Reading and Writing Success for All

The ingredients that make up a successful and comprehensive literacy program have been described in numerous ways. Decades of research and numerous studies make it clear that students need lots of time to read. It's also important that the time spent reading is done in texts that are "just right" for the students. Explicit teaching of reading strategies and skills followed by meaningful tasks are at the heart of what readers need. Research also emphasizes the importance of providing time for readers to engage in authentic talk about their books and the importance of other readers in the process of growing.

These ingredients are not only essential components present in the reading workshop they are the underlying philosophy of the framework itself. If executed effectively, it allows teachers to seamlessly incorporate these key ingredients into their reading instruction on a daily basis. Take a look inside this classroom, and as you watch these readers and writers in action see if you can spot the ingredients that lead to student success.

As you can see, literacy success requires more than tools and techniques. It is not determined by or guaranteed with rigorous standards. It does not happen because teachers "adopt" a reading program, keep portfolios, or use the latest technologies. Only when learners are allowed to practice and grow in an environment that supports excellence will guarantee they leave our classrooms ready for the world.

Having our Cake, and Eating It Too

As we make sense of the individual elements within a comprehensive literacy framework, it is important to keep in mind how each individual element of instruction impacts the outcomes. To help us envision a new way of thinking about the interrelated parts (mini-lessons, guided reading, independent practice, etc...) and the all important "whole" (creating lifelong, passionate, habitual readers and thinkers), we used the following analogy. I call it, "Having our cake, and eating it too."

If we think about the "big goals" of literacy as the "cake", and the "component parts" of the workshop framework as the "ingredients", we don't see our work with readers as an either/or. You need the ingredients. There is no cake without eggs or flour. Yet, we don't consider cake to be "great" because it contains flour. I have never heard anyone take a bite of this scrumptious treat and say, "WOW, that was a good ingredient; I sure like the baking soda!" Reading and Writing Workshop is not an either/or proposition. It is an AND. You need to know, label, and mix the right ingredients while never taking your eye off the end product.

That is the scrumptious part, the creative part, the real joy... watching readers rise to the occasion, and placing them in the center of the celebration for all to enjoy! As the week progresses, I will lay out these ingredients and reveal the "secret" recipes from amazing teachers and classrooms. I can't wait to see where the conversation takes us!!

"Key Ingredients" of a Comprehensive Literacy Program
All of the following contribute to producing literate citizens of the 21st Century:

Reading Aloud: Teacher reads selection aloud to students
  • Provides adult model of fluent reading
  • Develops sense of story/text
  • Develops vocabulary
  • Encourages prediction
  • Builds a community of readers
  • Develops active listening*
Shared Reading: Teacher and students read text together
  • Demonstrates awareness of text
  • Develops sense of story or content
  • Promotes reading strategies
  • Develops fluency and phrasing
  • Increases comprehension
  • Encourages politeness and respect *
Guided Reading: Teacher introduces a selection at student's instructional level
  • Promotes reading strategies
  • Increases comprehension
  • Encourages independent reading
  • Expands belief in own ability *
Independent Reading: Students read independently
  • Encourages strategic reading
  • Increases comprehension
  • Supports writing development
  • Extends experiences with a variety of written texts
  • Promotes reading for enjoyment and information
  • Develops fluency
  • Fosters self-confidence by reading familiar and new text
  • Provides opportunities to use mistakes as learning opportunities *
Modeled/Shared Writing: Teacher and students collaborate to write text; teacher acts as scribe
  • Develops concepts of print
  • Develops writing strategies
  • Supports reading development
  • Provides model for a variety of writing styles
  • Models the connection among and between sounds, letters, and words
  • Produces text that students can read independently
  • Necessitates communicating in a clear and specific manner*
Interactive Writing: Teacher and students compose together using a "shared pen" technique in which students do some of the writing
  • Provides opportunities to plan and construct texts
  • Increases spelling knowledge
  • Produces written language resources in the classroom
  • Creates opportunities to apply what has been learned*
Independent Writing: Students write independently
  • Strengthens text sequence
  • Develops understanding of multiple uses of writing
  • Supports reading development
  • Develops writing strategies
  • Develops active independence

*Personal Qualities: Collaborative Worker, Problem Solver, Quality Producer, Self Directed Learner, Responsible Citizen