Over the past three years, in an effort to create a best practice approach to literacy instruction, FWSU has offered Reading and Writing Workshop courses. These courses were designed for grades K-6 and were attended by district teachers as well as teachers from nearby districts.
The courses met for four days during the summer, with two follow-up half-days during the fall to allow teachers to learn about the workshop model and then apply it in their classrooms with opportunities for feedback during the fall classes.
While the focus has been on either Reading or Writing Workshop in the past, this year the course was designed to provide an overview of the workshop model and allow teachers to apply it to either reading or writing base on their personal learning needs.
Research in cognitive science shows that people learn best when information is presented in a model that matches the workshop model. This model need not apply only to literacy but can be applied to all areas of the curriculum.
Through work on the All Learners Project focus on math, FWSU has brought best practices in math instruction together with best practices in literacy instruction to create a Universal Framework for teaching and learning.
Teachers who participated in this most recent workshop course represented a wide variety of school personnel. Not only were classroom teachers present, most of whom participated with members of their teams, but in addition, teacher leaders, science and math teachers, and a special educator completed the group. These teachers taught students ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade.
One of the most important aspects of the course is the ability for teachers to apply their learning to their own roles within their schools. As a culminating event, participants create a final project individualized to their particular interest and role and present their learning in a short presentation on the final day of class. Some of the most valuable learning from any class results from participants sharing their learning with each other. Math and science teachers brought explicit writing instruction into classrooms through their journals.
A special educator created solutions for the challenges that some students may meet within the workshop model. Teams of teachers and teacher leaders collaborated together through planning and co-teaching using the workshop model. Teacher leaders created materials to support teachers using the workshop model. A middle school teacher brought this typically elementary based model into her classroom.
As FWSU moves forward with MTSS, the workshop model has moved from a reading and writing model to a way of thinking about teaching and learning. Providing a clear and concise focus lesson, time for students to experience “just right” learning, and a closure that can provide quick formative data for next steps, the workshop model is a best-teaching model.
Juliet King is the Instructional Coach for Grades PreK-6 at BFA Fairfax. She has taught in-district teacher professional learning courses for the past two years.