Are You Ready For Reading Workshop?

Yes! And try chanting “Are you ready for reading workshop?” to the same tune as “Are you ready for some football?!?!”

Hi Again! We are taking advantage of our hurricane lockdown in NYC to get a jump start on this week’s post: Reading Routines and Charts, that will help set children up for the first few weeks of a reading workshop. Depending on your students’ familiarity with workshop structure, you may find you need all or none of these charts. So you know, these ‘start of the year’ charts are usually small and will probably come down or be revised before the end of the month. These are nuts and bolts charts that deal more with behaviors and expectations than the actual teaching of reading. We will get more into strategy charts in the next week or two!

So here we go! First up:

A chart that illustrates what reading on my own and reading with a partner looks like.

This chart illustrates two ways readers can interact with books during the reading workshop. The first part illustrates what a reader does when reading by himself, what we often call “private” (or independent) reading time with books. The second portion of the chart shows how readers position themselves to read together during partner time. Notice the annotations and arrows that point out expected behaviors like, sitting down, looking at the book, reading and talking quietly. Taking photos of actual students in the act of reading by themselves and reading with partners can be even more powerful. It is nice to take the photos, then discuss with the students what they notice about private and partner reading time. You can then mark the photos up with the students’ key noticings about private time vs. partner time. As you know, everything takes about 5 minutes within the first week of school, so you have the luxary of time to study the two photos, mark the differences, and then spend some time acting out the desired behaviors with your class. This could EASILY be done on a smart board, or even with videos, as well. If you do this with photos or video, SEND IT IN, so we can show the real deal in real time.

Okay, next:

This is a map to show where everyone sits during reading time.

This chart is a record of where everyone sits during reading workshop. Kids, like people, work best in different spots depending on preferences and personality. After a bit of time trying out spots, you might make a map (notice the connection to social studies!) so children remember where to head to when it is reading time. You can put each child’s name on a sticky note so, if you need to make some changes, you won’t have to make a whole new chart. This is another great smart board chart idea to try.

Moving on:

This is an interactive chart that records how long children read without stopping each day.

Some of the main work you are doing in September (or August) is building up how long children can read. When trying to build up this reading stamina it often helps to have a visual representation of progress, and that is where this chart comes into play. On the first day, use a stop watch to time how long your children read without stopping – this becomes the first number on the steps (or staircase). This will be different for every class. (The key here is to not let the reading workshop ever feel like it’s okay to just stare into space without thinking.) Stop the workshop as soon as the core of the class gets restless and mark the spot. Use a sticky note with a picture or icon of a reader to mark the time. Then build from there – a minute or two every day until you reach your ultimate goal (perhaps 20-30 minutes the first month or two of school). For the one or two children who struggle a bit more than the rest with this, individual plans are the way to go to increase their stamina. A few schools have posted this chart outside each classroom so students can see that everyone is working to read longer and longer. Together everyone can celebrate the progress being made. A possible heading for this chart might be, “Reading Longer Will Make You Stronger!”

And last:

Options for partner time

So last, but not least, to sustain children in reading, students often need to have some options within the reading workshop, depending on their experience. Some of these may be known ways to work with partners. In that case, this chart is made at the end of a workshop where you say, “Here are some of the ways I saw you working with partners,”  and then you make the chart and have children use it in subsequent workshops. If this is BRAND SPANKING NEW, you will probably teach that partners can read together and talk together first, and then add on the other two (act the story out and read like a storyteller) in the next day or so. Either way, sometimes when children seem to have limited reading stamina, it is because they need ways to keep reading or more ways to work and read together.

As always, drop a comment or send a chart to so we can post it up. Stay safe and dry east coasters, and for our mid and west coasters, enjoy many more days of warmth and sun…and for all, enjoy the exciting first days of school preparations!

Happy Charting!

Chart Making in Action

First Grade Teachers Work Together to Create a Writing Chart

Marjorie and I (Kristi) just finished out an amazing week working with teachers from all over the world at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Writing Institute. We were working on all things writing, which of course included CHARTS! One group of 30 dynamic and brilliant teachers studied and made charts for non fiction and opinion writing, working hard to create strong visual elements, powerful headings, and meaningful phrases. Below are some of their efforts.

A Process Chart for Persuasive Letters. Note the Catchy Title to Help CHildren Remember What it Is

This is another first grade chart for persuasive letters. In this case, the chart is to support elaboration strategies. The visuals also contain prompts for writers.This chart is for non-fiction writing. All the charts this group made had the magnifying glass on the corner as a visual cue for children that all the charts go together.This second grade chart shows options for what children could write about during a unit on persuasive reviews. Note the icons also support idea generating and elaboration for each type of review

I have ironclad promises from these AMAZING teachers that they will keep in touch with me, and this blog, so we can post the charts from their classrooms. A few words for anyone interested in sharing a chart:

1. Send it in an email to

2. Send a brief description of what it is/any stories of children interacting with it

3. We will try to post it on the blog

A few other words about this blog in general:

Marjorie and I are intending to post about once a week with chart related matters: charts that you might want to be making at this time, chart making tips, etc. Our goal is every Monday. We will answer questions posted in comments, so don’t be afraid to write something there. Anyone who was at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Writing Institute- stay in touch! (and get your friends to check this blog out!)

Happy Charting one and all!

