Making the Most of Reading Workshop

Written by Julie Wright & Barry Hoonan

The beginning of the school year is a great time to take stock in workshop—analyzing how we spend the learning time that we have during the reading block. If you want to launch and sustain small group learning opportunities, prioritizing a big chunk of time dedicated to student work time is key!

What Does Workshop Look Like?

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  • The Launch is quick, 5-7 minutes of orienting to the work of workshop.  This is a great time to activate schema and build excitement and purpose around the purpose of the work.  

  • The Minilesson is the time where we teach, model or show students something that will help lift their work on that day or across the learning progression, lasting approximately 9-11 minutes.

  • The Work Time is the time during workshop when students do the heavy lifting of reading, writing, thinking, talking, making, creating, designing and doing. This is when students practice being readers and writers--for real purposes and preferably a real audience. This is also a perfect time to meet with half groups, small groups or one-on-one with students.

  • The Debrief at the end of workshop gives students the opportunity to bookend bookend their thinking and learning through a 5 minute share out..  This is a great opportunity for students to talk and reflect about how they spent their reading time, new ideas that emerged, things they figured out, and plans for moving forward. 

Here’s an Example

Let’s take a look at a week-long learning progression where the goal is for students to read widely and deeply about a topic/inquiry of interest.  

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For more about workshop, check out Chapter 1 to learn more about high leverage use of time during reading workshop in  To analyze how much time readers are actually working, download this form

Kidwatching 2.0: Top 3 Moves for Real-time Assessment to Meet Every Student’s Needs

Kidwatching 2.0 is one of the BEST real-time assessment moves to meet every student’s needs. Click the link to read about 3 ways to bolster kidwatching!

Kidwatching 2.0: Top 3 Moves for Real-time Assessment to Meet Every Student’s Needs

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For more on Kidwatching—along with other moves to help create & sustain small group learning—check out What Are You Grouping For?

Short Texts: Inspiration for Writing

Short texts can be the inspiration behind student writing projects—and it doesn’t have to be complicated or take weeks to complete.


Earlier this week, I was working in a 3rd grade classroom. The week was choppy for both kiddos and teachers—1 day off for a holiday + 1 day of professional development + 1 fun field day. Part of our goal was to keep kiddos reading and writing, regardless of the schedule changes.

We read aloud Pencil A Story with a Point by Ann Ingalls. 3rd graders loved the kid-friendly puns woven across the pages! This word play opened up opportunities for pop-up, flexible small groups to discuss the meanings behind the words and phrases. It was exciting to see all of the meaning making happening across the classroom! As I listened into small group discussions, it became clear that kiddos might enjoy giving this a try through their own mini writing project. The result—beginning drafts of some pretty cool short stories using our read aloud as a mentor text.

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Here’s a strategy for using a short text as inspiration for writing.


  1. Grab a short text [picture book, short story, infographic, 2-page spread].

  2. Read the short text, stopping along the way to give students opportunities to discuss the text in small groups. NOTE: If your students are new to pop-up, flexible small groups, model how this looks, sounds and feels before having them give it a go. For more on small groups, check out What Are You Grouping For?, Grades 3-8: How to Guide Small Groups Based on Readers - Not the Book.

  3. To activate students’ writing muscles, brainstorm ideas together. Note: For Pencil A Story with a Point, we brainstormed a list of supplies that could become main characters in a story. 3rd graders came up with things such as tape, super glue, chalk, colored pencils, stapler, 3-hole punch, etc. We also brainstormed problem/solution ideas. We noodled around about questions such as:

    • Will the supplies get along or have conflict?

    • Will the supplies solve a problem or experience something new together?

    • Where will the story take place [setting]?

    • What are the different ways you could begin the story [once upon a time, dialogue, asking a question, etc.]

  4. Invite students to pick their favorite writing tool [pen, pencil], their favorite writing spot, and give them time to write! Note: Create a shared agreement with students regarding how long they will write. Give them a few minutes to settle in and then set a timer.

  5. As students write, use the classroom to collect data [observations, student work samples] AND respond by hosting small groups or one-to-one conversations as needed. Think about:

    • Who is on a roll with their writing? Who is slow to start?

    • Who has an interesting beginning that could be used as a model to help others?

    • Who needs to talk their ideas out before writing?

    • Who needs to draw some pictures about their ideas before writing?

  6. When the timer signals, give students 2 minutes to finish up their thoughts. Survey students to see who wants more time to write during a future workshop. Plan accordingly.

MANY ASK—Should these types of writing opportunities be edited? Published? Shared? That is up to you and your kiddos! Stay tuned—more about these questions will be forthcoming.

Short Texts: Increasing Eyes on Print

It’s a fact. The more we read, the better we get at reading. The more we increase the amount of time students’ eyes are on print, the better chance we have at impacting their reading muscles. If you want a quick strategy for increasing eyes on print while also piquing students’ interests, grab a short text!


  1. Grab a short text such as You Gotta Be Kidding! The Crazy Book of “Would You Rather” Questions.

  2. Read a few “Would You Rather” questions to the students, asking them to share out their preferences with the whole class or in small groups. NOTE: If your students are new to sharing out, model how this looks, sounds and feels before having them give it a go.

  3. To pique students’ interests, read the ditty on each page that gives readers a little more insight or information about the questions posed.

  4. Invite students to read more short pieces from this text during small group or independent reading time.


During a quick, short text read aloud, I shared You Gotta Be Kidding! The Crazy Book of “Would You Rather” Questions with 3rd graders. Kiddos were wrestling with the question:

Would you rather have a third eye in the middle of your forehead OR have three arms?

