This post is part of the Workshop 101 series, designed to teach the nuts and bolts of Reading and Writing Workshop. You can view the entire series here.
So, you’ve decided to adopt workshop teaching your classroom. Congrats! As you shelve those old basal readers and box up your class novel sets, you might be thinking, “What now? What do I need for Reading and Writing Workshop? What will my students need?” In order to help you prepare for an exciting new year of workshop teaching, I’ve compiled a list of the must-have tools and materials I use in my classroom.
1. Mentor Texts
Reading Workshop minilessons use the exemplary work of published authors to teach new strategies. You’ll want to have a selection of quality picture books, short novels, and nonfiction texts to turn to when you’re teaching your minilessons. I often project the text we’re using on our SMARTboard using a document camera so that we can all see the text at the same time.
2. Chart paper + markers
During our Workshop units, we keep track of the strategies we’ve been learning on an anchor chart that hangs in a prominent space in the room. We add each new strategy to the chart at the end of the minilesson. We refer back to the chart during minilessons and conferences, and the students use the chart independently to remind themselves of strategies and set goals for their reading time. Although some teachers use slide presentations to display the day’s teaching point, I prefer to use chart paper for a few reasons: first, an anchor chart can be added to and displayed permanently, but a slide goes away in order to display other things. Second, I find that a slide presentation takes away from the idea of the teacher as an expert mentor. They are less personal, and they tend to take my students’ focus off of my teaching and onto the screen. I hang my chart paper pads (found at Staples) on an easel, and I use fat Sharpies as markers.
3. Lots and lots and LOTS of books
It goes without saying that your students are going to be reading a ton of books during Reading Workshop, so you’ll need to be prepared with a huge selection to fill their book bins. If you don’t have a big classroom library already, there are lots of places that you can look to for inexpensive books. Of course tag sales and your local used stores are a great place to start. You might also check out Half Price Books if you have one near you. Scholastic is an awesome source for new, inexpensive books, and you earn bonus points for each purchase you or your students make (go book orders!). Twice a year, Scholastic Book Warehouses have a massive sale–that’s a great chance to stock up on favorite titles. If your school has Title I status, you can get a membership to First Book Marketplace for excellent books at dirt cheap prices. Finally, you might consider creating a DonorsChoose project to fund your gorgeous new library!
4. Book Bins/Baggies
Your students will need a place to store all of those awesome books they’re reading. Some teachers choose structured, plastic book bins like the ones from Lakeshore Learning. I’ve also seen teachers use ice cube bins! Other teachers use strong plastic baggies, which are more easily transported between home and school.
5. Reading Notebooks
Students will use these to record their thoughts while they read, write long about their ideas, set goals, and reflect on their progress. I use plain, composition notebooks.
6. Sticky Notes
Sticky notes are used to make quick jots that can be stuck right on the pages of a book. Think marginal notes for when you can’t actually write in the margins. Students return to their jots and develop some of them into longer, deeper notebook entries. They also use them to help prepare themselves for discussions with reading partners and book clubs.
7. Writing utensils
Pretty self-explanatory: we use pencils and pens when jotting on post-its or writing in our reading notebooks.
1. & 2.
Same as for Reading Workshop–see above.
3. Teacher’s own writing notebook
Because the workshop teacher is seen as a passionate, expert mentor, you will need to walk the walk! I keep my own writing notebook that looks similar to the composition notebooks I ask my students to keep. I use it to collect ideas, plan pieces, draft sections, set goals, and reflect on my writing–just like my students do. I will turn to my notebook during minilessons to demonstrate the strategies I teach my students. They think it’s pretty cool to see their teacher doing the work right alongside them! It definitely builds a sense of camaraderie, the sense that we are all writers and we are in it together.
4. A variety of writing papers
Giving students a choice of writing paper fosters engagement and is very motivating for some writers. A writer who may have low writing stamina and is overwhelmed by a standard sheet of lined paper will suddenly write in spades when given mini sheets to fill. At the end of the day, he can brag “I wrote seven pages!” Consider stocking paper in different sizes, colors, and line widths to accommodate your different writers.
5. Writing Notebooks
My students use their writing notebooks the same way I use mine: for idea collecting, planning, drafting, goal setting, and reflecting. We use composition notebooks (I don’t want my kids tearing out any evidence of their learning). I put a sticky tab toward the back of each notebook to separate a “goal setting” section from the main “writing” section.
6. Storage for students’ in-progress work
Your writers are going to accumulate lots of loose papers as they draft and redraft their pieces. You’ll want a place for them to keep those precious bits together. I have each student use a two-pocket folder for this purpose. At the end of the unit, they staple all of their loose papers together and take them home. That way the folder doesn’t start bursting at the seams and my students don’t confuse their narrative materials with their opinion materials. Other teachers have their own systems for organizing student work. I’ve even seen teachers give each child a clean pizza box to chuck their papers in!
7. Writing Utensils
Pencils and pens, and lots of them. Some teachers like their students to do all of their Writing Workshop work in pen. This way students can’t erase their errors, but simply scratch them out and rewrite correctly. This keeps evidence of students’ thinking on the page, and more importantly documents students’ revision and editing skills.
8. Word Wall, Dictionaries, etc.
You will need to present your students with supports for spelling, such as classroom word walls and dictionaries. I also provide some of my students with individual word walls for their individual needs. They store them in their writing folders. Above all, you will want to give your students explicit instruction is using these resources so that they can access them independently.
Are you a teacher who does Reading and Writing Workshop? Do you have supplies you love that aren’t on my list? Add them in the comments below!