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Reading Workshop: What It Looks Like in My Classroom

P1000945Richard Allington believes that effective elementary literacy instruction incorporates six common features.  He labels them as the Six Ts.

They are time, texts, teaching, talk, tasks, and testing

His many studies make it clear that students need lots of time to read. It's also important that the time spent reading is done in texts that are "just right" for the students. Explicit teaching of reading strategies and skills followed by meaningful tasks are at the heart of what he believes readers need. He also emphasizes the importance of providing time for readers to engage in authentic talk about their books. Finally, he believes testing should not be used to define students but rather to guide a teacher's instruction so that she can help her readers grow. 

I believe wholeheartedly in the philosophy of reading workshop because, if executed effectively, it allows teachers to seamlessly incorporate these Six Ts into their reading instruction on a daily basis. While it has taken me years to feel entirely comfortable with this reading workshop, I can't imagine another way of teaching reading that would as effectively meet the needs of my readers.

Read on to view a VIDEO of a typical day of reading workshop in our classroom, find tips for workshop management, get new ideas for assigning and managing independent reading tasks, and check out links to reading workshop printables.

Reading Workshop Video

Take a peek into our classroom on a typical day during reading workshop. See the three components (Mini-lesson, Independent Reading, and Closing) in action.

Components of Reading Workshop

The Mini-Lesson

Each Reading Workshop session begins with a mini-lesson that lasts approximately 1015 minutes. During each mini-lesson, the teacher introduces a specific concept, also known as the teaching point. Most often, the teaching point focuses on a reading strategy or skill.  The teacher will explicitly model or demonstrate the skill for the students.

Students then get a chance to practice the skill or strategy on their own or with a partner.  This part of the mini-lesson is called the active engagement.


Teaching Tools

P1080652 Chart paper is great to use when recording or keeping track of student ideas and when modeling tasks for students during the mini-lesson.  However, I often find it limiting during times when I want to organize information into tables and Venn diagrams or when I want to refer to a specific task sheet that I expect students to complete on their own during independent reading time.  For this reason, I often use Microsoft Word to make poster-size versions of graphic organizers or informational posters.  Many times during the active engagement part of the mini-lesson, I want to model for students how to do a task that they will be expected to do on their own that day.  As a class, we complete the task together using a blown-up (poster size) version of the recording sheet so that all students can easily see the work I am doing.

If you are interested in doing this yourself, just click on the "properties" tab before choosing to print a document, and find the option for 2x2 poster printing.  Of course you will have to glue the four pieces of paper together to create the poster.  I also put them on poster board to make them more durable.  The best part is that the posters are now reusable if you laminate them!! I write on them with a Vis-à-Vis overhead projector marker and then just clean them off and store them for the following year when I teach the same lesson.


Talking Partners

Talk partnersI assign my students talking partners at the beginning of the year.  These students always sit next to each other on the carpet during reading mini-lessons and class read-alouds. Whenever I ask students to "turn and talk" during the active engagement part of a mini-lesson, they can quickly position themselves knee-to-knee with this person and have a quick conversation about whatever I ask them to discuss.  Unlike reading partners who need to be at a similar reading level in order to actually read common texts, talking partners can be at different levels of reading ability.  I do not like to change talking partners more than four times a year because I want the partners to build a level of comfort and trust with each other so that their discussions can be open and honest.  Assigning talking partners is a great management strategy because it saves a great deal of time during a mini-lesson or read-aloud.  There is no confusion about who to turn and talk with, as students are able to quickly turn to their talking partner without hesitation.


Mentor Texts

There is nothing better than using mentor texts when modeling reading strategies or when teaching students to notice literary devices and story elements.  I plan my read-alouds strategically so that I have previously read aloud any book that I want to refer to during a mini-lesson.  It is important to point out that the read-aloud is separate from your mini-lesson.  While mentor texts are powerful teaching tools, remember that a mini-lesson is only 1015 minutes long.  Referring to or rereading small parts of a text that has been previously read aloud is better than making the entire read-aloud part of your mini-lesson.  The longer your mini-lesson lasts, the less time students will have to practice the strategy while reading their self-selected books.


