The Book Bunch
The Book Bunch

What happens in a reading workshop?

Each pupil in the workshop is given a real book (such as one from the list here Workshop Reading Material ). They will hold the whole book in their hands, so they can touch and smell it. I feel very strongly that this is a vital part of the whole reading process. Kindles are useful and photocopies of texts are often a necessity in schools, but having the book in your hand makes the whole experience so much more sensory. I don't mind if pupils fiddle with the books, bend them, ignore them, but the books themselves need to be there. Each pupil will also have a mini-whiteboard for writing any questions on, or even at the most basic level, for doodling on or writing signs/symbols on that show either how they're feeling or how they're reacting to the book (or that they're really thinking about shopping/squirrels/Insta). 

 

I will then do a dramatic reading of the first half of the story/chapter to the pupils without stopping. If they are unsure of what something means, they will write their word/question on their white boards. During the reading the only rule is that they must not talk; if they wish to doze off that's fine (though unlikely; I have a very loud voice as my children can testify) or plan their outfit for the school disco, again perfectly fine. They can engage as much or a little as they like initially, but this should gradually change and they will want to become more involved in the workshops as the course goes on.

 

When we stop halfway through, I will summarise for the group the main points of what we have read and ask them open-ended questions to ascertain how much they have understood. We will work on re-capping skills, talk about the characters we have encountered (their behaviour, their emotions, their interaction with each other) and predict what might happen next. Then we will read the rest of the story. Each week we will read a different story/chapter by a different author so that pupils are exposed to a range of writing styles and themes.

 

That's it. It's not rocket science and it is old-fashioned, but it works. It's how I was taught English at school and has formed the foundation of everything I have learnt since.

 

 

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© Catherine Sabben-Clare