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    reader's workshop
    By Mary

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    is a great way to differentiate for the needs of your students. Kids self-select a book (you may want to specify genre) and basically, they come to class and read. You should conference with each student about twice a week (noting, in writing, how many pages they've read since the last conference--this keeps them accountable). A conference should only take a couple of minutes, basically just touching base about the book. I have my kids in RW write me a number of letters. We're starting up again on Monday, as a matter of fact, and they will be required, over the course of the next three weeks, to write me three letters (one a week). One must address characterization, one must address literary elements, such as foreshadowing and symbolism/metaphor and one must address the theme or themes. In this way, they're looking at the same stuff I would direct them to look at, but they're doing it on their own.

    You obviously will not have read all of the books that are chosen, and it's not at all necessary, either. Just ask the intelligent questions you always ask. You'll be able to tell who's on it and who's not.

    For RW to be at all effective, KIDS MUST BE READING AT THEIR INSTRUCTIONAL LEVEL. No third grade readers in Lord of the Rings, and no tenth grade readers in Ramona Quimby. You will need to monitor and approve the books they choose, to make sure of this extremely, extremely important requirement. Lexile.com may be helpful to you in this, but I find I'm a lot more accurate than the lexile folks, and I can tell in seconds whether a book is a good level for a kid or not. So just use your head.

    Some kids have trouble finding a book. I just tell them, fine, but we're done in three weeks, and if you've messed around for two of those weeks trying to find a book, guess whose grade is in trouble? Same deal with the kid who gets halfway through and doesn't want to finish. Figure it out. We're done in three weeks.

    I teach lang. arts in a middle school, so I have about 100 kids. I do not do RW with all 100 kids, but I have known teachers who do it. I do lit circles with most of my kids, with only the highest and the lowest in RW. Do whatever works for you.

    It sounds hard, but it's not, and you can tell your principal that you differentiate like crazy!



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