Saturday, March 16, 2013

Small Group Work in Reading and Writing Workshop-- Yes You Can!

I am obsessed with reading and writing workshop.  I love how it allows for students' individualized learning, an opportunity for specialized conferences, fosters 21st century learning and especially that is offers students' choice in what they read and write.  With third graders, though, I find that I still need time for small group work.  As you can imagine, this is challenging in a workshop model.  I think I found a way to make it work!

I still begin every lesson with a focus lesson straight from the standards.  Right now, students are working on their narrative pieces in writing workshop so my lessons have been focused on revising narratives.  In reading workshop, my students are working on literature projects so my mini lessons have been centered around story elements.  After the mini lesson I do a quick status of the class and students get right to work with their reading or writing.  This is when I begin some small group work before I hold individual conferences.

During the small group, I think it is important for students to be able to continue working on their same reading projects with their novel or writing projects with their piece of writing.  This feel much more authentic than having children discuss a different book like a guided reading format or work through a worksheet unrelated to their writing work.

During reading small groups, it's important for kids to discuss a common text and do their work around this text.  We focus on our read aloud and then kids leave with some work to do with their own novel.  This helps them go through the I do, we do, you do process and keep them focused on their own reading.  Since we are working on understanding literature, I can have each group work on a similar focus like comprehension strategies, but with a specific focus.  For example one group might work on summarizing and another group might work on synthesizing.  

During writing small groups, kids can discuss their own piece of writing and analyze it around a central skill that the whole group needs work on.  For example since we are working on narrative writing, the mini lessons might all be around style.  One group might focus on adding voice while another group might focus entirely on figurative language.

I have designed a routine of six lessons for each specific small group focus.
Here are a few images of the materials I have set up my classroom.

For Play it!

 For the writing rotations: Write it!, Post it!, and Know it?

For Quiz It!

Once I have worked with one or two small groups for the day, I can spend some time conferencing with about 4 kids.  This means I have worked with about half my class in one day on specific skills while the other half is immersed in meaningful reading and writing.

Finally we end the workshops with either an author's chair in writing workshop or time to buzz about books in reading workshop.

My kids are loving these small groups and I finally feel like I can teach with an authentic workshop model AND meet with my students on specific skills regurlarly!

Although I am working on specific small group lessons for my units of study, I have decided to offer the frame of these lessons for FREE!  You can download it here.  Currently, I have my comprehension pack, analyzing text pack, and writing with style pack ready and am working on many others.  Please follow my store on TpT if you are interested in these ready made small group rotations for the workshop model.  I finally have Reading Workshop Small Group Work for the Entire Year ready to go and am working on the Writing Workshop bundle.

What are some creative additions you have used with your workshops?

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


  1. I found your blog through Manic Monday. Cute ideas! :)

  2. Engaging ideas. I used peer critique groups with my high school creative writing classes. They worked really well.

    Beautiful site, ladies.

  3. Great ideas for reading and writing workshop!

    Reading Toward the Stars

  4. You use some interesting and engaging strategies to keep your students interested! Have a great week.