Ideas for Mini-Lessons

In our district, teachers are working together at each grade level to write units of study for Reading Workshop.  These units of study include sequentially organized sets of mini-lessons that focus on skills and strategies students are expected to use when reading independently.  I would encourage you to collaborate with colleagues at your grade level to plan your own units of study that incorporate the skills you expect of your readers.  Many of our units are in-depth studies of a specific genre of text.

There are also some great books out there that include mini-lessons that can be used for a variety of grade levels.

Revisiting the Reading Workshop: This Scholastic book has mini-lessons for the first 30 days.

Revisiting Book

Workshops That Work!: This Scholastic book is geared toward grades 4+, but it also provides sequential mini-lessons for the first 30 days.

Workshops book

Frank Serafini also wrote a book called Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days. In the book, he provides month-by-month strategies for running a reading workshop across an entire year. Another great book that he has written is called Lessons in Comprehension. In it he includes 64 of the most effective comprehension lessons from his own teaching career. For primary grades, Kathy Collins's book Growing Readers is a great option for finding more ideas for suggested units of study throughout the school year.


Individualized Daily Reading (IDR)

During this time students are engaged in self-selected texts at their independent level.  They use this time to practice the skills that are taught during the mini-lessons.  Students read in book nooks around the room while the teacher holds individual reading conferences or meets with small groups of students for guided reading, strategy lessons, or book clubs.



Book Nook Rotation Chart

Book nooksIn my classroom, students are allowed to read in different places around the classroom rather than being confined to their desks.  The place they choose to read is called their "book nook."  There are many comfy places to read in our classroom including a couch, dish chairs, dice stools, and beanbags.  While it is great to have so many comfortable options for independent reading, it can also lead to arguments over who gets to read in the extra special pieces of furniture.  For this reason, we have a book nook rotation schedule in our classroom.  A labeled picture for each special book nook is printed on a vertical banner.  On the left side of the banner next to the book nooks are clips with each student's name and number.  The clips are rotated every day after reading workshop so that all students get to enjoy each book nook an equal number of times throughout the school year.  Knowing where they will read each day allows students to transition very quickly from the mini-lesson to IDR time.


Shopping for Books at the Classroom Library

P1080418 In my classroom, students are not allowed to "shop" for books during independent reading time. Instead they must choose books (when necessary) during our morning work period or even during recess if I am not on duty. I tell my students that their book box should have enough books inside to last them at least two weeks.  This means they are certainly not visiting the classroom library on a daily basis. If a student finishes his or her books during independent reading time, he must reread his books on that day. My 3rd graders are expected to be prepared for workshop every day. That means they are encouraged to shop for new books when they know that they have fewer than two days' worth of reading material left. Making this "no shopping during independent reading time" rule a few years ago really improved the reading environment in my classroom. Readers are not distracted by the inevitable talking that takes place among classmates browsing books at the library, and my small group lessons during that time are now much more productive without the disruption of book shopping.


Talking Back to Books on Sticky Notes

Sticky note pages While there are times when I provide students with a specific handout on which to record their thinking, there are many other times when I just want them to write about their reading on sticky notes as they make their way through their books.  I tell my students to "talk back" to their books as they read.  Whenever they talk back to their book, they leave a sticky note on that page.  Some students have a hard time understanding how to talk back to their books, so they might use the "Talking Back to Books" prompt sheet to get started.  I often ask students to refer to these sticky notes when I confer with them individually about their reading.

Although I confer with students often, I can't be there with them during every book they read.  For this reason, I ask them to take the sticky notes out of their books when they are done and attach them to a "Sticky Note Tracker Sheet" that is then added to their Reader's Notebook.  This way I can see the thinking that is taking place on a regular basis and use it as a tool to guide my individual conversations and necessary instruction with specific students.


The Reader's Notebook


Check back soon for my next post, which will be dedicated specifically to my Reader's Notebook. I will reveal the different sections I include in my students' notebooks, explain how I use them as an assessment tool, and provide links to download many of my Reader's Notebook files.


Guided Reading & Strategy Lessons

GuidedWhile students are reading self-selected texts from their book boxes during IDR time, I am busy, too.  If I am not conferring with students individually, I am usually meeting with them in guided reading groups or strategy groups.  Click on the Guided Reading vs. Strategy Lessons handout to see what makes strategy groups different from guided reading groups.

