Reader's & Writer's Workshop in High School - Room 213

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Reader's & Writer's Workshop in High School

The greatest change I ever made in my classroom was the switch to a workshop approach.  Actually, it was the way I started, but I took a detour into the traditional for quite a while.

During my teacher training, I was introduced to Nanci Atwell; In the Middle was the textbook my forward-thinking prof had chosen, and she championed the workshop approach (this was 1990, and quite radical at the time!).

When I started teaching, I used Atwell as my guide, but then, like so many of us, I got swept up by the "should do's" that other teachers and the Department were "recommending". For quite a few years, I did the traditional thing, rolling out the curriculum in a pretty systematic way. I always did my best to make my lessons fun and meaningful, but it was still tightly controlled by me. In a lot of ways, it worked.

However, I knew that my students would be more engaged - and still learn the skills and content they needed to learn - if I went back to my roots.  I started to make some changes, doing more independent reading and writing - but they were still add-ons, things I did when I had time and cut when I did not.

And then, a feisty young teacher took the reigns as Curriculum Consultant at our Department of Education, and things changed.  She bought every teacher a copy of Penny Kittle's Write Beside Them and Book Love.  She bought piles of hot YA fiction for our classroom libraries.  She rewrote curriculum and recommended reader's and writer's workshop, rather than full class novel study. It was a wonderful thing.

However, it's not easy to flip that switch, especially if you've been using a traditional approach for most of your career.  I'm a part-time instructional coach at my school, and I know it's been very hard for some of our teachers to completely dive into workshops for reading and writing. It's a great thing to dive into, though, because it allows our students more choice, more voice, and a much greater chance that they will engage and learn.

Last fall I wrote a number of blog posts about how reader's workshop worked in my classroom.  This time, I'm going to add writer's workshop to the mix (remember, I'm an old dog; I couldn't do it all at once!), so you can look forward to lots of posts about my planning and implementation. In the mean time, please leave any questions or concerns you have about workshop in the secondary classroom in the comments section; I'll try my best to answer them, either here or in another post.

You can also check out the new products that I've added to my store, ones that will be integral to my writer's workshop this fall: The Writer's Notebook for Secondary Students, and Short Mentor Texts for Secondary Writing.

Would you like to get some support as you plan a workshop approach in your secondary classroom? Join my Facebook group, Secondary Reader's & Writer's Workshop Support. Send me your email to, or search this link. 


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