Planning Instruction

Reading Workshop has three major components: the mini-lesson, work time, and share time. Each of these components require their own unique planning lens.

  • The mini-lesson contains its own specific four step architecture that should be followed each time. Your literacy objective and how you teach it will change each day.
  • Children are always reading during work time. Who you plan to conference with, what assessments you might choose to take, how you might differentiate work, and what small groups you may plan to work with will change.
  • Share time adds closure to the lesson and gives you another opportunity to recap the children’s learning. Which children share changes depending on what you see them working on during work time.

While there exists both rigidity and flexibility in Reading Workshop, consistency is key. All three components of Reading Workshop need to take place each time. How you implement these components will require you take the time to learn what your children need, how they learn best, and how you can best engage them.

Reading Workshop

Choosing Objectives

Carefully select the primary literacy objective to ensure your lessons are meaningful and provide practical outcomes. Make sure the objective meets the needs of your children. Here are some considerations for choosing objectives:

  • Choose objectives for your mini-lesson based on your curriculum’s scope and sequence, mandated learning and language standards, and the needs of your children.
  • Make sure the objective is appropriate for the majority of the children in the class (not just a few children).
  • Keep a list of mini-lesson literacy objectives as you teach them. This will help you keep track of the skills, strategies, and behaviors you have taught and help with future planning.
  • When appropriate, select objectives that connect to other areas of literacy instruction such as writing, read alouds, etc. If the children are writing realistic fiction pieces in Writing Workshop, you could teach lessons on the characteristics of realistic fiction books in Reading Workshop. If they are exploring the comprehension strategy of asking questions during your read alouds, you can revisit this teaching point during Reading Workshop and apply it to their independent reading.
  • Choose objectives that cover all areas of reading instruction including, for example, decoding and comprehension strategies, fluency, setting goals, talking about and responding to books, and selecting books.
  • Connect your objectives to one another in longer units that allow you to explore skills and strategies in depth.
  • After your lesson ends, reflect on the evidence of children’s learning and whether or not the objective needs revisiting. If it does need revisiting, ask yourself if the whole group needs it or just a small group.

Lesson Planning Template

The lesson planning template can guide your planning of a successful Reading Workshop lesson. The template is sequential and is equipped with helpful prompts that focus your attention and support your thinking through the planning of each lesson component. If you need more support, take a look at our “notes” version of the template. Use the sample lesson plans for ideas and feel free to adapt them to use in your own classroom.

Mentor Texts

Mentor texts are pieces of literature that you can return to and reread for many different purposes. These are books that you and your children love to read and reread for many different reasons. Maybe the characters are relatable, maybe the language is striking, maybe the theme is important. You and your children can bond over the content, the connections made, and the common language that it has created. When children learn different yet connected skills, strategies, and concepts from the same book they are more likely to master and apply those in their independent work. The more connections our brain can make while learning the more likely we are to truly understand and apply new learning in a variety of situations. Therefore, mentor texts help children take risks and try out new strategies. They are encouraged to learn from books they love. These books become a natural part of the life of the classroom.

Because the children are familiar with the story line of a mentor text, each time you revisit the text you can focus in on one aspect or one linguistic component of the text, instead of rereading the entire book. This is particularly helpful for Reading Workshop; one of the goals of the Reading Workshop is to ensure that the majority of time is devoted to children’s independent reading. Therefore any reading aloud that you do for demonstration purposes in your mini-lesson, by definition, needs to be brief.

When choosing mentor texts, consider books that:

  • Provide outstanding models of fluency
  • Promote active listening
  • Encourage deeper thinking and options for application
  • Stimulate creativity and create interest
  • Are rich in beautiful illustrations that add another layer to the text
  • Can be used to connect reading strategies to author’s craft
  • Contain multiple life lessons
  • Are culturally diverse
  • Provide opportunities for children to explore language

Create a list of mentor texts based on the criteria for selection above. Consider what books you love and are your children’s favorites. Get started by identifying books and keeping ongoing lists of reading topics that you can use the book to teach. For example, Owl Moon by Jane Yolen could be identified as a mentor text because of its beautifully written descriptive language. Several reading lessons around descriptive language could come from this one book such as: how readers use descriptive language to visualize, how to identify the beginning, middle, and end of a story, how to infer what the author wants the reader to feel, etc.

