Just imagine stepping into a painting workshop where beautiful works of art are being created. The teacher, an artist herself, welcomes everyone as artists. She gathers the class together for a few moments to demonstrate a brush stroke they might want to try. The class listens and watches and then on the signal, “Off you go,” returns to their own work of art to continue painting. Some artists are just starting by imagining what they will create; others are in the middle of their paintings and have decided to try the new brush stroke just shown by the teacher. Other artists are completing their paintings and proceeding to start new ones. As the artists work, the teacher circulates around the room coaching individual people. She gives encouraging words and may give suggestions on possible next steps. She may ask the artists to pause for a moment, so she can showcase a technique a particular artist is using and encouraging others to give it a try. As she walks, she notices a few artists needing the same technique to move them forward, so she gathers them together in a small group to show a brush stroke or a shading technique. At the end of the workshop, she gathers the artists together once again and asks for some to show what they have accomplished.
Reading and writing workshop is an environment just like the painting workshop. The teacher, a reader and a writer herself, welcomes her readers and writers to the workshop. She then conducts a short, whole group lesson that demonstrates what proficient readers and writers do. The teacher suggests the readers or writers use the strategy she just demonstrated as they go off to read their own self-selected books on their particular reading level or to write their own pieces on self-selected topics. As the readers and writers work, the teacher visits and confers with individuals to encourage and assess how to move them each forward as a reader or as a writer. She might briefly interrupt independent reading or writing time to share a strategy someone is using that others may want to try. The teacher may notice an area of weakness that several readers or writers need to overcome and then gathers them together to show them a strategy to make them more successful. At the end of each workshop, the teacher gathers the class together for a sharing time where they celebrate their successes as readers and as writers.
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