Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

The Literacy Workshop Where Reading and Writing Converge

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by Jenn Hayhurst

Think about all the amazing teachers you know. The colleagues who make teaching look… effortless. How? Anyone who has been in a classroom surely knows this is not the case. There is A LOT of effort that goes into that level of seamless teaching. So the question is worth revisiting. How does a teacher light up a classroom and make it look like it’s hardly any work at all? They plan ahead to find ways to make learning more meaningful and connected.

Maria Walther and Karen Biggs-Tucker have written a beautiful book, The Literacy Workshop: Where Reading and Writing Converge. In it, teachers learn how to integrate reading and writing using an inquiry stance. The result is a more natural and authentic literacy experience for students.

The Literacy Workshop was written to help all of us plan ahead, and get to that sweet spot where literacy learning is truly authentic. We asked Maria and Karen, what motivated them to write this book? What impact did they hope that it would have in the professional world? This is what they shared:

The idea for this book bubbled up as we noticed and discussed the similarities between our instruction and learners’ actions during our separate reading and writing workshops. We believe in the adage that reading and writing go hand-in-hand, but realized that, in our classrooms, the language arts were framed as separate entities rather than combined in a manner that capitalizes on their synergy. So, we set out to reframe our literacy instruction. We hope our book inspires teachers to do the same by dabbling with an integrated literacy workshop. Once they do this, we think they’ll find it streamlines their instruction and makes sense to students. 

Maria Walther and Karen Biggs-Tucke

Celebrating “complementary colors” of reading and writing

This reciprocal merger of reading and writing workshop is the heart and soul of The Literacy Workshop as reflected by their subtitle, Where Reading and Writing Converge. Maria and Karen explain these complementary colors of this converging on page 10: 

“We believe that when we weave together those reciprocal concepts to create integrated literacy workshop demonstrations, it helps strengthen our practice as well as deepen our learners’ understanding of literacy concepts.” 

 Maria Walther and Karen Biggs-Tucker (page 10)

Adopting an Inquiry Stance for Integrated Literacy Workshop

Throughout our #G2great chat, the conversation focused on how powerful it is when we celebrate those complementary colors and build that into the choices we make as professionals. Maria and Karen have inspired a vibrant discussion about the benefits of an integrated literacy workshop perspective and offer support across their book and at key points to help us to adopt a professional inquiry stance to support this converging on page 16: 

“At the end of each chapter, we’ll share a few of the thoughts and questions that have shaped our exploration along the way with hopes that they’ll help guide your conversations as you move forward in your thinking about literacy workshop.” 

It is these conversations that we have as professionals individually and collectively that will help us to bring our own inquiry stance to our students. The more we make our teaching student-centered, the more meaningful this integration will become. When we create a professional environment where collaborative thinking thrives and leads to thoughtful and imaginative work, we are better able to do the same for students. All of these wonderful outcomes result in a learning culture where both teachers and students know who they are and what they need.

Big Takeaways

Are you curious to learn more about implementing a Literacy Workshop? We asked Maria and Karen what were the BIG takeaways from their book that they hoped teachers would embrace in their teaching practices. This is what they said:

  • Approach literacy workshop with an inquiry stance. Study your students and then support them as they engage in authentic literacy experiences and learner-driven inquiries.
  • Launch the literacy workshop by focusing on the habits and behaviors of literacy learners like persistence, choice, and challenge (See Chapter 5). As students learn about themselves and their problem-solving abilities, they will be more willing to take risks and work toward the goals they’ve set on their path toward literate citizenship. 
  • When you’re planning, look for the natural connections that occur between reading and writing. Use these opportunities to integrate standards or learning targets. Simplify your instruction to make more time for students to engage in authentic literacy experiences.

Imagining a Better Way

As I close this blog post tonight, I can’t help but feel refreshed and hopeful about what could be. A connected literacy workshop that is built on inquiry. We asked Maria and Karen, what is the message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind? This is what they said:

Imagine the possibilities that a literacy workshop approach can bring to your unique teaching context. Sketch out ideas on your canvas, mix in your deep knowledge of students, and then paint a one-of-a-kind portrait of a literacy workshop classroom. We’re here to support you on your literacy workshop journey. Please reach out with questions and celebrate your successes.

Maria Walther and Karen Biggs-Tucker

Links to learn more:

Maria’s Website

Karen’s Website

Literacy Workshop Free Guide for All Settings

Literacy Workshop Blog Post

Literacy Workshop Podcast