Revised Workshop Time

June 15, 2007 at 7:18 pm | Posted in IWT, Open Court, Workshop | 4 Comments

workshoptime_exampleFor those of you who teach the Open Court Reading Program, you are familiar with Independent Workshop Time or Workshop. Workshop is designed to teach students independent learning and give teachers time to individualize instruction. It is a chunk of time when students have assignments that they must do and assignments that they may do once they complete their required assignments. There are many different ways of implementing Workshop, any of which can be done successfully.

Recently, after reading a book, the name of which escapes me at the moment, I’ve reconsidered Workshop time and I think, beginning next school year. I will implement a revised Workshop time. I find that the current Workshop time, with Must Dos and May Dos, all to be done in a single session or day is limiting.

The revised Workshop time is based on a menu system and looks something like this:

Entrees (Complete all) – produces tangible products

Side Dishes (Choose 2 or 3 or however many teacher wants) – produces tangible products

Desserts (Do any) – produces no tangible products

You can change the name entree, side dishes, and desserts to anything you like of course. Right off, Open Court teachers recognize that entrees are the usual Must Dos. Desserts are the usual May Dos. It’s the side dishes that makes things interesting.

Something else notable. These activities are not restricted to one day. Rather, they can be spread out through 3 or 5 days or an entire month, depending on the maturity and capability of the students.

What are the benefits of the revised Workshop?revisedworkshop_example

I can have larger, more intricate projects done during Workshop time for one thing. I can individualize menu, and therefore instruction, drastically. Students have more time to work on the bigger assignments, but have the freedom to choose when and how long they spend on each assignment, so long as they get it all done by the deadline. Some very motivated students may choose to complete their entree assignment first, then spend the rest of the week on side dishes and desserts. Some students might spend their time on desserts for the first few days but, that gives the teacher time to pull students who need help starting the projects into a small group to give them the skill or instruction they need to get started. Contrast this with the old Workshop time where all students must start the big assignments, and when they can’t do them, they do nothing and wait for the teacher to reprimand them or they become anxious or they just waste time and turn in inferior assignments at the end.

Share Time 

I’ve also just recently discovered Share Time and I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner.

Share Time is five minutes at the end of Workshop time, old version or revised, where students can share what they’re working on during Workshop. Students have a sign up sheet and consult with the teacher first before signing on or they simply sign on. They can share completed assignments or incomplete assignments or an interesting book or a paragraph they’re struggling with or whatever. Share Time is highly motivating for the students. During the last three weeks I’ve been using Share Time, my kids are not just on task during Workshop, they’re really focused on their work so that they can share quality work with the class.

I’m starting the revised Workshop Time next academic year (starting July 5). I’ll let you know how it turns out. Of course, it’s going to take a month or so to get it implemented, but time well spent I think.



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  1. I like your ideas for revised workshop though I haven’t had the troubles you describe with the traditional workshop. I routinely have students work on longer projects during IWT without expecting that they’ll be completed by the end of the period. Students work on the projects at whatever level they’re at.

    The cool part of the revised workshop are the side dishes which is kind of like a may do that you must do. However with the increased complexity naturally comes increased training. Have you taught 2nd grade before?

  2. I have taught second grade before and I’m actually quite concerned because I know the maturity level is going to drastically drop. I’ll really have to train them for everything and the question is, do I have the tenderness and patience that a very young child needs? I’ll definitely be going slow in training them for this revised Workshop system. I’m glad you don’t have the same problems I have with Workshop, but I also know you are the expert 🙂

  3. Your patience is evident from your blog. If it’s important to you I’m sure you’ll find a way to do it.

  4. […] arts lesson in preparation of Unit Assessment next Monday. Lessons move at break-neck speed until Workshop time, at which time, students scramble to finish final draft (with illustration), a thank you card for […]

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