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Implementing the Readers Workshop Model in First Grade

Elementary teachers have so much to do!  We teach all of the subjects and are expected to be knowledgeable and plan for each one.  Reading is one of the hardest subjects to teach.  In first grade we teach students how to read.  We provide the foundation.  Without a strong foundation in first grade, students will have reading deficits in future years making it very hard to catch up with peers.

Implementing readers workshop has been a game changer for me! Gone are the days of endless planning and prepping of literacy centers that often felt like busy work. Gone are the days of asking my students which Daily Five they were going to and making sure they got to each one.  Gone are the days of feeling like my first graders weren’t spending the bulk of their time in books, actually reading.

readers workshop mini lessons, first grade reading worskshop units of study

Why use the Readers Workshop model?

First, students are reading. We become better at something when we practice it.  Instead of having students doing activities that may help them become a better reader, let them read!  Readers Workshop fosters independence and a love of reading.

Second, you can still meet with guided reading or strategy groups during this time and you are not pulling them away from an activity.

Third, students practice the skill or strategy you taught during your readers workshop mini-lesson during reading time.  This way they remember it because once you teach it, they practice it. 

Fourth, it provides a lot of flexibility.  Because it isn’t a set curriculum, you can teach exactly what your students need.  You may teach something in your mini-lesson that exposes all of your students to the standards. But perhaps one of your guided reading groups is a group of students who are working below or above the standards.  You can teach a skill or strategy in small group and then they can practice it during independent reading.  Again, when students practice something right away, they are more likely to remember it.

Finally, it is way less prep.  You don’t need to differentiate centers or daily five rotations.  Readers workshop is organically differentiated because students are working on their level in books they can access.

readers workshop mini lessons, reading worskshop units of study

My students have book boxes for reading workshop.  They have 5 just right books and 5 just for fun books, sticky notes, pencils, bookmarks, a reading mat, and sight words.

readers workshop mini lessons, reading worskshop units of study

Reading Mats are what my students place their books on.  One side has start and the other side says, "Done".  They know to read their books from one side to the other {and back again if they have time}.
Students book shop weekly, which I organize by color of their book box.  I have 4 different colored book boxes, so red book boxes book shop on Monday, yellow on Tuesday, blue on Wednesday and green on Thursday.  I have found that to be the easiest way to organize and remember when shopping day is {and I am ALL about easy!}.

readers workshop mini lessons, reading worskshop units of study

Reading Workshop Mini-lessons

I use picture books to teach comprehension, vocabulary, and decoding strategies but made activities and lessons as I taught.  I needed a go-to resource!  

I decided to make it.  I already had a lot of activities and lessons.  I just needed to put them together. I wanted to make it something that other teachers and students could benefit from. I wanted to make something that made sense with readers workshop.  Something that allowed students to be involved with authentic reading activities while I pulled small groups.  All students need to be exposed to first grade standards. I knew I could address areas of need in targeted small group lessons. The resource I came up with did just that.

It took about two years to complete, but it has been a labor of love.  Literacy is one of my favorite subjects to teach.  I poured my heart and soul into each lesson, tweaking and revising them after I tested the lesson with my students.  
I am still tweaking them, years later.  I recently added "I Can" statements to each unit so students know exactly what they are learning and why.  I think that is a huge benefit to this resource.  I am still in the classroom so I have the current beat on what is happening in education today.  I use all of my resources in my classroom so I have the ability to test drive them over and over again and make changes as needed.  The resource is never done.  

readers workshop mini lessons, reading worskshop anchor charts

When my team and I began using Reading Comprehension A Month of Reader's Workshop Lesson Plans, it transformed our literacy block. It has allowed us to spend more time planning for small groups, where students receive specific, targeted instruction.  It helped our students fall in love with reading in a way we had never seen before. 
We are in our fifth year of using these lessons and our students are stronger readers, thinkers, problem solvers and can respond to their reading with ease. 

nonfiction books for 1st graders, printable nonfiction text

With almost every picture book there is a nonfiction companion.  These books have nonfiction text features and beautiful photographs that will surely capture the attention of your first graders. 

readers workshop mini lessons, reading worskshop anchor charts

Each unit has a comprehension strategy focus that is assessed.  Rubrics for teacher and student are included.  Each book has key vocabulary words and activities, a companion text, reading activities, anchor charts and/or posters, and a culminating activity with a craft. Each month also has a social and emotional focus.  Some of the social and emotional lessons are being a good student gratitude, making resolutions, recognizing strengths and areas to improve, dealing with anger, empathy, volunteering,  and tattling vs. telling.
All of the materials you need {except the picture book} are included.  If you need to make an anchor chart, I've provided examples for you.  
Once you print what you need, you are ready to teach!  It's that easy!

nonfiction books for 1st graders, printable nonfiction text

The bundle for the year is on sale right now!  If you want to try out a week for free, you can download it here.

I also have a unit for each month.

My number one tip for Readers Workshop is to just try it! Give yourself a month and just see the difference it makes for you and your students!  I am sure you will love it.

Check out the free week and let me know what you think!  I would love to hear about your journey with readers workshop or answer any questions you may have. 

If you are interested in reading about writing workshop in my classroom, check out this blog post.

readers workshop mini lessons, reading worskshop units of study

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