Setting the Stage for a Great Start

This is how our workshop goes.

This chart is a graphic depiction of how the writing workshop time (or any workshop time) is proportioned.

Reminding Childlren How to Get to the Meeting Area Quickly
This chart shows the steps for getting from one place to another.

Create charts that get kids helping themselves right from the start!

No matter what grade you teach this year, whether you looped or will get a whole new class, it is a good time to think about what charts to create that will introduce, review, and reinforce the routines and rituals that will make for the best year ever. What makes for the best year ever? When children can run the classroom without you even being there! In fact, plan now for the times you will not be there to control every movement and moment during a day. Think about what your students will need to know and be able to do in order to be productive, positive, and proud at the end of each and every day. And think about possible charts that might make this very clear to students and “guest teachers” alike.

There are several categories that Kristi and I consider when creating charts in classrooms. We think about procedures & process, strategies or repertoire, exemplars and examples, and genre-based charts. For this post we will focus on procedures & process charts. Procedures are basically step-by-step how-to’s that teach you (or remind you) how to do something by breaking down each step into a manageable chunk. Typical procedures we want to remind children of at the start of the school year are those that often concern management: getting from place to another quickly and quietly, how to set up and put things away (also quickly, if not as quietly), and how to keep going when done. Process refers to what one can expect each step along the way towards reaching a goal. The writing process is an easy example of this type in that it lets children know that there are several steps they will be taking to create a complete piece of writing. In mathematics there is a process one goes through to solve, for example, a word problem.

Sometimes the most obvious routine to us is not so obvious to young children. I will never forget the time I asked my new first graders to come to the rug for a minilesson. I was thrilled at their quick response, until I saw them running to the rug and just hovering around chattering like a flock of wild birds. I thought my words had been very clear. By the children’s response my words were anything but clear. I had to think on the spot, so created a chart like the one pictured, which broke down the steps into a simple, three step, how-to. That night I became a little more creative and thought about metaphors like “Launching our Workshop Time” and adding a reverse countdown to the steps, 3, 2, 1, Blastoff! In both cases the steps were broken down into the least amount possible and illustrated in some way. Many teachers photograph their children caught in the actual act of doing what is hoped for. Kids love being the star of the show, or the chart in this case.

A process chart is another chart needed early on, especially for those teaching in a workshop manner. “I’m done!” is a typical response during the first weeks of school whether children are writing, reading, or doing mathematics or science. Making clear the steps of the “process” can help diminish such outbursts as these. For example, a child has finished reading several books. They sit there for a moment, then begin interacting with others, either by talking about what is for lunch or what they plan to do after school. In either scenario they stop reading and don’t seem prepared to read any further. Teaching children what options they have when finished with the apparent task at hand can alleviate this distracting behavior and allow both teacher and students to accomplish so much more. What do you do when you think you are done is a predictable question that will arise each and every year. Planning for possible suggestions and steps that will help each child become more independent is an invaluable aid in making the entire year go smoothly. Putting these suggestions and tips on a public chart will help remind children how they can help themselves when they come across dilemmas such as these and many more. Charts can help every child in your class to believe that they can help themselves solve any problem or answer any question they may have, not just today, but in life.

Shopping the Specials

Essential Charting Tools

We could not survive without these 6 x 8 Post-it Notes. The other shapes and sizes are just fun to have. This Restickable Glue Stick is by Scotch brand.

The Sketchbook and Markers

The Spiral Sketchbook is a favorite tool of the Staff Developers at the Reading and Writing Project.

Nothing gets me (Marjorie) more excited about the school year ahead than seeing the Sunday paper circulars advertising “Back-to-School Specials.” The bargains can be found from all types of stores. From office supply stores to toy stores. From craft stores to drug stores. They are everywhere! I love the phrase, “buy one, get one free.” I get giddy at the thought of 50% off the sale price or the offer of a $10 coupon off the total price. And I start hyperventilating at the term, “Dollar Days!”

Now, I realize that teachers spend way too much of their own money on supplies for their classrooms. David Nagel in The Journal ( recently reported that public school teachers in the United States spent more than a billion dollars last year of their own money on school supplies and instructional materials. 92% of teachers have reported spending their own money on classroom supplies, $350 on average. Due to the recession, this amount is actually down from previous years, as parents and teachers alike are dealing with tightened budgets. Organizations like,, can help with funds for supplies or local businesses sometimes will donate discontinued or overstocked items for the the teacher who asks.

All that being said, the joy of new supplies often outways the pain of passing over more out-of-pocket dollars. I have thought about the chart tools and materials I use and need most during the school year to help the discriminating shopper. Here are some of my “must haves” that usually need replenishing at the start of each school year.

–Chart Markers like Mr. Sketch, Crayola, or Sharpie Flip Chart Markers

–6 x 8 inch Post-it Notes in all four florescent colors: neon pink, neon yellow, neon orange, and neon green. Other shapes and sizes can also be fun to have on hand when making charts memorable.

–Repositionable Glue Sticks so you can turn any piece of paper into a sticky note.

–A Spiral Sketch book, especially for the itinerate teacher, is an excellent container for your charts. You may want two, one for reading and one for writing. I use the 11 x 14 inch size as it fits perfectly in my backpack.

These tools will lead you to smooth charting ahead. Let us know if you have any “must have” materials on your supply list.