Activities and Lessons
for Language Arts

Reader's Workshop From Day 1
~ Lori Jackson

As a first grade teacher, I started reader's workshop on day one, but slowly. Our openings and shared work took longer early on, and the time spent actually doing the work of workshop (reading!!!) that followed the mini lessons began slowly. The initial mini lessons with a new group (I looped, this was generally not needed at the top of a loop) centered around what readers do in reading workshop, one element introduced, modeled and added to a list in terms of accountability each day. At first, I asked for ten minutes of real reading and we gradually (or not so gradually) upped the expectations until the kids could remain focused and on task for about 40 minutes. From day one, my conference table groups (a separate thing from guided reading) met daily. All that meant was that I met with a divergent, mixed-ability group for twenty minutes. During that time I conducted conferences. My first series of conferences always centered on readerly life. I interviewed kids and spent time talking with them about their passions (sharks, insects, a certain series, etc.) and spent time showing them where in the classroom they could find fuel for these passions. Sometimes these interviews cost me money--the first year I had shark lovers I was so blessed to be able to run to my administrator and beg for money there and then to purchase a large amount of ocean and shark related nonfiction. I had two reluctant readers that year that had been the subject of much concern previously and having identified that passion, knew how to turn them on to reading.

Early mini-lessons:

- How to treat a book (tenderly, with reverence, as a treasure--yes, I modeled it, by sharing a book I own called Aunt Jo's Scrapbag--a very early title by Louisa May Alcott, a collection of pretty poor short stories that she
herself wrote in her earliest days as a writer)
- How to monitor for engagement (how to pay attention to self when being distracted, what some potential distracters might be and how to deal with them -like not sitting next to your very best friend and chatting)
- How to select a book for independent reading
- How to select a reading spot for independent reading
- How to read nonfiction (giving them the option of learning through visuals and not requiring them to read every word in the more difficult nonfiction pieces)
- How to use a whisper voice or read inside your head
- How to stay in one place during reading workshop
- How NOT to interrupt my conference table (and later the guided reading groups)
- How to signal a bathroom emergency (and what one is!! In our classroom, they were 'pee-in-your-pants emrgencies')
- How to use our book logs (which entailed knowing title, author and illustrator as a start)
The importance of varied reading (leading eventually to tracking genres, and yes, beginning in first grade)

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