Reading workshop is the heart and soul of our classroom community of readers. We know how important it is to set up our systems and structures right away so we can focus on creating a culture in our classrooms that supports the conditions of literacy. We use the end of the year to scaffold our readers into the next year. We find that taking the time to do this work at the end of one school year makes the transition to the next grade level a bit easier. We can then have reading workshop up and running on the first day of school!
We do this by having each student complete these three tasks before the school year ends:
- Reflect on what they have learned and set new learning goals.
- Pack a book bag or select titles that they want to read when they come back to school.
- Write a note to their new teacher and share their reading interests and learning goals.
Reflecting on What You Have Learned and Setting New Learning Goals
During the last few days of school, older students look through their book logs, reading notebooks, and written responses to think about how they have changed as a reader throughout the year. Younger students reflect on the books they read at the beginning of the year, the books they are currently reading, and their reading responses to notice how they have grown as readers. Here are a few questions we have students think about as they look back over their work:
- How has your reading changed over the year?
- What was one of your biggest accomplishments?
- What feels like a possible next step?
- What authors and genres do you like to read now?
- What topics do you enjoy reading about?
Once readers have made some observations, they record their reflections. Some students sketch and write their ideas, others write a response in their reading notebook, and others create a bulleted list of what they have learned and goals for themselves.
Packing a Bag of Books for September
Now that students have reflected on their reading habits, preferences, and goals, each student packs a bag of books with a few titles that they would like to read in September. In some schools students use books from the school library or the book room so that it is easy for next year’s teacher to return these books to the proper location. At other schools teachers put their names on the front cover of books and the next teacher returns them once school has been in session for a few weeks. One school has students make a list of the texts they want to read in September. These lists are given to the new teacher and he or she finds one or two of the titles to put in each student book bag. No matter what system is used, having the books ready helps everyone begin reading workshop on the first day of school.
Write a Note to Their Teacher
Now that the books are in packs and students have thought about what they have learned and set goals, each student writes a letter to his or her new teacher. These letters are composed in a variety of different formats, but in each letter students celebrate their accomplishments and share their hopes for reading workshop at a new grade level. Teachers pass along the book bags and letters before the school year ends so that everyone is ready to begin in the fall.
The Power of Planning for September
It is such a wonderful moment on the first day of reading workshop in September when students open their book bags. Some readers are happily surprised by their choices, and others realize that their tastes in books have changed since June. Even if their tastes have changed, students still feel ownership, because they chose their books and set their own goals. This system helps us as we get to know our new students and seems to relieve the anxiety that some students have about moving to a new grade level. Yes, they will learn new and exciting things in the next grade, but they will still have reading workshop and lots of time to read.