Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Best of Frank Serafini: Foundations of the Reading Workshop



Reading comprehension is the process of generating, articulating, negotiating and revising interpretations and understandings within a community of readers. These four processes of comprehension provide a theoretical basis for many of the instructional strategies conducted in my reading workshop. The reading workshop should become a space for students to feel comfortable sharing ideas, where students can generate and negotiate interpretations without fear of retribution, and where they have opportunities and support for revising their interpretations and understandings. In other words, a space where readers are supported and challenged to make sense of what they read and experience.
So many of the things that make reading instruction truly effective cannot be simply incorporated into lesson plans, no matter the detail. There are nuances to quality instruction that remain unseen to the casual observer or educational novice. What often goes unnoticed is the language of instruction, the relationships developed between students and teachers, the reflective qualities of the teaching process, the ways students respond to the instruction provided, and the environment in which effective learning experiences take place.
The fact that I am an avid reader of children’s literature, spending countless hours reading and analyzing picture books and novels, and have an extensive collection of children’s literature to share with my students, may have as much to do with my effectiveness as a reading teacher as does the quality of the lessons I design. The fact that I am a reflective person, spending time writing about my teaching in my writer’s notebook, supports my ability to teach effectively. The fact that I subscribe to numerous professional journals and read most of the professional development literature on literacy education available supports my ability to design and implement a reading workshop. The fact that I enjoy being around children, have a somewhat warped sense of humor, and like to listen to my students' ideas has as much to do with the quality of my teaching as the lessons I create and enact. 
Teaching is a courageous act. Therefore, so must be the act of writing about teaching. I have spent countless hours with teachers talking about teaching. I am reminded of how daunting the task of facing twenty-five or more children each morning can be, and have developed an enormous respect for what teachers do each and every day. In this book, I want to describe what I did in my classroom without suggesting that other teachers to do the exact same thing. To do so will require some restraint and finesse as I walk the fine line between describing what I did and prescribing what other teachers should do. It is with this in mind that I begin my journey Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days.