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Reader’s Workshop helps kids become avid, lifelong readers

March 30, 2016

Students in Alissa MacDonald's class read outside earlier this year.

Students in Alissa MacDonald’s class read outside earlier this year.

Teachers in South Glens Falls are working to make the experience of learning to read not just about syllables and sounds, but a lifelong pursuit full of curiosity and intrigue.

The program, which is part of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, was created to help young people become avid and skilled readers, writers and inquirers. Many students in grades kindergarten through grade 5 are participating in Reading Workshop. Next year all elementary students will be participating following a one-year pilot program this year.

The basics of the classroom instruction are simple: students participate in a skills-based mini lesson that focuses on a variety of reading strategies. After the mini lesson, students have time to practice the skill by independently reading or partner reading at their own independent reading level.

Book tags“Reader’s Workshop provides our students the opportunity every day in class to build their vocabulary and comprehension at their own pace,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction Kristine Orr. “Students are able to select high-interest books that are geared to their current levels, and this is improving their overall interest and reading skills.”

One of the aspects of the program includes all kindergarten students learning “Super Powers” to become better readers, explains Ballard kindergarten teacher Dianne Petteys. They have “re-read power, partner power, picture power, snap word power, persistence power, book talk power and pattern power,” just to name a few!

“Students gain a strong foundation with the necessary skills to be successful readers,” Petteys said. “Their personal book levels are continuing to jump as their fluency gets stronger.”

Our district’s educators are not the only ones who believe Reading Workshop is a good way to learn.

“My favorite part of Reader’s Workshop is that we get to learn different techniques about reading and then once we’ve been taught, we get to try them out ourselves on a book we choose!” said fifth-grade student Daphe, who is in Alissa MacDonald’s class at Harrison.

Students reading in Tina Hayes' kindergarten classroom.

Students reading in Tina Hayes’ kindergarten classroom.

Fifth-grade students work in “book clubs,” reading their own selected books independently and then discussing them with the students in their group.

“This student-generated discussion can lead to unique insights and time to think about what they are reading,” said Shelley Fenton, the district’s K-5 literacy coach.

Gavin, another student in MacDonald’s class says that’s one of his favorite parts, “Reader’s Workshop gives us time to write down what we thought about a book and make theories about a book.”

“The implementation of Reader’s Workshop is helping our students in grades 3-8 perform better on the New York State Assessments,” Orr said, explaining that our district is not teaching to the test. “We are teaching our students with what we believe is one of the best instructional strategies out there. Reader’s Workshop not only prepares our students to succeed, it makes the learning process fun, creative and rewarding.”

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