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.
If you’ve been following along with the posts in the Workshop 101 series, you’ll know that a workshop lesson has three components: the minilesson, where the teacher delivers a 10 minute strategy lesson to the whole group, independent work time, where students read or write for 35-45 while the teacher confers with individuals or small groups, and finally, share time, which wraps up the day’s workshop.
Like the minilesson, Share is a short, ten-minute portion of the workshop, but even though it’s small, it is an important piece of the workshop pie. The teacher gathers the students back together as a whole group, reiterates the day’s teaching point or comments on reading/writing work noticed during the work time, and gives students the opportunity to share with one another the work that they did that day.
In his 2012 article Every Child, Every Day, literacy researcher Richard Allington writes that one of the six elements of effective literacy instruction is giving every child the opportunity to talk with her peers about reading or writing every day:
“Time for students to talk about their reading and writing is perhaps one of the most underused, yet easy-to-implement, elements of instruction. It doesn’t require any special materials, special training, or even large amounts of time. Yet it provides measurable benefits in comprehension, motivation, and even language competence. The task of switching between writing, speaking, reading, and listening helps students make connections between, and thus solidify, the skills they use in each. This makes peer conversation especially important for English language learners, another population that we rarely ask to talk about what they read.”
The Share portion of the workshop provides students with just this opportunity. It’s the chance for students to gush to a classmate about the amazing book they’re reading, to turn to their writing partner and get feedback on a passage that’s giving them trouble. It’s a time for students to reflect on how they’re doing at meeting the goals they’ve set for themselves, and for selecting new goals for tomorrow’s workshop. Students also act as cheerleaders for their partners at this time. They’ve shared their goals, but they’ve also listened to their partners’ goals, celebrated their growth, and resolved to help them meet their new goals. It’s pretty incredible to listen in to your students’ conversations at this time–to hear them taking ownership of their learning, living into their roles as readers and writers.
To give you an example of the kind of conversations your students might be having during share time, I pulled a video of two middle school students. These students are reading the same book at the same time–an historical fiction text set in WWII. They are using their share time to discuss the book, and the sophistication of their conversation is pretty amazing. It’s the level of thinking that workshop teaching nurtures in students.
Outside of giving students the chance to share about their work, the Share portion of the workshop also serves a more functional purpose. The minilesson and share, positioned at the beginning and end of the workshop, bookend the large span of independent work time. I imagine the pattern as a sort of “inhale” and “exhale,” a coming together, moving apart, and coming together again. Having children remove themselves from their independent work areas and reconvene in a whole group is a physical marker that the day’s work is coming to an end. It causes students to stop and take notice of the work they’ve done, which also helps them retain the learning they’ve done. I will confess that more than once I’ve been caught up in the work of conferring with students, glanced at the clock, and realizing that we’ve run out of time, lopped off Share and had students clean up and move on. The difference cutting out Share makes is visible–the students, denied of their chance to wrap things up, are scattered and confused. The transition to the next subject is chaotic. Interestingly (but not surprisingly), I find that many students have trouble remembering their work the next day. And worst of all, students are disappointed to be denied the chance to talk to their partner about what they’ve been reading or writing–kids in workshop count on that time, and they look forward to it! Now I am sure to build time in for my students to share, even if it means setting a timer to remind myself. Giving students the chance to talk to each other about their reading and writing is too important to miss!