Students are immersed in units of study that last for approximately 4-6 weeks. During this time, students receive direct instruction in decoding strategies, comprehension strategies, and ways to respond to their reading. They are given opportunities to practice strategies that proficient readers use, while developing reading habits and behaviors that will remain with them for life. Although decoding strategies are emphasized in the early years, reading instruction requires students to demonstrate comprehension in increasingly complex ways as they progress through the grades. Students learn to know themselves as readers, take risks, make appropriate choices about the books they read and build independence and stamina for reading. Most importantly, a love of reading is promoted through engagement with high interest texts in both fiction and informational genres. All students have access to the Pretoria Campus Library and extensive classroom libraries, which house a range of leveled, high interest texts across a variety of genres.
Workshop lessons typically end with time to share the learning that has taken place. This sharing time provides an opportunity learn from peers, reinforce concepts, celebrate new learning, and set up goals for future areas of work. This is an intentional teaching time and one that brings closure to the learning within the lesson.
Mini-lessons are used at the beginning of each lesson and are taught to the whole class focusing on a specific strategy or skill related to the current unit of study or concept. Students are given time to practice the strategy/skill, or talk with a partner before independently applying the strategy in their own reading and writing.
As with reading, students are immersed in units of study which last for approximately 4-6 weeks. Our units are focused on both genre specific and non-genre specific topics, and predominantly allow for student choice in writing. Students learn the importance of developing ideas for writing and study the various techniques authors use by looking deeply at mentor texts and what authors do. In each unit, students experience the process of writing through planning, revising, editing and publishing their work. At the end of each unit, writing celebrations are held and parents are often invited to come and celebrate in the growth of their children’s writing.
Small Group Instruction
Within the workshop model, students are grouped in a variety of ways. A group might focus on specific strategies that have been identified as an area of growth, a group might read a book at a particular level together, or a group might come together as a result of a shared interest around a certain topic. Flexible groupings provide an effective way for differentiating instruction within a heterogeneous classroom.
When independent work is underway, teachers are able to confer with students individually. This is a time for teachers to research and compliment a student's current level of performance, but more importantly an opportunity to teach specific strategies that will nudge them in their development as a reader or a writer.
Within the workshop model, large amounts of time are devoted to independent practice. During this time, students practice the strategies/skills that have been taught through mini-lessons, conferring, or small group instruction. This is a vital component of the workshop approach and as students move through the grades, they are expected to work independently for increasing lengths of time.