Reading Workshop In Reader’s Workshop, our first graders move from reading simple leveled books at the beginning of the year to early reader chapter books by winter and spring. It’s a very exciting year, and we begin with a short unit called Good Readers Have Good Habits. In this unit, we ask the students to help “teach” the class about the important habits every reader should have. These are:
Choosing a just-right book (not too easy, not too hard, just on your level)
Getting ready to read by previewing a book – looking at the cover and the pages inside to get an idea about who and what the story might be about.
Stopping to solve tricky words by tapping them out, reading to the end of the sentence, then reading it again to figure out the word, putting your own word in there, or pointing to what the word might be in the picture.
Reading with fluency and expression.
Retelling our books by naming the character, the setting, the problem (if there was one) and the most important parts.
At home you can support this unit by creating a place and time for quiet reading each night. It is of utmost importance that your child read the books in their baggy for 20 minutes each night. 20 minutes a night, multiplied by the number of school days, leads to much more comfortable, confident and skilled readers by the end of first grade! Keep in mind, in September, your child might be more comfortable reading TO you than alone.
At the beginning of October, we take one week for complex text reading. In this week, students are given the opportunity to hold a text that’s slightly harder than they are used to reading, and they are invited to really find and problem-solve around the tricky words they find. This is wonderful because it helps everyone know that ALL readers find tricky words – and together in the class we discover or learn strategies to solve all of these words.
At home you can support this by celebrating when your child stops to solve a tricky word, or by sharing some of the tricky words YOU find in your reading too.
Finally, the rest of October is dedicated to a unit we call Getting to Know Our Characters. In this unit, the students explore different ways to infer (figure out) characters’ feelings, and they become experts at identifying important feelings across a story. They then use the important feelings across the story to help them give a more mature retelling of the stories they read.
At home, you can support this unit by making sure to name your own feelings across the day, and ask your child how they feel at different times too. Remember that people often have two different feelings at once- excited and scared, frustrated and sad, etc.
In Reading Workshop in November, we focus on reading in the nonfiction genre. This unit builds on the knowledge and skills introduced in Kindergarten, and supports students in reading nonfiction at higher levels, and with more complex contents and formats.
We begin by discussing and naming how nonfiction is similar but different from fiction – it has words and pictures, but sometimes the pictures are photographs, diagrams, or close-ups to teach the reader even more information. It has tricky words, but the authors often give you a glossary or very clear context clues in the text to help you learn any words that are truly important to the topic. It’s organized in some way – often with chapters, or section headings.
The students will be reading some texts with the teacher, as part of their lessons, and they will also have the opportunity to choose their own nonfiction texts to read. It’s important to note that during the nonfiction study, we still ask students to keep up with their leveled fiction reading, so we take time in class to read both. At home, we encourage students to read at least one or two of their fiction books, along with any other nonfiction reading they choose as their nighttime reading.
In December, we begin a shared reading unit, where students have their hands on a text slightly above their level, and the teachers facilitate the student’s previewing, reading for comprehension, and reading for fluency and expression. This is a wonderful unit where students get exposed to series and reading strategies that are right where they need to go next – and it sets many students up for reading the next level by the time they return to us in January!
How can parents help at home? Consider ways to make reading a quiet, focused, and positive time at home. Ask yourself: what does your child need to be a productive reader at home? Do they need an audience? Ask your child to read their books aloud to you or another family member. Do they need a cozy reading nook? Consider getting a reading pillow or a lap desk to help them read comfortably, but still with good posture. Do they need a snack? Offer it!
As you read with your child, you can ask them…. What is the story mostly about? What is your favorite part? What is one word that was tricky, but you solved it? How did you solve it? What is one word that was too tricky to sound out, but you think you know what it means? How did you figure that out? Did the main character remind you of any other characters you’ve read before? How?
In the new year, we begin a unit on Envisioning without pictures – this is a very important unit where we prepare students to read with less and less picture support. They learn to notice key signals in the text that help them know WHERE a scene is happening, WHO is there, and WHAT they are doing. Then they practice making a movie in their mind (and on paper) of those things. Finally, they look at place where the author adds body language, facial expression, and special dialogue tags (yelled, cried, etc) to think about the feeling a character has, even if the author didn’t name the feeling for us. This is called inferring, and it’s a very crucial skill for reading without pictures.
In the spring of the First Grade, we begin a study of Character Journey in Reading Workshop. This means learning to identify our character’s journey – usually their main problem – and then track their steps along this journey as they reach a solution or resolution. The students learn that when authors create a story, they plan their scenes out carefully – in each scene, something important happens. Students learn to recognize a new scene by noticing if a character moves to a new place, if a new character enters the scene, or if time passes. The students learn to “get a strong start” at the beginning of a scene by asking, “Who’s here? Where are they? What’s happening so far?” and then they learn to pause at the end of the scene to ask “What’s the big thing that happened in this scene? Is my character’s problem better or worse? Why?” This is a crucial skill for for our readers as they begin reading longer and longer books. Following our character’s journey helps the readers keep track of all of the important parts of a book, and it gives them questions to consider as they read each scene, which helps them remain active in their reading.
Then in the end of March, beginning of April, the students read and write poetry. They learn that poets can write about anything, but they often write about something that gives a strong image or feeling, or both. Each day, they studied a different type of poem or craft, and then tried that out by writing their own poems.
Finally, in late spring, we ask students to develop ideas about their characters. Are they adventurous? Are they shy? Are they bossy? Do they change? This unit invites students to watch their characters closely and to look for patterns in behavior, and to develop an idea about their character that they can substantiate with evidence from the text. You can support this at home by modeling and discussing ideas about the characters in books you read aloud together, or do the same with characters in movies you watch. An idea can be a simple character trait – brave, loyal, persistent, etc, or it can a sentence – this person is a good friend, this person always reaches out to family members to help him/her through her problems. The big goal is for students to envision the story, notice patterns, and talk about these patterns in their own words.