Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Readers' and Writers' Begin

I'm often asked what you do in a Readers' Workshop and Writers' Workshop at the beginning of kindergarten. After all, most of the kids can't read and they can't really write much, so how do you begin? To answer that questions I thought I'd let you peek into one kindergarten classroom as they begin their Workshops on Day 2 of the new school year.

Elizabeth Conte and Randi Timmons began their Readers' Workshop with their youngsters gathered on the carpet as they talked and made a chart to illustrate the rituals and routines of the three parts of the Workshop. As they made the chart they explained that the Mini-lesson begins the Workshop with the teachers teaching and the students listening. They explained that the Work Time is the special time when students get to read! To convince their young kindergartners that they could already "read," they demonstrated "reading" a story by talking about the pictures in the book. Finally they talked about the Closing where one of the teachers or one of the "Princes" or "Princesses" got to tell what they learned as a reader. This first Mini-lesson took about 10 minutes. During the Work Period the students were invited to their table. In the middle of each table was a basket of genre books selected from the Genre Library (at right). After about 15 minutes of the students browsing through books in their basket, the teachers rang a simple bell to let the students know that it was time to clean up. "Clean up. Clean up everybody everywhere..." Finally the students were invited back to the carpet so the teachers could reinforce the same chart used in the mini-lesson once again. The Closing took about 5 minutes.

After a brief musical interlude (learning the motions to a jazzed up rendition of the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill), the students settled back down on the carpet for Writers' Workshop. This Workshop once again began with a Mini-lesson that reinforced the idea that everybody has a story to tell. As Mrs. Timmons told her own true story about her husband calling her the night before after he hurt his wrist playing baseball, Mrs. Conte drew the illustration.
After the teachers finished the story and picture, they gave the children some "think time" to come up with their own story idea. Children were released to their seats for Work Time as they thought of an idea. Even on this first day children quickly began drawing and writing and telling their story to their neighbors as they worked. They were anxious to share their stories as the teachers "made the rounds" and knelt down to listen. Not a single child was reluctant to get started! As the teachers rang the bell again, children began singing the "Clean Up" song because they knew that the signal meant that it was time to clean up. During the Closing several children proudly displayed their work and told their stories.

Even though these wee ones can't read and write in the traditional way yet, they love to look at pictures in books and try to make meaning. They also love to draw and tell about their lives. It's really not magic... or maybe it is!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was a perfect intro for readers and writers workshop. I started writers workshop last year during the middle of the year and was thrilled with the results. I can't wait to start both at the beginning of the year. Thank you!