Thursday, June 16, 2011

Effectiveness of Reading Workshop

Many of the components of the reading workshop reflect the ten evidence-based best practices of comprehensive literacy instruction as identified by Gambrell et al. (2007), illustrated in the table below (Table 1).

Evidence-Based Practice (Gambrell et al., 2007, p. 19)
Component of Reading Workshop (Atwell, 1987; Calkins, 2001)
Create a classroom culture that fosters literacy motivation. Student choice of text; positive teacher attitude; large classroom library; book clubs
Teach reading for meaning-making literacy experiences, for pleasure, to be informed, and to perform a task Authentic literature; mini-lesson topics; book clubs
Provide students with scaffolded instruction in phonemic awareness, phonic, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension to promote independent reading Workshop time; individual conferences; small group instruction; mini-lessons
Give students plenty of time to read in class. Workshop time
High quality literature Authentic literature; large classroom library
Use multiple texts to link and expand vocabulary and concepts Mini-lessons; small groups
Build a whole-class community that emphasizes important concepts and build upon prior knowledge Mini-lessons; sharing time
Balance teacher- and student-led discussions Small groups; book club
Use technologies to link and expand concepts Mini-lessons
Use a variety of assessment techniques to inform instruction Individual conferences; small groups; reading responses; sharing time
Table 1: Linking Reading Workshop to Effective Practices

The reading workshop approach to teaching reading combines many of the practices known to create better readers. Atwell (1987), Calkins (2001), and Rief (1994) all report that their students become more interested, engaged, motivated and better readers within the context of their classroom reading workshops. However, there have been few large sample or longitudinal empirical studies documenting the effectiveness of the reading workshop approach specifically. A few teachers and researchers report from their own classrooms or case studies that a reading workshop approach is effective in creating opportunities for more flexible teaching and individualization (Reutzel & Cooter, 1991; Towle, 2000), increasing student engagement in and motivation to read (Greer, 1994; Reutzel & Cooter, 1991) and instilling a love of reading (Lause, 2004). In addition, some studies report on the effectiveness of a reading workshop with targeted population such as improving attitude toward reading for students classified as learning disabled (Oberlin & Shurgarman, 1989), supporting adolescent at-risk students in constructing meaning from reading and developing an identity as a reader (Mueller, 2001; Taylor & Nesheim, 2000) and increasing comprehension for struggling readers (Williams, 2001).

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