Comprehensive Literacy Instruction

Reading Workshop
At Longfellow Elementary School

by Holly Johnson, Literacy Specialist and Asst. Principal

Reading Workshop was launched in all K-5 classrooms during the 2015-2016 school year. This instructional method is the product of over twenty-five years of literacy research (like its twin, the Writing Workshop).  The workshop model of instruction is a robust classroom architecture that develops engaged, thoughtful readers who are ready for high-performance learning.

Independent Reading

To cultivate the habit of independent reading, Reading Workshops give our students important reading time during each school day. Teachers begin the workshop with a brief and carefully crafted mini-lesson, one idea for the children to learn to use as they read aligned to state standards. Teachers capture the important points of the mini-lesson on the anchor charts one sees hanging in the classrooms to remind children of the good reading habits we want them to practice.

Grade 3 Anchor Chart

Then, each child finds a comfortable spot for reading his/her book, and while the children read, the teacher moves about the class, conferring with individual students to assess their comprehension and application of the lesson, and to offer guidance and reading strategies. Teachers gain valuable insight into each child’s tastes, perspectives and ways of knowing that helps to guide their reading and plan future mini-lessons.


Mini-lessons teach the habits and skills of good readers. These lessons apply to readers at varying levels of proficiency, including those who are reading mostly pictures. Young readers might learn about the parts of a non-fiction book or how to figure out words they don’t know, while later readers may discuss character, setting, inference, figurative language or the characteristics of a particular genre. Some mini-lessons give ideas for how to talk about our book or be a good listener for our partner. Above all, they teach that good readers think about and interpret the meaning of the text. The skills and strategies for all minilessons come from grade level units of study.

Units of Study

To ensure a rich and varied diet of reading experiences for our students, teachers at every grade follow a curriculum of study units in Readers Workshop.  Study units may focus on a genre — non-fiction, historical fiction, fantasy –or they may focus on an aspect of being a great reader — Building a Reading Life or Using Print Strategies or Interpretation.  Some units of study are integrated with social studies and our writing units of study — Narrative Non-Fiction of Colonial America. The units of study develop the skills, strategies and habits of readers using our ELA state standards.

Assessing Reading

Our teachers assess each student’s reading in September and October to determine the child’s just right level. Assessments take word knowledge, word recognition strategies and comprehension into account in setting the correct independent level. Regular conferencing with children provides teachers with ongoing monitoring of each child’s progress, and they assess again periodically during the school year to track each child’s reading progress. Books read in class and at home will be at each student’s independent level as it grows throughout the school year.

Just Right Choices

Various studies have shown that allowing students to choose their own texts fosters engagement and increases reading motivation and interest and that to progress in their reading, children need to choose and read lots of books at their just right level; in other words, books where they know 95-99% of the words. Every classroom (and the school library) has many books at every level, so that each child has many books from which to choose. By reading many books at a comfortable level, children will enjoy reading, develop reading stamina and progress to more challenging texts. These same just right books are what students bring home regularly to read at home.


Students are matched with a partner and meet daily to read and talk in supportive way, often with a shared or similar text. This time of workshop helps build stamina and engagement as it grows comprehension through accountable talk.
Partner ReadingPartner Reading Chart

Read Alouds

Read alouds are an important complement to the Reading Workshop. Using a carefully chosen text, the teacher models the internal thinking of a good reader as s/he reads a story to the class. Each read aloud has a teaching point–making predictions, for example–that the children can then apply in their own reading. Read alouds teach children to think about their own thinking as they read.

 Balanced Literacy

The Reading Workshop is only one component of Longfellow’s Comprehensive Literacy program. We like to think of this as a ‘balanced literacy diet’ with Word study, Writing Workshop, Read-alouds, Accountable Talk and Reading Response, as well as Content Area Literacy. All of these contribute to each student’s literacy growth and development as a life-long learner.
Reading in Poets' Garden