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How to Make a Reading Workshop Schedule with Limited Time

After launching reading workshop and grouping your students, setting up a schedule is the next important step. Using a workshop model means that your reading schedule is student-centered.  A workshop model helps students develop skills as readers with guidance from you, as the teacher.

A workshop model consists of whole group instruction, direct instruction, and independent reading.  This includes mini-lessons, an independent reading time where students practice reading strategies, small group reading instruction, reading conferences, and a closing/share time. 

Using a workshop model develops routines that are so familiar to students, your reading workshop time will run seamlessly.  The predictable schedule allows students to grow as readers, speakers, and thinkers.

And sometimes setting up a schedule that works can feel tricky. So as you begin your workshop, be flexible and realize that things might need to change; some things will work and they will work well, some things may not. And that's ok! Once you have the routines of the workshop in place, finding a schedule or rotation for your readers that works will help create a workshop atmosphere where students can thrive as readers.

What is Reading Workshop?

Reading workshop allows your students to develop and grow as active readers, building foundational skills to be lifelong readers.  Your students will acquire vocabulary skills, develop fluency, improve reading stamina, and develop a love for reading.

Students learn the fundamentals of reading when they read often and with free choice.  One of the most important parts of reading workshop is time!  When given time to read, students will grow and learn as readers. 

Reading workshop supports readers by allowing them choice.  Teaching a mini-lesson with a focused skill, allowing independent practice, and providing direct instruction at their instructional reading levels will help improve students’ fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary but also foster a love of reading and learning in your students. 

The Structure of Reading Workshop

Mini-Lesson (About 10 minutes)

During the mini-lesson, the whole group will sit together, ideally at a carpet or small meeting area.  The mini-lesson introduces the focus skill for the day.  This time is meant for whole group instruction where the teacher will lead as students listen.  Students may keep their reader’s notebooks with them to copy anchor chart info.

This time is used to read mentor text (if applicable) and create an anchor chart.  Anchor charts should be made with students sharing their ideas and thinking.  They are a great way to keep the skill visible as students move to work independently.  You may have a mini-anchor chart for students to keep in their reader’s notebooks or just have students copy the anchor chart.  The end of the mini-lesson should encourage students to try the focus skill as they work independently. 

Independent Reading (40-60 minutes)

During independent reading time, students are reading books that they have chosen, working on the focus skill of the day, participating in book clubs, developing fluency, or working on vocabulary.

During this time, the teacher is conducting conferences or small reading groups. 

Sharing (5-10 minutes)

Students come back to the carpet.  They can turn and talk to a partner about what they have read, share what they wrote in their reader’s notebooks, or what they jotted down.  Any new info can be added to the anchor charts and the teacher wraps up the lesson for the day.

Total (ideal) reading workshop time=about 60-80 minutes

The Importance of Direct Reading Instruction in Your Schedule

One of my biggest struggles when I first started (and fell in love) with using a workshop model was feeling like I needed to see each group of readers each day. It was overwhelming, time-consuming, and felt impossible to keep up with.

I was doing myself and the students a disservice. They weren't getting the amount of direct instruction they needed and I was overwhelmed trying to fit it all in.

Trying to squeeze every group into an hour schedule will feel way too rushed and you will not be able to give each group the attention they need.

When you spend the time to group students and create focused goals and just right reading levels, you do not want the time you have with them cut short. Let's not undo all that hard work!!

So, NOT seeing each group every day does take some getting used to, but keeping good notes and data on each group helps. Taking anecdotal notes while in small groups will help you stay organized and will make your direct instruction so much easier!

Small Group Instruction

So let's discuss your small reading groups. Your time is short and it is precious. You will find that once you set up the routines and procedures for your groups that they will run very smoothly; but at the beginning of the year, it takes some time to get in the swing of things. (So be gentle with yourself. And never write your plans in pen, it's too permanent, lol!)

Be flexible and find what works best for your group of students.

It may work best to have a reading table where students come to you and you have your supplies and everything you need ready to go. Or, it may work best to save the transition time and YOU be the one on the go, moving from group to group. (A rolling cart with supplies, texts, materials, etc is a lifesaver in this scenario!)

Finding leveled text to fit your group can sometimes be a difficult task. And I also do not feel that short reading passages every week are engaging for students. Providing a variety of texts is important because you'll provide different genres, authors, vocabulary, and more.

A few different texts that I like to use include Reading A to Z books (this is a subscription and the books must be assembled but it is a great subscription to have), Scholastic News, or other classroom magazines (these also require subscriptions), current event articles from the newspaper or magazines (see if your newspaper has a kid's section. My class has been published in our city's kid's section with book reviews! It was super exciting for them!), you can use excerpts from novels or shorts stories, poems, or Storyworks magazine (I LOVE Storyworks and find it well worth the subscription! They provide a variety of text and genres).

Once you get in the groove with finding and choosing text, it requires less time and planning and the variety of text will keep your students engaged and looking forward to what they will be reading next.

Oh boy, I digress…let's get back to the schedule!

When you meet with your group, you have 20-30 minutes to get to it! You may want to use a small timer or something to keep track so that you don't go over time. While your time with your group is important and they (or you) may have a lot to say, your other groups need that direct instruction too.

Small Group Instruction Sample Schedule:

  • Introduction (3-4 minutes): During this quick introduction, introduce the text, take a quick peek at any important or unknown vocab, explain the focus of the reading, and let them know what they will be reading.
  • Reading the text (9-12 minutes): Students will read the text to themselves as the teacher quietly confers with one student at a time, takes quick notes on any skills that need to be retaught, and prompts to check for comprehension.
  • Discuss (3-5 minutes): Discuss the text with students. Make sure to ask open ended questions about the text and clear up any questions or misconceptions that students may have. Discuss the unknown vocabulary.
  • Focus skill (3-5 minutes): Focus on teaching the skill that is specific to this group/level. Check for understanding using the text that was read.
  • Wrap it up (3-4 minutes): Do a quick check with students to check for understanding of the text and the focus skill. This can be a group or independent response page or a discussion.

This will look different for each of your groups and your more fluent readers may be able to dig deeper; but for each group, the predictable routine and known expectations are key to the success of your small group reading time.

What is the rest of the class doing during this time? You can read more about managing small reading groups in THIS post.

Your Class Schedule

The beauty of using a workshop model is that you can be flexible with your schedule and meet with groups that you know need direct instruction.

To figure out your schedule, first, look carefully at your groups; with 4-6 students in a group, you will *usually* have 4-5 groups of students. This will differ dependent on the number of students in your class. The number of groups you have will also affect how often you see each group.

With 40-60 minutes for independent reading time, you can ideally see your groups for 20-30 minutes, which again will depend on how many groups you have and how many minutes you have allotted for independent reading time. So during reading workshop, you will typically see 2-3 groups.

You know your kids, and you know what is best for them, so you can be flexible with your schedule to accommodate student's needs.

Setting up your own schedule

So, how can you fit it all in?

The most important thing that you can do is to stay consistent. Decide how long your reading workshop will be and stick to the workshop routines so that students are able to develop consistent reading habits.

Students thrive when they know what to expect and following a workshop model allows them to anticipate what is expected of them.

The thought of planning and implementing reading workshop can feel overwhelming sometimes, but with consistent routines, you will find planning and implementation will soon be a breeze! And with consistent time to read independently, you will see your young readers develop a lifelong love for reading!

You can grab free planning pages and with sample scheduling below!

Read more about reading conferences here.

Read more about reading workshop mini-lessons here.

And check out all reading workshop posts here.

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Happy Reading!

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