Guided reading groups contain students who are all reading at the same level.  The teacher provides them with a common text at their instructional level, introduces the book, and points out important text features, tricky vocabulary, or essential story elements.  She then listens in as students read the book to themselves.  The lesson is followed up with a teaching point and some additional modeling of a strategy the teacher feels is necessary based on her observations.  Strategy Lesson Planning SheetOn the other hand, a strategy lesson can be made up of readers from many different levels who are all struggling with the same skill or strategy.  I usually have the students use books from their book box to practice the skill or strategy I am modeling for them.  Strategy lessons take the form of a short mini-lesson but only with a few readers. 

You may be asking, how do you come up with ideas for strategy lessons?  I use this Strategy Lesson Planning Sheet. Whenever I confer with a reader, administer a formal assessment (DRA, Fountas and Pinnell, etc.), or meet with students in a guided reading group, I keep track of skills with which certain students are struggling.  When more than two students are struggling with the same skill, that becomes a future strategy group lesson with those students.  (Some strategy lessons I have already taught this year include "reading through periods/not paying attention to punctuation," "rereading when meaning breaks down," "using appropriate decoding strategies," "recording books properly in reader's notebook," "talking back to books effectively," etc.)


Independent Reading Self-Checklist

Checklist When a teacher chooses to implement Reading Workshop in her classroom, it means giving up some control and giving more responsibility to the student readers.  Many teachers feel as though students in a reading workshop are not held accountable on a daily basis.  Of course there are usually daily tasks, and teacher is also still meeting with students in individual conferences and in guided reading and strategy groups.  However, it is impossible to check in with every student every day.  For this reason, I use a self-checklist that students are asked to complete during the last two minutes of workshop everyday before returning to the carpet for the closing.  As a class, the students helped me create a list of the four to five most important things they believe they should be doing during IDR time.  At the end of each week, students hand in their self-checklists so that I can look them over.  In some instances I use the information to address concerns with specific students during upcoming reading conferences.  I then send the completed checklists home for parents to see as well.

Download IDR Self-Checklist



This is a 510 minute time period in which students gather back on my reading carpet to reflect on their work as readers.  I make sure to reinforce my teaching point for the day and emphasize the importance of continuing to use the strategy that I taught whenever they read from now on.  I also give students a chance to share their reading work.  Since I certainly do not have time every day for every reader to share, I vary the way I allow my students to share.  Below are some options for the closing share.  (Remember, I do not do all of these every day!)

Reading Partner Share

A quick way to provide time for all students to share the work or the thinking they did during IDR time is to have them quickly turn and talk with their reading partner to reflect on their reading work or discuss the reading task.


Reader of day Reader of the Day

Sometimes I will highlight a specific reader who has done the reading task very well or who I notice is successfully using a reading strategy I have taught in previous lessons.  That student will share her work or model the strategy she used for the class.  I even have a cheap little "Reader of the Day" trophy that is awarded to these students who do exceptional reading work.  They get to keep the trophy at their desk for the day.  It is considered a top honor in our classroom.



Revisit Chart From Mini-Lesson

There are times when the reading task is an extension of a chart or a discussion we started during the mini-lesson.  As students read, they are expected to think more about the concept and then be able to add to the chart when we return for the closing.  Their ideas may simply be added on sticky notes they created while they read so that I do not have to spend too much time writing all of their additional ideas.


Link to Home Reading

My students are expected to read at least 15 minutes at home every night.  I often remind them to use the new strategy or concept that I taught during the current day's mini-lesson while they are reading at home.  On some days, I even ask them to continue the IDR task at home.  On these days, they will bring home their Reader's Notebook so that they can record their thinking as they read their required 15 minutes outside of school.


Keeping Yourself Organized

It can be challenging to plan ahead and keep all of the components of reading workshop organized on a daily basis.  When I first started implementing reading workshop, this Reading Workshop Planning Sheet was helpful to use so that I knew exactly what I was doing each day.  Of course, I do not meet with two groups and confer with four readers every day, so I only fill in what I am planning to accomplish.

