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Reading Workshop: What is the Rest of the Class Doing?

With a reading workshop model, you have the chance to meet with small reading groups while the rest of your students remain focused and on task to achieve their reading goals during their independent reading time.  This may sound like a difficult task…targeting your small reading groups while other students are working independently.  But don't worry, with some careful planning and organizing, it can all run smoothly and successfully!

Here are a few tips for running small reading groups while your students continue to thrive on their own!

You Have Your Reading Groups, Now What?

Once you have your students grouped and ready to read, it's time to put your workshop to work! Small group reading time is short and precious and you do not want to be interrupted. So the rest of the class' workshop needs to run as seamlessly as your groups do to ensure that you and your group are left uninterrupted.

If the rest of the class is disruptive during your small group reading lessons, all of your hard work and planning will fail. You cannot be focused on your group, and your group cannot be focused on their reading, while you are distracted.

In the first weeks of launching reading workshop, introduce each new component of your workshop model slowly. Modeling and easing into it carefully; working through it with students and slowly allowing them to work independently.

You can read more about launching reading workshop in THIS post.

Well, you might be thinking, what exactly are we modeling here?

The key components of your reading time are small group reading, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and independent reading. Students keep a reader's notebook and have sections for each component of reading workshop so that it is easy to look back when they need to and also to stay organized. (You know how they love to stay organized, lol!)

You can read more about setting up reader's notebooks HERE.

So let's take a look at each component and what the other students are doing while you are with your guided reading groups.

Vocabulary Practice

Selecting vocabulary words can be difficult. I choose tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary words using our mentor text for the week and also words from the text we are reading in our small reading groups.

Student vocabulary can be differentiated based on the text that they are reading and should not be limited to only the words that you choose. Students should be able to select their own vocabulary words from their reading as well. Incidental vocabulary words that students come across as they are reading are just as purposeful as the words chosen by you.

This better differentiates the vocabulary instruction and creates a purpose for the vocabulary instruction. What better way to figure out a word that is unknown in their reading than to make it a vocabulary word!

To choose vocab words, you should read the text ahead of time, identify words that may be unfamiliar to students or that they need to know, make connections with words to other content areas (they'll love a science or math vocabulary word showing up in their reading instruction), and then determine how you want them to practice those words.

You can have students keep a word list in their reader's notebook, you can teach vocab during your small reading groups, and you can have students work independently in their reader's notebook on a vocabulary activity. You can do a word map, draw your word, write synonyms and antonyms, shades of meaning, and more!

I choose about 4 vocabulary words a week and of course, students may add to that list with their incidental words.

Fluency Practice

When students develop fluency, their vocabulary and their comprehension begin to soar too. Better fluency leads to better understanding. When a student's reading is choppy or halting, their comprehension will pay the price.

So how do we practice fluency?

Read, Read, Read!

  • Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your students will help their fluency. Hearing the expression in your voice, the fluidity of your reading, the pauses at punctuation, and just hearing a fluent reader helps your students with their own fluency.
  • Listen to Reading: Just as listening to the teacher read aloud helps fluency, audio books are also a great way to listen to fluent readers. Epic is a wonderful site to use as a resource if you have the technology available for students to use a device to listen. Your local library may also be a great source for audio books.
  • Practice Reading: When students listen to reading they hear fluent readers. They must also listen to themselves to hear their own fluent behaviors. Whisper phones are a great way to hear themselves reading. But, recording their reading is also a great way to practice. You can keep a basket of short books for students to choose from. They read to themselves quietly, with a whisper phone, with a partner, and then when they are ready they can record themselves if you have devices available. You can then turn their recording into a QR code and attach it to the back of the book so that it can become part of your listening center for other students to listen to the book read by their classmate!
  • Perform Your Reading: Using reader's theaters, poems, or silly songs is a great way to practive fluency. Your reading groups will practice throughout the week and on Friday they perform! This practices their choral reading, expression, and more. A few of my favorite reader's theaters and poetry books can be found HERE.
  • Paired Reading: Reading with a partner at the same independent reading level works well with a text that has already been read. They can reread together, taking turns, and discus. The repeated reading is an effective fluency strategy that pairs well with paired reading.

Independent Reading

Independent reading is the key to all other reading components. When students have the time and the freedom to choose their own books, their fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension will soar.

Independent reading is an important part of the workshop model and should be a part of each students workshop daily. During the independent time, your students may be reading quietly on their own and then writing a reading response or adding unknown words to their vocabulary list, or they can be working on or participating in book clubs.

You can read more about how I get book clubs started HERE.


Your independent reading time, fluency practice, guided reading time and vocabulary practice are all building your students' comprehension behind the scenes. While working on targeted skills, reading, reading, and more reading, while also responding to their reading; students are developing the skills they need to be active, lifelong readers.

Close reading also allows your students to dig deep into comprehension while practicing main idea, vocabulary, inferencing, and responding to reading. I use THESE close reading passages as practice.

Providing a variety of engaging and meaningful tasks for each component of your reading workshop and really developing sound routines for each of those activities at the beginning of the year will create a workshop model that can practically run itself!

The true test will be when you have a substitute…coming back to a note that states that they knew exactly what to do and when to do it will be music to your ears and you'll know all of that hard work in setting those routines was worth it!

I put all of my favorite books, materials, and things that I think are helpful in one place for you to checkout. There are Mad Libs, Word Ladders, whisper phones, and more for you to take a look at. You can check them out in my Amazon shop HERE.

You can grab free planning pages for your small groups here!

Read more about setting up your schedule for reading workshop here.

Want to read more about grouping your students for reading workshop? Read more here.

And check out this post about reading mini-lessons.

Shop all the resources in this post here:

Happy Reading!

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