Readers and Writers Workshops
Throughout Winchester Thurston School, North Campus, you’ll find readers soaring to new heights through guided reading, a pedagogical approach that provides each child with a personalized reading program. And as they develop and strengthen their literacy skills, students are granted increasing independence and the freedom to deepen their learning on a variety of self-selected subjects. It’s a powerful combination that not only tailors each student’s literacy learning, but also differentiates each student’s educational experience.
At the beginning of first grade, David was an eager reader who longed to read a “chapter book.” But his skills were emerging; it would take time and practice for his abilities to match his desire. Through tailored instruction with just enough difficulty to provide reachable challenges, he steadily acquired phonics skills and developed word recognition, fluency, and comprehension. Motivated by his success and his growing love of literature, he quickly jumped from one reading level to the next. By mid-year, he had exceeded end-of-year expectations. By year end, he was one of the strongest readers in his class. Now in second grade, he has advanced to reading at a fifth grade level—he is often found with his nose in a book (currently The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis), researching the life of Leonardo da Vinci, or working on his own non-fiction book about the black-capped chickadee.
A Student-Teacher Ratio of 4:1
Whether a child comes to Kindergarten reading chapter books or just beginning to sound out words, the faculty identifies what each child needs and takes him or her to the next level. And the program cultivates and enriches each child’s special talents and passions.
That’s because WT’s program boasts three or four teachers in each classroom during reading periods—a student-teacher ratio of roughly 4:1. Through close observation, teachers quickly identify a student’s readiness to move ahead, so students can be advanced as soon as they are ready, rather than waiting for peers to “catch up.”
A Differentiated Learning Experience
As they advance, students use their burgeoning skills to explore the things they want to learn about. Rather than basal readers, they are encouraged to select books that inspire them and challenge them to a new level of reading proficiency.
For example, second grade brings a wider range of literacy activities, including Reading Workshop, inspired by second grade teacher Kelly Vignale’s recent experience with the renowned Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. A highlight of Reading Workshop is “book club.” Students read and discuss books together, moving conversations beyond comprehension to thoughts about characters and connections to their own lives. Students develop the ability to analyze, synthesize, and engage in reflective discourse that deepens their learning and builds critical thinking skills.
After second grade, the focus shifts from learning to read to reading to learn. Students in third, fourth, and fifth grade explore literary structures, figurative language, and complex themes and plotlines in individual and small group settings.