School is just beginning and you may already be excited to get your reading and writing workshop up and running.
You’re planning all the things you’re ready to teach the kids:
- About the writing center
- How to access and use the classroom library
- How to come to and from the gathering area
- What you expect during mini-lessons
- How to turn and talk
Teachers often tell me, “I can’t start workshop on day one. There are too many things that kids need to know before we start reading and writing.”
Do you feel this way too?
This is when I stop and ask them to think more about this. Think about this in the context of learning anything new. Do you know all the rules of soccer before you join a soccer team? Do you know everything there is to know about driving a car before getting behind the wheel?
When we learn something new, we need the time to approximate things. To play around with them as we are learning them. This is so important.
I get it. I also agree that ALL of these routines and structures will be HUGELY important. However, I believe that if we lead or start the year with this, what you may implicitly be saying to your students is, “You need to know what to do before you can do anything at all. The rules are most important,” and I don’t think this is true.
What we’re trying to say to kids is this:
In this classroom, we’re a community of readers and writers.
We’ll read LOTS of books.
Some we’ll read together and some I’ll read aloud to you.
Some you’ll read on your own.
Some you’ll read and talk about with your friends.
We’ll write LOTS of different books.
You’ll write books that tell the stories of your life.
You’ll write books that teach us about things you really care about.
You’ll write to share your opinions with the world.
Sometimes we’ll do some writing together.
And, importantly, if you don’t love reading or writing right now, I promise you that in this class you’ll learn to love it and you will learn the power of being a reader and a writer.
Here’s the challenge I have for you: Consider starting this way from day one.
Gather your class together (if you haven’t already), and tell them you’re excited to read and write with them. Ask them to find out the kind of readers and writers they are, and let them go off on their own to read and write.
They’ll need to learn the routines and structures and you’ll certainly tuck these into your teaching as you go along. If you lead with what’s most important — WE ARE A COMMUNITY OF READERS AND WRITERS IN THIS CLASS — this year’s class will truly be a community of readers and writers. You’ll enjoy a class full of readers and writers who are working at their own pace and doing their very best at reading and writing every single day.
To do this, we suggest starting with immersion. More on that in the next blog post.
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