Friday, April 29, 2011

Literacy Through Play... A "Little" More on Choice Time Workshop

Here is the primary resource that I am reading (A Quick Guide To Boosting English Acquisition in Choice Time by Alison Porcelli & Cheryl Tyler) to think about Choice Time Workshop.

In this book the authors explain the idea of a Choice Workshop in this way:

“The phrase— choice time workshopimplies not only that children are invited to play with blocks and construct art projects but also this time adheres to the structures of workshop teaching. Workshops—whether reading workshops, writing workshops, or choice time workshops—are designed to provide learners with long chunks of time so that they have the opportunity to plan, to construct, to revise, and to share work. Choice time workshops not only provide children with opportunities for extended independent work, but these workshops also provide children with explicit instruction from a teacher.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reading, Writing, Math, Choice Time Workshops, OH MY!

I've been thinking a lot about developmental play lately. As a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, I often loved the structured yet unstructured time of the day in my room that I called free choice time.

I remember this one particular day when a group of first grade boys were gathered around me and a nonfiction book about reptiles. Their arms draped leisurely over mine as we noticed and read interesting facts. I remember looking at the clock and my agenda thinking, "We need to move on." But then I looked around at their little faces and really stopped to listen in. The thinking and talking that this group of boys was doing was meaningful and important. Free choice time had won the battle and our quest to learn about reptiles ensued.

So why didn’t I make free choice time a permanent part of my teaching day? Don’t all the greats say that whatever you decide to teach (or not teach) is a reflection of your belief system? By not making this a daily part of my schedule I was sending a message to my students about what I really valued. Now that I’m a little more seasoned my beliefs are a lot clearer. I’m still working out how it might go (Ideas for Units of Study for Choice Time Workshop and other tidbits coming soon!). But for now,

Here’s what I do know:

During free choice time kids are engaged and on-task doing what kids do best: exploring, inventing, imagining. But after going to a wonderful workshop at Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project about learning more about our ELLs language acquisition skills by conferring with them during free play, I think the possibilities are even greater, especially for our littlest students who are developing their oral languages skills.

So I did a little research and came across a little book about choice workshop (it was exactly what I was looking for!). In this book the authors make the case for free choice time but in a format just like the reader’s and writer’s workshops. Enter Choice Time Workshop!

During a Choice Time Workshop

-teachers can model how to plan and problem solve with others
-teachers can teach into the language abilities of their students
-students can practice appropriate ways to play with others
-students benefit from the consistency of the workshop structure (kids love structure and consistency!)
-teachers can collect language samples of ELLs
-teachers serve as language models for ELLs

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Community of Thinkers

I have come to believe that talking, thinking, and reflecting with our colleagues is one of the most important things we can do as educators. In the hustle and bustle of everyday school life we often don't feel we have the time. I am proposing that we make time. And not just time with our grade level teammates but with anyone in your building that believes in the same things you do. Belief is everything! Figure out what you believe in by reading professional texts, attending workshops, and by reflecting on your own teaching practice. 

So for those who decide to follow my blog, here are the kinds of things you can expect:

-ideas for growing and learning with colleagues
-book recommendations (mentor texts and teacher read alouds)
-ideas for units of study for primary reading and writing workshops
-tips that come out of my own workshop teaching
-recommendations of professional texts

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ready, Set, Blog!

So I've been inspired by a colleague (follow her at to really give this blogging thing a try. I've decided that my blog probably won't be very fancy, but I do think I have some things to share with other educators. So I'm really going to try to work on how it looks this weekend, and then it'll be time to READY, SET, BLOG!