At my school we are working on refining our understanding of workshop structure for both reading and writing instruction, but also for math and other subjects as well. As is often the case when an approach gets popular and shows up all over the internet, everyone has differing – sometimes widely different – understandings of exactly what it means to teach using a workshop approach.
I think one of the best ways to work through these sticky parts and clarify our understandings is to dialogue about them. After all, Paulo Freire argued that humans learn by problem solving, and one of the best ways to problem-solve is to engage in dialogue with one another.
In that vein, I recently led professional learning with grade levels during their collaborative planning time during which we played “Reading Workshop Bingo” (see image below) as a way to jump-start conversations about how well workshop was going in our classrooms. The rules were simple: find someone who fit one of the descriptions and have them initial that square, but you could only get the same person to initial a maximum of three times, forcing people to get up and move around.
The teachers were surprisingly competitive, and did not want to compromise their possibility of winning by stopping mid-game to ask their colleagues questions. So we saved that reflection for after we had a winner (no one seemed to mind that I didn’t actually have prizes). Our conversation flowed easily as teachers shared how they’d used their document cameras to make read alouds more accessible, simple strategies for increasing reading stamina, creative ways they’ve used sticky notes, and cute stories about kids newly energized about reading.
We all enjoy participating in games, but even better is celebrating the sometimes simple, sometimes big changes we’ve made over the past few months. It can be easy to get caught up in all the pressures to continually change and to lose sight of the actual changes we’ve already made and the positive effects they have had on our students.
Play some games, engage in dialogue, and above all, celebrate the positive changes we’ve all made as teachers.