Reading is important! I have just finished a 2 day workshop presented by Carrie Ekey on reading assessment and teaching. The workshop covered aspects of the reading continuum developed by Bonnie Campbell-Hill, a variety of assessment of reading methods (many of which weren’t anything new – I’ll get back to this), how to organise the myriad of assessment and a range of other aspects related to teaching and assessing reading.
As I mentioned before, many of the ideas presented are nothing new; guided reading, anecdotal notes, independent reading, just to name a few. This was assuring to me because these are many things that I am already doing in my classroom.
One of the things that really impressed me from this PD is that one of the best ways to fit in the huge amount of teaching and assessment that is required of teachers in today’s ever shrinking time frame is to teach in ‘workshop’ style sessions. What is a workshop style lesson? It is a chunk of time that is dedicated to a particular curriculum focus where there will be a range of learning and assessing happening, with different students involved in different learning experiences or assessment experiences. The responsibility of learning is pushed on to the children more and more, particularly as they get older. The role of the teacher in these workshop sessions is incredibly complex and varied.
Let’s take the example of the reading workshop that Carrie Ekey was presenting at this workshop. The session would start off with some type of explicit teaching from the teacher, focussing on finding word meaning in context for example. Some modelling of the skill would take place before the students are given some time to practice it under the close watch of the teacher. The students would then be encouraged to continue to practice this reading skill throughout the session and obviously, beyond.
Following this, there may be some independent reading time to allow the students to continue their reading, putting into practice the skill just learned. The teacher would now step into an assessment/teaching role by conferencing with individual students, finding areas that need to be improved, teach how to improve this and then move on to the next child.
The next step is to move into a period of learning experiences where the students move on to individual or group tasks that allow the students to develop reading and the teacher to assess and teach reading. Some examples of learning activities would include literature circles discussions, guided reading, practice tasks/worksheets, word study activities, etc. The teacher’s role during this time is varied from day to day. Some days the teacher may be conferencing with individual students, others would be overseeing literature circles discussions, others running guided reading sessions, and others taking anecdotal notes on students’ work.
The session would then finish with a form of summary. This might include paired reading with pairs of students reading together, the teacher sharing observations, or students sharing work.
These workshop style lessons have also shown great success in my classroom with writing and I have occasionally tried this in my maths classroom too, with some success. I need to learn more about how this can work in the maths classroom. What I do know however, is that this approach to teaching and learning is one that engages the students, encourages independence with their learning, and allows for skills teaching, practice and assessment in a manner that makes sense.