Six Tips for Coaching Reader’s Workshop
As instructional coaches, we coach a variety of contents and strategies. We help teachers grow in whatever area they are focused on and using the approach that works best for students.
However, in many schools, there are a collection of approaches that the school is working towards. In this case, the coach is called on to coach teachers within those frameworks. This is the case if your school uses a framework such as Reader’s Workshop, Writer’s Workshop, or Math Workshop.
Each of these frameworks will look different from classroom to classroom, but the basic components will be the same. In Reader’s Workshop, those components are the minilesson, independent reading, guided reading, reading conferences, and a closing share.
Here are six tips to help you get started in coaching Reader’s Workshop!
#1 Start out by building a common language.
Without a common language, planning together and communicating can be really challenging. For example, the word “read” is used to mean many things. Some teachers use it to mean students are decoding accurately, but not comprehending. Others use it to mean that students read and comprehend – real reading.
If everyone has a different idea what you’re saying when you say, “minilesson”, “inference”, and “word study”, it is nearly impossible to plan together effectively. Spending time on building a common language is a valuable way to grow a team.
Ways to do this may include modeling lessons for each component, creating a video bank of modeled lessons so teachers can watch them when they have time, doing language-building activities during PD where teachers match Reader’s Workshop vocabulary words with their definitions before and after the session, and doing a book study on this framework.
#2 Collect everyone’s schedule.
This is not a “gotcha”. This is to help you in scheduling visits to classrooms, opportunities for teachers to learn from each other, and to see where teachers are planning to spend their time during Reader’s Workshop. If something isn’t included in a teacher’s plan for the day, it’s definitely not on their radar. This will tell you what teachers value in reading instruction.
Once you have everyone’s schedule, organize it into a spreadsheet. I broke mine down into fifteen minute increments. Then I made a column for each grade level and wrote in what they were doing during each time frame. It made it much easier for me to figure out when a good time to visit might be, and when to plan time to collaborate with teachers!
#3 Make sure teachers have what they need.
Do a sweep of the school to ensure that teachers have classroom libraries, a space for guided reading, and the instructional tools and materials they need. This could be easels, chart paper, binders, baskets to organize books, book bins or bags, etc. It’s not that tools will do the job of implementing Reader’s Workshop, but if you can make a teacher’s life easier and better, and improve the student’s learning experience by getting them what they need, why not?
You may not be able to get everybody everything they’d like, but you may have some input when the principal is making purchases for the campus.
#4 Make sure that training includes a focus on the standards.
Teachers need to know their standards, and so do you. Make sure that that you are really well versed in the standards for each grade and what they look like. Planning should start with what students need to learn how to do. If it doesn’t, it’s just fluff.
One non-threatening way to start this is to ask people to bring something they’d like to share for your next PLC. Each person brings one student or classroom artifact that they have created throughout their unit of study.
At the beginning of your next PLC meeting, ask each person to share their artifact and explain their process a little so everyone can learn from each other.
Perhaps teachers can bring a reader’s notebook response or entry. They can take a picture of an anchor chart they built with their students during a lesson, or share a mentor text that works really well with a particular skill.
Over time, this can grow, but it starts with making collaboration a standard “way of being”.
#6 Create a mentor text library.
Organize books by reading strategy or skill. Label them. Host them in your coaching room. Over time, you can make sure teachers have a great collection of books, too. Read about how we put together grade level mentor text baskets for our teachers!
Want to hear about these tips in detail? Check out my video on YouTube all about these six tips for coaching Reader’s Workshop!
Need some tools to get started? Get the Coaching in Classrooms Free Download below!