The clock ticks.....70 minutes. 3 Classes. 75 students. I've completed thirty-five minutes of whole group Language Arts instruction with my first third grade class of the day. In order to make the most of my guided reading group time, my reading/writing workshop needs to run like clockwork. After three interruptions in the first five minutes of meeting with my first group, sweat forms on my brow, heat rises up my neck...the clock continues to tick. Each tick a strike of a bass drum in my ear. (I know...tend be a bit dramatic when I write.)
Aside from the dramatics, the time crunch is very real. I've had to learn to make the most of this time with as little interruptions as possible, along with holding each student accountable for their time. Here are the tips and tricks I've picked up.
Clear and Posted Expectations
The expectations need to be clear and concise for your Reading/Writing Workshop. I have a chart displayed that tells what the students' jobs are during this time along with what my job is. This is something we've practiced since the first week of school so that it is routine. Here is an example of what the chart looks like.
Use a Timer
As simple as this sounds, it is a must for me. I try to keep my small group meeting time around 13 minutes. To start the week, I meet with my higher leveled groups first. With these groups, I can review the skill or strategy of the week with them, do an example together with the first couple of pages of the leveled reader, and send them on their way to finish up while I call the next group. Sticking to this format allows me more time in the long run for the groups that need more guidance. By the end of the week, my meeting time with my higher groups is shorter. We meet enough time to make sure they are on track with the skill or strategy and to give them an enrichment assignment if needed. With the extra time, I can add meeting time minutes to the groups that need more.
Reading Workshop Exit Ticket
How can I hold seventy-five students accountable for their Read to Self time while I meet with groups? It's nearly impossible to check with each student daily on their self selected reading. I require that the students keep track of the books they read during this time in their book logs. Once a week, they need to pick a book they've read from their log to fill out a Reading Workshop Exit Ticket on. I randomly choose students to share their exit tickets with the class, so they need to be prepared. I have exit tickets for both fiction and nonfiction books. You can grab a copy here.
Even though the students are told to have enough reading material ready to read the entire time, I've found that it saves interruptions and wasted time to have book baskets ready for each table in case more reading material is needed. Each week I rotate the baskets so that new books are available. I choose high interest books in a variety of reading levels. Some of the favorites for third grade are the Who Would Win? Books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Weird School Books, Superfly Guy...to name a few.
I hope you find these tips useful. Feel free to share your own tips in the comments section!
Here are the books mentioned in the post and the baskets I use.