When sharing a mentor text with your children, first and foremost read it for enjoyment. Have discussions around your connections and what you liked about the story. Provide opportunities for children to share their own responses to the text. Use it in your Intentional Read Alouds, of course, and use the book to meet your objectives.

After your children are very familiar with the story line and content of the text, continue to use and refer to the book in Reading Workshop mini-lessons. During these lessons, you may only be referring to a portion of the book that matches your objective. But the children will be comfortable with this excerpt since they are so attuned to the text.

Assessment in Reading Workshop

Assessment is ongoing in Reading Workshop and serves many purposes. Formal and informal assessments will allow you to target your instruction during large and small group instruction and during conferences. Knowing your children’s reading levels, strengths, interests, and needs will allow you to guide them to the appropriate books to strengthen their print and comprehension skills. Below are several examples of assessment tools that can support your work in Reading Workshop.

Reading or Interest Inventories

Inventories are simple surveys that help you get acquainted with your children. They allow you to gain insight into their attitudes about reading, their reading interests and their interests in general. These “interviews” can be conducted orally with younger children or via paper and pencil with older readers. If your child is a pre-emergent speaker of English, you can use visual cues to gather information about their interests.

Concepts of Print

Print awareness is an understanding about the practical uses of print, its structure and its conventions. Print awareness begins to develop early on as children notice where you start reading a book and what the cover of a book is. Doing a formal concepts of print assessment with emerging readers will help you plan instruction for your earliest readers. Depending upon the L1 of your child, you may need to consider print concept and alphabetic principle awareness, especially if the alphabetic structures and characters are significantly different from English.

Anecdotal Notes

These are brief comments you write about events and interactions observed during the Reading Workshop. Comments describe behaviors, processes, and attitudes. Each record should include the child’s name, date, content of the observations, and enough information to remember what occurred. Use these records to notice patterns over time and determine individual, small group, and whole class mini-lessons or targeted instruction.

Running Records

Running Records allow you to gauge children’s reading levels and analyze their miscues which helps with your differentiated instruction. These can be done formally with benchmark books or more informally as you conference with children. When evaluating your ELLs please consider the ORF (Oral Reading Fluency) scores may not be an indication of the greater concern for comprehension.


In asking children to retell what they have read you can learn a lot about how they are constructing meaning - their abilities, strategies, and processes. This can be done orally or in written form. Children who refer to exact details and use the language of the story have generally understood the story better than those who retell generalities. Consider offering your children specific support structures including sentence frames to guide their retell. This will give you additional insight around your children’s ability to highlight key concepts, sequenced events, and crucial elements in their books.


Rubrics allow children to know what is expected of them. The language and grading criteria (numbers, words) should be clear, consistent, and user-friendly, leaving as little room as possible for interpretation.


Checklists can make recording observations simpler. They are designed to help remind you of the types of behaviors, processes, and understandings you are looking for during work time. Creating a checklist of observable behaviors in the workshop, particularly in reading conferences, is a valuable activity and will inherently change your instruction.

Planning for a Unit of Study

Just as you teach units in mathematics (e.g., a few weeks on addition or fractions), reading is best taught in units too. Units of study are long term plans for focusing on one area of reading instruction that allows for depth and cohesion.

When planning a unit of study, begin by identifying what you want your children to be able to learn and do based on your standards. Then, brainstorm teaching ideas. What do you need to teach your children so they can advance toward these targeted outcomes? Make a list of everything you can think of and then sort, prioritize, and/or discard items that don’t contribute to the overarching outcomes.

Draft a teaching plan. Once your goals and ideas are established, create a road map of what needs to be taught daily. Your road map may be slightly different from the one for the class next door because it is based on your children’s areas of strength and needs.

Revise when necessary. Of course, your plans may need to be tweaked throughout the unit or from year to year. Be alert and responsive to what you see your readers need. Some skills and strategies may need more time, others may be better taught in a small group.

Use the Units of Study Planning Template to guide your long term planning. Use the sample Unit of Study on decoding for a glimpse into a fully planned unit.

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