The Title of This Session Hooked Me and Reeled Me In: Reflections from the All Write Institute — #5

After finding out that Kylene (Beers) and Bob (Probst) were not going to make it to the institute, I quickly looked at my choices and found this: “Structuring Reading Workshop for the Magic That Might Go Down” with Christy Rush-Levine. I was hooked! Who wouldn’t want some magic in their reading workshop? I know I need some new sparks to start next year off right. I sat near the front of the auditorium and watched; the magic unfolded right before my very eyes! Christy reeled me in — showing me that a reading workshop classroom, even in middle school and above, can be a desirous, illuminating, and magical place.

Christy started with the WHY (the theme of the institute). Why? Why do I have to do this? (Read, write, etc.) She shows her students that thinking about their understandings, making connections, and gathering ideas for their own writing is important. She takes the standards (never mentioning “standards” or “testing”) and shows them HOW they can achieve. “In response to a text, write down thinking for your favorite part, questions you have, connections you made…” When I looked at the standards for my first scheduled reading workshop in the fall, I could “check off” almost all of them by following her plan for students! For example, Standard 6.RL.2.1 (and its RN version) want students to “Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says and inferences drawn from the text.” By using metacognitive thinking to analyze and response writing to show  what they know about texts, I predict that my students will easily “pass” the formative assessments of the workshop.

Christy’s rules for response writing are simple: write (the whole time), write quickly (it’s not editing time), and relax, have fun, play! I love it! Relax, you can pass the standards! Have fun (I want to have fun in school again)! Play! More time to play and create leads to higher achievement. It’s true. (Administrators don’t look for that on their observations; they look for engagement. Same thing!)

Reading territories, assessments that follow students’ goals, reading ladders, and conferring with students kept the audience engaged. All the research — put into practical practice — helps students meet the goals. I learned that classroom teaching can be enjoyable and manageable again. Christy reminded me of what it was like to be a student; she told me that I can bring the joy of reading and writing back to my classroom. It’s not a trick — the MAGIC happens! So inspiring!