Launching Reading Workshop Using The Reading Strategies Book

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Are you looking for an effective way to start Reading Workshop? These lessons will get you off to a great start! You will have your students following the expectations using strategies from The Reading Strategies Book.

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Last school year, my principal purchased The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo for all of the teachers in my building.  It sounded like an awesome resource when she described it to us.  However, I didn’t have time to dig into it since teaching and home life took up all of my time.  Plus, I was already using Daily Five Cafe strategies during my Reading Workshop time.  I didn’t want to try something new mid-year.  Therefore, it sat on a shelf in my classroom for about 5 months.

One day as I was reading with J, I thought of the book.  Having a kindergartener has shown me why I am not a kindergarten teacher.  I love the fluent reading of my third graders and the fact that we can really focus on comprehension.  Discussing the books with them is my favorite part.  It was taking J about 15 minutes to get through one page of a book due to accuracy issues.  I know exactly what strategies to recommend to my third graders to fix accuracy issues.  However, I didn’t even know where to begin with a kindergartener.  I started with some basic strategies I remembered from student teaching in first grade.  Then, I remembered that my principal said The Reading Strategies Book covered all grades and levels.  I thought maybe it could help me find new strategies to introduce to J.

I made a special trip to school to retrieve the book.  It had a layer of dust covering it.  Does anyone else find that things get dusty so quickly in your classroom?  My building had just been cleaned, but there was still dust on everything.  I took the book home and started reading it right away.  I started with Goal 1 – Supporting Pre-Emergent and Emergent Readers.  J was already doing a lot of the strategies in this section.  I moved on to Goal 3 – Supporting Print Work:  Increasing Accuracy and Integrating Sources of Information.  That’s when I realized how much I love this book!

The way Jennifer Serravallo organized this The Reading Strategies Book is so user-friendly!  Every strategy includes a description of what the strategy means, suggestions for kid-friendly language to use with the students as you introduce the strategy, and specific prompts to use during reading conferences.  The book also tells what levels the skill is appropriate for and what genre of book it fits.  I found some great strategies to use with J.  I also realized that Goal 3 contained a lot of strategies to use with my third graders.  A lot of them I already use in my reading workshop conferences, but the suggested prompts and sample anchor charts will help me coach my students even more effectively.

I shared some of the new strategies with J as we read together.  He started applying the strategies, and his reading has improved so much already.  If you want to find out more about how I worked with J on his reading, you can read this post.  Next, I wanted to figure out how to use The Reading Strategies Book during my Reading Workshop.  I decided to go back to Goal 2 – Teaching Reading Engagement.  I realized this section would be great to use at the beginning of the year to launch Reading Workshop.

We’ve been using a Reading Workshop model during our RtII block for about 5 years now.  We do a 10-15 minute minilesson.  Then, they students read independently for 30 minutes while we conduct one-on-one reading conferences.  I love Reading Workshop time.  It gives me a chance to see what types of books my students enjoy and to see how well they’re able to discuss the book.  Next year we’re adopting Lucy Caukins Reading Workshop for our whole literacy block.  I’m really looking forward to that, but for this year I wanted to improve the Reading Workshop model I had been using.

At the beginning of the year, I spend a lot of time talking about “just-right” books and book selection.  The students in my class have book boxes, which they fill with self-selected books.  These are the books they use during reading workshop.  The problem I always had in the beginning of the year was that students didn’t like the books they had chosen so they would either just stare at the book or they would try to choose another book during Reading Workshop time.  I knew that this year I wanted to spend more time on book selection so I didn’t have this problem.  Luckily, Jennifer Serravallo included several strategies for choosing books in Goal 2 of The Reading Strategies Book.  I used these strategies to map out my first week of Reading Workshop.

Below you will find my plans for Reading Workshop for the first week of school.  If you don’t have a copy of The Reading Strategies Book yet, you can order it by clicking on the name of the book or the picture below.  I think you’ll agree that it is an indispensable resource.