RW Planning Sheet


Assessment in the Reading Workshop

This is a complicated topic, as there are so many ways to assess your readers on a regular and "as needed" basis.  I will discuss the many ways that I assess my readers in a separate post in the near future.  Check back soon!


More Reading Workshop Links

More About Reading Workshop in My Classroom

Books About Reading Workshop

Posters of the Three Components of Reading Workshop (as seen below)

Mini%20Lesson poster

 IDR poster



You can also check out Angela Bunyi's awesome Reading Workshop Video in the video player section of Teaching Matters!


If you don't want to miss upcoming posts about the Reader's Notebook and Assessment in the Reading Workshop, subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog!



  • #1 Jeanell

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 11:05 PM

    Beth, first let me say that I have enjoyed following your blogs this year. You provide so much useful information. I can barely keep up!

    I would really like to implement Reading Workshop next year (August), but I can't find time in the schedule. We are required to teach SRA for 60 minutes and our 90 minute reading block must consist of whole group instruction of the adopted reading series and centers which consist of word study, guided reading, and computer activities. We also use Accelerated Reader and students are given 20 minutes of A.R. time, which consists of reading books and taking tests on those books.

    Do you think 30 minutes is enough for Reading Workshop, if it is to be implemented effectively?

    Thanks again,


  • #2 Kristen

    Thursday, June 03, 2010 at 06:25 PM


    Thanks for all of your inspiring ideas! I am very interested in using the reading workshop framework in my classroom, but I have a relatively small classroom library. The books that I do have are leveled and divided into book boxes by authors. Also, I am fortunate to have a very well organized school library. Every book is labled with the AR (accelerated reader) level and color coded appropriately. Additionally, each student is given a range of color coded dots that suite their reading ability according to a formal reading assessment conducted every 6 weeks. Will this resource make up for my small classroom library? If students choose books within their color coded range, will this qualify as a "just right" book? Also, do you encourage students to pick a variety of literature for their book boxes?



  • #3 Lillian

    Wednesday, June 02, 2010 at 04:38 PM

    I was wondering how do you teach vocabulary in Reading Workshop?

  • #4 Beth Newingham

    Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 12:05 PM


    You asked about the "colored bins" I use in my class library. I'm not sure if you mean the baskets in which I store the library books or the book bins in which students store the books that they choose to read. Both things were purchased from

    Here are links to the specific items:
    Book baskets:

    Book Boxes/Bins:

    I hope this helps!


  • #5 Grace

    Friday, April 16, 2010 at 07:28 AM


    Sorry...I got confused as to who I was writing. Beth, not Angeal. Just got to work so I'll blame it on that!

  • #6 Grace

    Friday, April 16, 2010 at 07:26 AM


    I have some money to spend from my school in the next few weeks. I was going to buy some book bins for my library. If you remember, where do you get the colored bins in your library?


  • #7 Beth Newingham

    Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 07:07 AM

    New Teacher (comment #82),

    I understand your challenge! When I first started implementing a reading workshop in my own classroom, I was the only teacher doing it. I too faced questions from my fellow colleagues about this "different" approach and how it would truly prepare my students for standardized tests. I knew that a reading workshop approach to teaching reading was by far the best way to turn my students into authentic readers. Giving them book choice, time to read and practice the strategies I was teaching in books at their own level seemed to me to be the only way to conduct an effective reading program in my classroom. Here is a great article that supports the fact that a reading workshop not only effectively prepares students for standardized testing, but it truly enables students to practice authentic reading and writing for sustained periods of time while honing the skills that will make them lifelong readers. Here is a link to the article:

    You also mentioned that you are finding it hard to implement a reading workshop with a limited amount of books and materials for guided reading. If you check out my classroom library post, you will find a variety of inexpensive ways to collect more books for your clasroom library. Here is a link to that post:

    In terms of collecting more books for guided reading, grant writing is a great way to get more money for reading workshop materials! There are usually district foundations of education that will fund projects. Also, national sites such as Donors Choose can help out as well. If your principal is on board, you may also be able to talk him or her into purchasing sets of guided reading books that can be shared by all teachers at your school. Here is a link to Scholastic's awesome guided reading materials:

    They have very extensive collections of both fiction and nonfiction book sets available to purchase at very competitive prices!


