A teacher recently said to me, “I have a group of four boys who won’t commit to a book. Every time I turn around, they’re in the library.” Then, in almost a whisper, she continued, “I know I’m not supposed to do this, but I picked a book for them and I’m reading it with them in a small group.”
Clearly this teacher recognizes the importance of choice and independent reading as integral components of the reading workshop. But here she is being covert, feeling like she is sneaking around the dark alleys of the reading workshop. It makes me wonder, how many times do teachers forsake good, differentiated instruction for purity?
Great reading workshops consist of some combination of mini lesson, independent reading, small group instruction, conferences, and share. Workshop teachers know that the goal is to get children to read more pages, more often in books that match their ability level. They know that with their expert guidance students will grow and soar as readers. But probably the thing workshop teachers know best is that at the heart of all instruction are readers. The most effective workshops are the ones where teachers recognize children’s needs and provide instruction that meets those needs.
As we break for the winter holidays, I leave you with this thought: When you feel like you may be committing crimes against literacy, go back to the basics. Ask yourself, “Am I doing what is best for the child? Am I helping this child to increase his/her reading volume and reading power? If the answer is yes, then absolve yourself and know that your instruction is on the right track.