Reading Workshop Day 1

Before students can effectively select books, they need to think about the types of books they enjoy.  I always give a reading inventory the very first day.  This gets the students thinking about what they like, and it gives me an idea of their preferences so I can make recommendations as they select books.  I created this reading inventory to give my students on the first day of school.  Some of the ideas for my reading inventory came from Strategies 2.15, 2.16, and 2.19 from The Reading Strategy Book.  I love that Jennifer Serravallo says, “Choosing a just-right book means more than choosing a book based on a level.” (p. 63)  I really want to spend time this year emphasizing that my students should choose books based on their interests, not just their reading level.

Reading Workshop Day 2

Today the students will use their reading inventories to select books from our classroom library.  For my minilesson, we will brainstorm ways to find “just-right” books.  We will create an anchor chart to list different ways to choose books – another book in a favorite series, choose based on genre, select a book based on interests, etc.  We do a tour of the classroom library so they have a general idea of where the different types of books are located.  Then, I have the students work on a sort where they decide if a behavior is “real reading” or “fake reading.”  We will use this sort for a lesson next week.  While the students are working, I call two students at a time to select books for their book boxes.  I talk about their reading inventories with them and help them select some “just-right” books.  By the end of day 2, each student has at least 3 self-selected texts in his/her book box.


Day 3

This is where I made a mistake in past years.  After selecting the books for their book boxes, we would jump right into Reading Workshop the following day to start building stamina.  This worked great for some students.  However, others found that their “just-right” books weren’t just right after all.  That led to disengagement on the first day of Reading Workshop.  Granted, we started with a short period of time, but I really wanted all of my students to feel successful from the start.  That’s why I love Strategy 2.26 – Does It Engage Me?  On Day 3, I’m going to do the minilesson Jennifer Serravallo lays out on page 73.  I love her anchor chart for this lesson and will model using the first page of a text to see if it interests me.  Then, I’m going to have the students read the first page of each book in their book boxes.  They will decide if the book is a good fit or if they want to exchange it for a new one.  Hopefully, by the end of day 3 all of the students will be ready to jump into their good fit books tomorrow.

Day 4

Today we will work on choosing a “just-right” place to sit for Reading Workshop.  Jennifer Serravallo addresses this in Strategy 2.1.  I use this day to create my Read to Self anchor chart as well.  We make a “Student” side and a “Teacher” side.  The “Student” side shows what students should be doing during Reading Workshop, and the “Teacher” side shows what the teacher will be doing.  Since it’s still the first week of school, I like to get the kids moving every few minutes.  I’m going to have the students move based on their reading preferences.  For example, if they like to sit under something, they will move to one side of the room.  If they like to read out in the open, they will move to the other side of the room.  When we come back together, we’ll review the Reading Workshop expectations.  Then, I’ll send the students a few at a time to get their book boxes and find a “just-right” spot.  Since it’s the first day, we’ll only read for 5 minutes or until someone isn’t meeting the expectations.  Then, we’ll come back together on the carpet to discuss what went well and what we can work on for next time.  We’ll wrap up by starting our stamina graph.  Next time, we’ll try to beat our number of minutes.


My first week of school is a 4-day week so this will get me through week 1.  Now that the students have their book boxes ready and know the expectations, we can continue to build stamina during week 2.  We will talk about how to maintain focus for the whole Reading Workshop block and how to “jump back into our books” after a break.  Check back soon for my plans for Week 2.
Do you do anything different to introduce Reading Workshop?  If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “Launching Reading Workshop Using The Reading Strategies Book

  1. I love being able to get a glimpse into your classroom and how you make it all happen. Thank you for sharing and breaking it all down. This was super helpful!

    Teaching With Hope

  2. You are so lucky you have your own classroom. I move and the kids stay put, so I wish I could designate reading areas like you have. I agree that would make engagement in the book so much more powerful. You have some great ideas and I love that you jump right into reading with the kids!

    1. Wow, I couldn’t imagine moving around that much. I don’t know how I’d stay organized and remember everything I needed. My kids love finding their special reading spots, and reading workshop is one of their favorite times of the day.

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