely they’ll find joy in learning.

If you found these tips helpful, here’s some further reading we suggest:

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