  • #8 Beth Newingham

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 04:16 PM


    You mentioned that you would love to do reading workshop, but your principal insists on having you use the basal. The "basal" issue is one that I am approached about often. When I first began experimenting with reading workshop in my classroom, most teachers in my district were still using the basal we had adopted years ago. I had also been using the basal since it was the only thing that was provided to new teachers (in terms of a reading curriculum) when I started teaching in my district 10 years ago.

    Even when teachers are using a basal text, there are still sequential lessons incorporated into units of study that are presented to students each month. When I first began transitioning from the basal text to a reading workshop approach, I tried turning the basal lessons into mini-lessons. Perhaps this is an approach you might be able to take. I was, in a sense, teaching the basal content within the structure of a reading workshop. I ended up reading aloud many of the stories in the basal text that students were expected to read on their own. I then used them as mentor texts and referred to them when teaching my mini-lessons. Since the stories in a basal text are often "one size fits all," I did not feel bad about using them as a read aloud or even as a shared text. The stories were often well above or well below the students' "just right" reading levels in my classroom, so using them as read-aloud texts or shared reading texts made the most sense to me. I would teach the content I was expected to teach from the basal, but my students would practice using those skills and strategies in their own self-selected books from my classroom library.

    While a basal text can be restrictive when trying to implement an authentic reading workshop, it certainly does not make it impossible. Creativity and flexibility on the part of the classroom teacher becomes essential to making it work!

    You also mentioned that your students were given 30 minutes to read each day specifically for the purpose of Accelerated Reader. While I do not have much experience with Accelerated Reader, I do know that it can lead students to believing that the purpose for reading is to eventually take a test. Less emphasis is placed on the pure enjoyment of reading. My co-blogger, Angela Bunyi, wrote a great blog entry about this specific topic. Check it out:
    Perhaps you can reference it in an attempt to help your principal see a bigger picture when it comes to reading instruction.

    Good luck with your future reading workshop endeavors, and thanks for reading and responding to my blog!


  • #9 Beth Newingham

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 04:04 PM


    You asked about when I teach language arts, grammar, etc. Here is a link to my daily schedule that shows when I teach each subject area:

    When you see morning work (first thing in the morning), that is usually a grammar-related activity. Let me know if you have any questions!


  • #10 Tonya

    Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    Hi, Beth,
    I am curious about how and when you teach Language Arts - Grammar, etc...

  • #11 New Teacher

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 08:19 PM

    Hi Beth!

    Thank you for all of your posts and blogs. I am a follower of your blogs and am SO glad I found your website! It's provided me with so much valuable information that have shared with my colleagues. I am currently implementing RW in my 1st grade classroom. However, it is my first year teaching and it is very difficult because I am one of the only teachers currently trying out this format (I have a friend using it in a higher grade as well). I really don't have anyone to go to for advice on RW, and I know other teachers are concerned to switch because of standardized testing scores being so great the past few years.What do you use for Guided Reading? Our school's library is rather small and does not have enough resources for me to pull from each week. I'm currently using the Basal books for guided reading, as that is all I have to use. What would you suggest? Also, how do I explain to other teachers, that our test scores can still be great, even if we use a different format for teaching reading. I truly believe in RW and do NOT want to use the basal curr. Thanks for all you do! You're awesome!

  • #12 Bethany Musslewhite

    Monday, March 08, 2010 at 10:39 PM


    WOW!!! Your classroom is awesome! I have watched your video several times and am amazed!! I would love to do reader's workshop, but our principal insists on the basal. The students do read independently for about 30 minutes for accelerated reader every day. I wondered if you had any suggestions for working in mini lessons during that time?

  • #13 Beth Newingham

    Friday, March 05, 2010 at 06:14 PM


    Here is a better link for Scholastic's awesome guided reading materials/leveled book sets:

    They have very extensive collections of both fiction and nonfiction book sets available to purchase at very competive prices!


  • #14 Beth Newingham

    Wednesday, March 03, 2010 at 04:52 PM


    You asked about books that I use for guided reading groups. My district actually purchased sets of leveled books from MacMillan/McGraw Hill that I use, along with book sets I have purchased from Scholastic.

