← Conversations

Reading Writing Workshop gone Digital

Session 4
Larissa Pahomov

At the start of this school year, my 10th graders agreed to embark on a grand experiment with me — to turn our English class into a self-directed workshop for reading and writing. Students pick their own independent reading books, and also decide what they most needed to write, and the lessons would grow organically out of their choices. This model has been described plenty – notably by Nancie Atwell, whose book “In the Middle” provided much inspiration – but at SLA, we are taking the next step by integrating digital tools, as well as scaling the model up for larger class sizes. Come hear from students and their teaching team about the joys, challenges, and lessons of building a class together. The ideas we have to share about inquiry and self-directed learning apply to any and all disciplines.

Conversational Practice

Students from the class will be the primary facilitators of this conversation. Discussion will happen both as one group and in breakouts. The session will also provide space for attendees to identify where they could incorporate these practices into their own classroom or school.

Presenter Profiles

Larissa Pahomov
Larissa Pahomov
Science Leadership Academy


Ann Adams

Have tried something similar but appreciate the thoughtful breakdown and ways to provide feedback. Would love to have chart of breakdown of dayside and roles. Do like idea of balancing with some centered reading so everyone gets benefit of everyone else's thoughts that then builds. Also appreciate confirmation that this model needs more intense time. How much time did you take to set up expectations to peer edit and all other facets to program.

Jennifer Jenkins

Enjoy the structure for our ELL writing class as well as our Science/English course. I enjoy the peer editing structure especially as this can tend to be a difficult skill for students to learn to do. I strongly support giving student choice for what they read so that students are not turned off by reading something forced. I enjoy that your students embraced the freedom and are now at a point that they can respect and appreciate less freedom and accept the idea of a whole class read.

Sarah Macdonald

Thee is a great resource similar to IN THE MIDDLE called BOOK LOVE. One addition they suggest is to take photographs of kids reading (goofy ones are best). I did this and made posters (snapfish can do this for $10 or so) and put them up in my building. The kids love it.

Jennifer Ward

I am so energized as this session comes to a close. My tenth grade students and I write in daily writer's notebooks which we mine for larger writing pieces a couple of times each semester. So hearing about the connections you have made between reading and writing has me thinking more deeply about how I might use our readings as mentor texts for our writing, incorporating your idea of "book sells" and "stealing from the authors" into our notebooks. The comment that someone made about whether teachers would rather read essays that regurgitate what the teacher has already said or would we rather read how our students are thinking about their reading and their writing? I know what my answer would be!

Paul Allison

I enjoyed Larissa's story about moving into a reading and writing workshop model. Hearing from the students and their enthusiasm about the choice and independence that they've been given was inspiring. Lingering questions have to do with how many expectations (about writing, reading, texts, responses… ) get communicated in ways that could be made more explicit in a workshop like this. It was interesting to see Larissa's breakdown of digital and analog tools she uses, and to hear that the students could imagine using more digital tools (for their journals, for example). I look forward to seeing where Larissa goes next in digital work.

Dave Thomer

I'm thinking about how I can take some of these ideas and incorporate them into the independent projects that students in my world history and American government classes will pursue. It's going to take some time for things to marinate in my brain before I have a clear sense of how to do that.

The one thing that I was immediately struck by is the use of the reading journals. I really like the way that the students took some time to lay out their thinking, and then the teachers could give short, prompt feedback that was not tied to a grade. I definitely want to work that into my classes.

Larissa Pahomov

You can also read an extended description of the motivations behind and set-up of this model here: http://lpahomov.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/educon-session-reading-writing-workshop-gone-digital/

Larissa Pahomov

To all attendees interested in this session:

We are in the midst of planning and would love to know what you all want to hear. What is your current classroom situation, and are there any particular resources you are interested in seeing, or discussions that you want to have?

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