A successful Readers’ Workshop has a lot to do with building a community of readers in your classroom. Cultivating this community will help students feel connected to one another, excited about learning and growing as readers in that classroom environment, and accepting of themselves as competent, confident decision makers who will have voice and choice in your classroom. When nurturing a community or readers, think about:
- Creating warm cozy places for individuals, pairs, and small groups to interact
- Engaging students in non-competitive, team-building games that help students get to know each other and develop friendships
- Generating opportunities for students to create classroom adornments together (murals, puzzles, signs for the room, etc.) to encourage collective ownership of the room
- Encouraging students to think about who they are as readers including beloved authors, favorite genres, and personal reading goals
Building a community is all about planning experiences that strengthen connections among students while providing opportunities for each individual child to shine and "be" who they are.
Nurturing your community of readers and learners begs attention to the physical environment, learning experiences, and purpose for instructional decisions. Make the classroom environment familiar and make the familiar novel! Create learning experiences and environments that are provocative, dynamic, and engaging. Construct relevant and meaningful reading tasks and routines for your students.
Set Up a Beautiful Classroom Library
Developing a dynamic and engaging classroom library will help breathe life into your growing Readers’ Workshop community. A lovingly constructed classroom library fosters excitement, discourse, and stamina during independent reading. Create an inviting space for your library in a prominent section of your classroom. Consider a location where student browsing will not disturb other students.
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Organize your classroom library by genre, author, series, topic, and interest. No more than 1/3 of your library should be leveled, if it all. Arrange books for easy browsing by students by housing them in clearly labeled bins, baskets, or shoe boxes with book covers facing out. Creatively label bins to entice students to dive into collections they might normally overlook.
Help Students Access their Reading
You can help students become confident, engaged, independent readers by ensuring ready access to just-right texts. Provide each student with an individual bag or bin in which to keep his or her just-right books. Label the book bags or bins with student names and house them centrally in the classroom or in/on each student’s desk. If students have little experience selecting just-right texts, consider starting the year with pre-selected books that have been matched to student level and interest presented in “mini collections” in bins
on student tables. Confer frequently with students to provide explicit instruction and support for independent text selection during the launch.
You can help your students understand the purpose of independent reading, the role of the classroom library, and the ways in which they can contribute to the classroom community of readers through explicit modeling during mini lessons. One key mini lesson to include in your launch is “choosing just-right books.” During this lesson, model for students quick strategies for choosing a book that is at an appropriate reading level and of interest to them.
A third possible lesson can help students choose independent reading spots around the classroom. Ideally, students select their own independent reading spots in the classroom with your guidance. Allowing student choice may result in you finding readers under desks, snuggled among pillows, tucked in crevices between bookshelves, or perched on your special rocking chair. If self-selected reading spots are not an option, independent reading at student desks works too. Ensure that students find a spot that is comfortable and free from distractions for independent reading. Try mapping these reading places on a class chart with a rotating schedule for highly desirable spots around the room.
Be sure to include a lesson in which you explicitly model expectations for the sights and sounds of independent reading. In your modeling, demonstrate actual reading or engagement in purposeful reading experiences (e.g. writing about your reading in a Reader’s Notebook), building up stamina for independent reading over time (e.g. challenging yourself with a timer), and understanding the reader’s job during a reading conference.
When modeling, consider your tolerance for noise, movement, and interaction during independent reading. Productive noise suggests reading partnerships, book talk, and peer support. These are great ways to grow your community of readers!
If you are willing to nurture these productive murmurs during independent reading, be sure to explicitly model what you expect students to talk about, the volume at which you expect them to talk, and the balance of these experiences to individual reading during the workshop. Remember, if you don’t model it, don’t expect it!
A few other key lessons to model include discussing favorite books and authors, book pass, making book recommendations, decorating