I'm participating in a little "cyber PD." For the next four weeks, anyone who wants to is going to be reading and discussing Patrick Allen's CONFERRING: THE KEYSTONE OF READER'S WORKSHOP. Each week, a different person will "host" the discussion. Today's discussion of the first section of the book is hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine. Hop over there and see what other people are saying.
“The purpose readers set for themselves affects comprehension …”
Tovani, as quoted in Allen, p. 69
First, I’m struck by Patrick’s theoretical grounding, what he calls his “ashlars.” Patrick has spent years learning at the feet of masters, brilliant thinkers like Don Graves, Shelley Harwayne, Debbie Miller, Laura Benson, and Randi Allison, and his practice is solidly grounded in theory. He translates this theory into tools that he uses in his own classroom, e.g. his template for planning a strategy study, on page 79 (a tool which I am so going to steal and use in my own classroom this year). It’s even more interesting to me that Patrick is able to translate that really complex theory, e.g Gallagher and Pearson’s Gradual Release of Responsibility, into language and concepts that kids can understand and apply to their own reading and writing. I have used gradual release for years and years, I’ve talked it about it lots with teachers and graduate students, but I am not sure I have ever explicitly named it for kids, and I want to try it.
Secondly, I’m struck by the elegance and precision of Patrick’s language. I’m fairly sure that Patrick and I use similar structures in our reading and writing workshops- we both start with a mini-lesson, followed by an independent work period, then a final wrap up. Patrick, however, labels these three components of his workshop much more elegantly than I do, and the precision of his language really communicates the significance of each period of time. Patrick calls his first block (which I typically call a mini-lesson), crafting- it’s a time when he makes the craft of reading explicit for kids. The independent work period is called Composing- it’s when kids actually put the craft lesson to work in their own reading. It seems likethat language would really drive home the idea of readers being active constructors of meaning, as opposed to passive “couch potatoes.” Patrick calls his final block reflecting and describes it as a time for readers to share, "Here's what I learned about myself, and this is what I plan to do with that learning." Wow, wow, wow! And I am so going to be borrowing/stealing his early workshop discussions (pp. 82-89).
Finally, I loved Patrick’s discussion of stamina/endurance. I’ve worked on those concepts with kids, but I have always worked on them in the context of fluency, talking with kids about entering more deeply into their “reading zone” and staying in that zone for increasing periods of time. I love how Patrick uses picture books like WALK ON, and SKYBOYS and WILMA UNLIMITED to help kids get a picture of what stamina/endurance look like in a variety of settings.