Reading and Writing Workshop

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Great things happen at schools when theory and practice intersect.  At Wonderland, we are improving teaching and learning by becoming a Reading and Writing Workshop school.  Working with Dahlia Dallal, founder of Literacy Partners, an educational professional development provider focused on improving the teaching of reading and writing in schools, our teachers are tapping into the power of literacy to educate, empower and inspire our students.

The mission of Reading and Writing Workshop is to help young people become avid and skilled readers, writers, and inquirers. We accomplish this goal through research, curriculum development, and through working shoulder-to-shoulder with students, teachers, and school leaders. The professional development with our teachers has developed state-of-the-art tools and methods for teaching reading and writing, for using performance assessments and learning progressions to accelerate progress, and for literacy-rich content-area instruction.  Teachers devote countless hours of grade level meetings and professional development meetings to participating in an intense, collaborative think-tank to develop mini-lessons and units of study. In the reading and writing lab sites, an expert/facilitator works with the students and teachers so that the participating teachers can learn the structures, methods and expectations for a rigorous reading/writing workshop. During labsites, experts models minilessons, conferences, and small group work. Also the facilitator shows participating teachers how to adapt instruction based on quick assessments of students, and to tailor teaching plans and methods based on assessment. Teachers and experts then become co-researchers, observing what students do as readers and writers, developing and pursuing inquiry questions, imagining how students might work independently and in partnerships as readers and writers, studying and developing a discourse about texts, and planning teaching strategies to help students learn.

Our work with reading and writing begins with a commitment to giving students large chunks of time engaged in reading books of their own choosing at their own reading level (ones that they can read with fluency and comprehension).  Mountains of data confirm that in order for students to progress as readers, they must have abundant time to read. Teachers begin the year by assessing their students to learn the level of text complexity that each child can handle (on an A-Z scale) and then channeling kids towards texts they can read.  Most students select a stack of books, keeping these close on hand in book bins or baggies, so they can progress from one book to another without wasted time. Students read in school and continue reading at home, carrying books between home and school. Students keep reading logs in which they record the data on their progress through books and the time spent reading, studying this data alongside teachers to ascertain patterns in their reading.  In writing, we encourage students to write about topics of their own choice as this promotes choice and independence!  The research shows that writers only get better at writing by writing!  For this reason we encourage them to write every single day in school and at home.  Our 3-5th grade students have their own special writers notebooks and our K-2 students have their own special writing folders.

Readers make their thinking about texts visible by talking and writing about texts. Teachers study what their readers do, and consider goals that are within reach yet rigorous.  Then in writing, writers work on their own pieces going through the stages of the process, studying what published authors do and then setting goals for themselves as writers.  Teachers give feedback that helps readers and writers understand the progress they have made, and that which they still need to make, helping readers and writers grasp onto important goals and work, deliberately practicing, so they become more proficient.