In small groups, kiddos worked on two things while sharing their preferences.

  1. Quickly sharing their response with group members, including their reason(s) for their choice.

  2. Actively listening, including showing respect for differing opinions.

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After our share time, I read the ditty at the bottom of the page which talked about a reptile called a tuatara (which resembles a lizard and snake put together) that has a third eye on its head. A few 3rd graders said they’d like to learn more about this reptile. This is exciting because this short text might lead to some students reading more about reptiles—increasing eyes on print AND adding new and exciting knowledge for students to carry forward.

Inspiring Student Ownership & Self-Efficacy: Start With Planning

Written by Julie Wright & Barry Hoonan

Looking for ways to inspire STUDENT OWNERSHIP and SELF-EFFICACY?

The proof is in the planning!

TRY THIS: When you are designing or co-designing instructional plans, size-up--or take stock of-- how the structure of time is being used across the workshop.  If your goal is for students to own the majority of the learning time, then look closely at what students will be up to (and how much time they will be spending) during the Work Time portion of the workshop.  We want to make sure that kiddos have at least 60% of the time so that they can read, write, think, talk, make, create and design = making their learning visible.  For more, check out Chapter 8 & 9 on planning in What Are You Grouping For?

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Ideas Worth Remembering--Part 2

Sometimes we grow our reading muscles in deeper and wider ways when we give a text a second read.


If you’ve shared a short text, such as a picture book, during read aloud and you want kiddos to give it another read OR kiddos have an interest in giving it another go, that’s a perfect time for students to use a note catcher or anchor chart to hold their thinking. Here’s one way to go about it:

  1. Read aloud a short text.

  2. Give students an opportunity to read the book a second time (the same day or following day)—either in small groups or individually.

  3. While students read or directly after, ask them to hold their thinking, capturing big ideas in ways that make sense to them.

  4. Using words, phrases, sentences, and pictures…

    • What do you already know about the topic or ideas featured in the text?

    • What are some ideas worth remembering?

Reading about the inventor of Crayola Crayons leads to exciting new knowledge!

Reading about the inventor of Crayola Crayons leads to exciting new knowledge!

Ideas Worth Remembering

Sometimes it’s the simple note catchers that help kiddos grow their reading muscles.


  1. Select a short text.

  2. Give students a copy of this note catcher. Note: Projecting a copy on the screen OR creating an anchor chart gives more visibility and opportunities for co-constructing meaning together in visible ways.

  3. Read the text together, making notes about “Ideas Worth Remembering” and any “Wonderings” related to the text.

  4. Decide if the short text leads to new inquiries new inquiries and the need/desire to read more about the same or related topics.


  1. Select a short text or ask students to select a short text to read.

  2. Give students a copy of this note catcher. Note: Giving students a clipboard allows for flexibility and mobility when working.

  3. Small groups or individual students read the text together, making notes about “Ideas Worth Remembering” and any “Wonderings” related to the text.

  4. Ask students if the reading leads to new inquiries and the need/desire to read more about the same or related topics.

Download a copy of this note catcher here to use with your students

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We LOVE lists.  We love making them.  We love living off of them.  Sometimes lists can feel stressful (too many things to do!) while other times they can make us feel productive (checking things off that we’ve accomplished.)   Look at this cute list!

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This is one of Julie’s favorite lists, written several years ago by her son who was home sick from school.  Julie remembers his Motrin had kicked in and he was feeling better and antsy. Julie had some work to do so she suggested he create a list to keep track of his day.  Julie recalls him checking things off one by one, even the rest time. She has fond memories of his two-part plan of either playing or resting from 3:00 to 4:00 depending on how he felt.  Julie’s son used his list to keep the day moving. He wanted to have a plan in place and he smiled with a sense of accomplishment as he checked things off as the day progressed. Not only did Noah create (produce) this list, he also read it (consume) which made this short text meaningful to him.

Lists are just one example of short texts. There are SO many and they are EVERYWHERE. Here are just a few:

  • Poem

  • Short story

  • Picture book

  • Infographic

  • Podcast

  • Script

  • Song Lyrics

My friend and colleague, Elizabeth Keim, and I are are working on a new project focusing on using SHORT TEXTS with students across the grade levels & subject areas.  If you, or anyone you know, would like to weigh in and share ideas and perspectives, we’d love to hear what you have to say!  


STAY TUNED—we have a new book coming out focused on SHORT TEXTS later this year!

Everyone Deserves a Thinking Partner...Especially Students!

Last week I wrote about a simple truth— we are smarter together. I also stated that learners, of all ages, deserve a THINKING PARTNER or multiple THINKING PARTNERSHIPS. If you want to read or re-read some of the big take-aways that thinking partnerships inspire, click HERE.

Everyone deserves a thinking partner…especially students! Facilitating a process where kiddos find THINKING PARTNERSHIPS has additional big take-aways, including some of these:

  • creating independence during reading & writing workshop

  • providing student-to-student support structures during workshop and across the school day

  • nurturing of new friendships & collaborations

  • increasing small group work (pairs, trios, 4-6 students) based on interests, inquiries, passions, habits, and needs.

Creating THINKING PARTNERSHIPS is the fun part! Finding different partnerships for different reasons to team up to support one another is important because one size fits all or one person fits all doesn’t work. Take a look at this planning grid—it can be used to drum up conversation and create connections for students to work with one another!

Reminder: Helping students revisit this planning grid regularly and switching up thinking partnerships often will increase the big take-aways listed above.

If you’d like to read more about Thinking Partners, check out Chapter 2 in my book What Are You Grouping For? How to Guide Small Groups Based on Readers—Not the Book.


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