Everything You Need to Know About Launching Reading Workshop

Everything You Need to Know About Launching Reading Workshop

So, you’ve decided to launch reading workshop, but maybe you aren’t sure where to start exactly. I was in that same place when I started teaching Reading Workshop quite a few years ago.

After taking my first training, I knew that Reading Workshop was something that aligned with my reading philosophy and could really be beneficial for my students. I loved the individualized and small group instruction that were built in and that it included a routine of independent reading where students self-selected books.

The problem with my Reading Workshop training was that while it provided me with a strong working knowledge of the components of reading workshop, like how to teach reading concepts using mini-lessons, it really didn’t give me step-by-step directions about how to get it started. I learned how to launch Reading Workshop by trial and error. After several years, I found a format that really worked for me and my students. That’s what I’ll share with you here.


Let’s Start With Reading Workshop Basics!

Reading Workshop usually has three parts:

1. Mini-Lesson – This is where you teach the whole class a short lesson with a narrow focus.

2. Independent Reading Time –  Each student reads a book of his/her choice and practices reading skills and strategies. This is also the time when you conference with several students each day or work with a small group of students to give focused instruction.

3. Share Time – Students meet back together to share how they applied a reading strategy or skill. They might also do “Book Talks” or the “Reader of the Day” might share a strategy that he/she is using well.


How to Start Reading Workshop?

If you’re like me, when you think about how to launch reading instruction, you might tend to start by focusing on the reading skills and standards that need to be met.  For example, you might think about things like finding character traits, identifying the theme, or determining the main idea.

All of those reading skills and standards will be covered but not right away.

Just like anything else in the classroom, routines and expectations need to be taught explicitly first. You’ll want to spend time focusing on routines and expectations as a foundation for the important reading lessons to follow.


Routines and Expectations are Taught the First Two Weeks!

Yep, a full two weeks of mini-lessons focusing on routines and expectations. This is a crucial element of creating an effective, well-run Reading Workshop.

Just like back to school time when we’re teaching students procedures for sharpening pencils, lining up, and how to turn in assignments, Reading Workshop routines and expectations help students know what to expect and which types of behaviors are acceptable and which behaviors aren’t. It also helps students know the “why” or reasoning behind the rules, which can help them have a better buy-in.

To do this, I like to use anchor charts, graphic organizers, mentor texts, and lots of role-playing/modeling to teach the desired behaviors and routines.

So, resist the urge to dive into the first reading concept unit on day one and trust the process.  Slowing down at the beginning of launching Reading Workshop will help it run more smoothly for the rest of the year.

Also, one thing you’ll need to remember is that as you’re directly teaching Reading Workshop routines, students will be practicing different parts of the Reading Workshop. They’ll be “doing” Reading Workshop while they’re learning routines as an active participant, not simply passively listening or watching.

Launching Reading Workshop Routines and Expectations

Which Routines and Expectations for Reading Workshop Should I Teach First?

Just like many things in teaching, there is no single “right” answer. I’ll share what I’ve found to be successful, but of course, you’ll want to customize what you do to fit the needs of your group of learners.

Here are the first 10 mini-lessons I teach for routines and expectations:

1. Introduction to Reading Workshop

2. Independent Reading Time

3. The Class Library

4. Choosing Books

5. Building Stamina

6. Setting Up the Reader’s Notebook

7. Reading Goals

8. Reading Response With Stop, Think, and Jot Notes (this is only one type of reading response that we do)

9. Reading Conferences (first day of reading conferences with individual students)

10. Share Time in Reading Workshop


Each of the routines and expectations mini-lessons listed above (and their related topics) are ones that you might want to revisit throughout the year as needed.

For example, if I notice something that becomes an issue during Reading Workshop, like noise level, wandering around during independent reading time, interrupting the teacher while she/he is working with an individual student or a group (I know, hard to believe!), then that issue may become a mini-lesson to reinforce behaviors that we need to make our reading time a better one for everyone.


Once routines and expectations mini-lessons are completed, you may have the urge to dive into grade level reading concepts, but hear me out…

Teaching students the reading comprehension strategies that EVERY reader needs to master is the best thing you could do for the second part of launching Reading Workshop.

These reading strategies will carry over to touch each reading skill and standard. Once students start to internalize how these strategies can help them read, you’ll see amazing increases in their reading comprehension.

Using the Visualizing Comprehension Strategy to Launch Reading Workshop

Reading Comprehension Strategies are Taught for Weeks Three and Four!

Here are the ten days of mini-lesson topics I teach for reading comprehension strategies:

1. Text to Self Connections

2. Text to Text Connections

3. Text to World Connections

4. Making Predictions

5. Making Inferences

6. Questioning

7. Visualizing

8. Determining Importance

9. Comprehension Monitoring

10. Synthesizing


These reading comprehension strategies will be ones that you refer to over and over throughout the year. They will be interwoven into every reading concept your students learn and every text they read. In my opinion, they are well-worth the two weeks you’ll spend to finish launching Reading Workshop.


You can create everything you need to launch Reading Workshop, but if you’re looking for a set of time-saving, print and digital resources, I have a set ready for you. It has anchor charts, graphic organizers, reader’s notebook materials, 4 weeks of lesson plans, bookmarks, posters, and more!

Click here to take a look at the Launching Reading Workshop unit!

Launching Reading Workshop


Now that you have a handle on what you’ll be teaching for the first month of Reading Workshop, maybe you’re wondering where you go from here?

If you’d like to plan out the grade level reading skills your students need for the year, I have a FREE set of pacing guides for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades that I’d love to share with you.

The pacing guides are organized by weeks and come in color, black and white, and in editable formats too, so you can tweak them to match your needs.




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