After my first experience with a room packed with teachers, I was determined to get a good seat for my next session: “The Time is Now: Reflection, Assessment, and Teaching in a Workshop Classroom.”
The workshop approach is one of the main ideas we have been learning about this semester in English Methods, so I was extremely excited to be hearing in person what teachers were doing in their classrooms. This session was presented by a 6th grade teacher and an administrator from a charter school in New York.
“Have a clear plan/vision for the school year of what you want to achieve.”
“Practice reflection on the ways you are meeting the goals of your vision.”
“Observe other teachers, share strategies and ideas.”
“Treat the whole school as a learning community, not just your department.”
With all of the advice these two presenters were giving, there were also points made as to how they use the workshop model in their school. They incorporate books clubs, read-alouds, book talks, conferences, mini-lessons, and balance the reading of informational texts with reading fiction.
This increasing focus on informational texts is of course a result of the Common Core standards. I heard a lot of talk about the Common Core in many of my sessions and I appreciated the comments that the presenters of this session made on this topic. They emphasized that teachers can still teach what they love and in ways that they know work best for students, and still make these fit into the new structure of the Common Core.
And the workshop classroom is the way these educators believe their students learn best. Their students learn best when the teacher takes a step back and lets the students go. I was able to watch a video of their classroom. (Which was another piece of advice – videotape your teaching!) It was so inspiring to watch the students engage in a rich discussion about the current book they were reading without constant prompting from the teacher. The teacher was there as a guide and spent most of the time observing students.
I want to leave you with some final questions that were presented in this session:
“What do you find important to teach? Are you teaching it and how?”
“What are you rewarding in your classroom?”
“What will you do tomorrow to be better?”