    Scholastic does sell sets of great guided reading books. They are all leveled using the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading levels. Here is a link to all of the guided reading materials on the Scholastic website:

    Thanks for posting!!


  • #15 Amanda

    Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 02:29 AM

    Hi Beth! I love your ideas and simple, down to earth instruction regarding literacy and the reading workshops.

    I teach in a 3rd/4th grade multiage class at an international school in Japan. My administrator is on board with reading workshop (woohoo!) and has given me permission to order resources for next year. I have a fairly extensive personal classroom library, so I was interested in your thoughts about what to use for guided reading groups. We do not currently have a basal but we do have an A-Z reading website subscription. I was hoping for something more permanent for year after year use.

    Thanks again, and keep up the encouraging posts. You make a difference!

  • #16 Beth Newingham

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 08:08 AM


    I am currently working with other teachers in my dstrict to write units of study for reading workshop. That is what I am using for the mini-lessons I teach in my classroom. Unfortunately, I am unable to post those lessons here on this blog. However, there are some great resources for reading workshop grades K-5 at the Denver Public School website. Here is a link to their reading and writing workshop units of study:


  • #17 Sarah Boone

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    I was wondering where the majority of your mini-lesson ideas come from. We just recently were allotted some funds and I'd like to purchase some reading resource materials. Any input for valuable resources you've used for mini-lessons in reading would be great! Thank you so much for all you do and inspiring me as a teacher!

  • #18 Beth Newingham

    Monday, February 15, 2010 at 01:08 PM


    Your question about the report card is a great one. It is one that many teachers and districts who are implementing reading workshop are finding very challenging to answer.

    In my district, teachers in grades K-3 do not give letter grades. We give N (needs improvement), P (progressing), or S (secure). We also indicate if a child is reading below, on, or above grade level. We then score them in the following categories:

    -Reads independently for an appropriate length of time
    -Comprehends narrative text
    -Comprehends informational text
    -Applies proper reading comprehension strategies
    -Reads and comprehends a variety of genres
    -Reads, understands, and uses new vocabulary
    -Uses decoding strategies as needed
    -Reads with fluency and expression

    Students receive an N, P, or S in each of these categories. I do wish that there was also a category for reading response, but there is not. I usually add that in the personal comment section. I am just thankful that I am not required to give letter grades!

    Teachers in grades 4-5, however, must give letter grades. Since our entire district has just recently adopted the reading workshop framework, teachers are quickly finding that letter grades do not work well. Those teachers are having to create lots of rubrics (based on both efort and achievement) when coming up with letter grades that somehow match their students' reading performance, but they are certainly finding it very challenging. It is my hope that even the 4th and 5th grade report cards in our district will change soon to more closely reflect the philosophy of a true reading workshop.

    Since you are required to give grades in your district, you will certainly have to create a scoring system for reading tasks and probably require your students to do more written work than is usually done in a reading workshop setting so that you have something to use when determining a letter grade.

    In terms of having to use the basal text, that seems to be a popular concern amongst teachers across the country. You will find a variety of responses I have given to other teachers if you read the comments on any of my blog posts related to reading workshop. However, I would suggest using the main stories in the basal as mentor texts/read aloud texts since they are likley not at the "just right" level for every reader in your classroom. You can then take the lessons that you are supposed to be teacing in the basal and turn them into shorter "mini-lessons" that follow the reading workshop framework. Instead of having students practice the skills and strategies you are teaching them with the texts from the basal, they can instead apply the skills to their independent reading in self-selected texts at their "just-right" level.

    I hope I have been if some help to you. I know that the required use of a basal can really hamper a teacher's ability to run an authentic reading workshop.



  • #19 Beth Newingham

    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 05:24 PM


    You can download my conferring labels on a different post of mine titled "Assessment in My Reading Workshop." Here is a link to that post:

    Thanks for posting your comments on the blog!


  • #20 Jessica

    Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Do you have a link for the labels you use when conferring with students? I love that idea. I had used smaller labels before, but it makes much more sense to have the larger labels. I would love to use them!

    Thanks for all you do!

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