The Workshop Model: Benefits and Challenges

Workshop Model

What is a Workshop Model and how does it Work?
"In the past, students would learn their studies from a teacher standing in front of a blackboard and copying notes onto it. They would learn their reading skills by reading books and writing skills by reading essays, but this method does not benefit the students of today's times in the way that they need it to. Students today need a method of learning their reading and writing skills in a simple yet constructive way. That solution was introduced by the New York City School Officials when they adopted the workshop models for teaching reading and writing skills.
The workshop model intends for the students to learn reading and writing skills through much participation amongst themselves and their peers. Unlike just taking notes from a blackboard, in a workshop model, much interaction ensues after a mini lesson on a specific reading or writing strategy. Students either interact with the teacher or amid themselves by discussing certain pieces of writing that incorporates the strategy. The students learn from writing their own pieces of literature and reading their own novels that they choose.
Through this reformed instructional technique, both teachers and students will have the opportunity to feed off each other and to understand one another in a relationship that goes beyond notes on paper.
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A powerpoint presentation outlining the workshop model:

The benefits of using this model are:
“The power of 24 minds is greater than my one mind.”

  • Increased sharing and synthesis
  • Facilitates Differentiated Instruction
  • Allows teachers to teach to more than one type of learning style
  • Incorporates peer tutoring and instruction within class time
The Workshop Model: Assessment Strategies that Work

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The challenges of using this model are:
"Teachers say the workshop model, rather than promoting teamwork and interactive learning, more often results in a few good students carrying the load for everyone else."

  • The model works best when used schoolwide - the students know the format and the expectations within the classroom.
  • A teacher should have their own room, as setting the classroom to best suit the workshop model takes time.
  • Challenging to keep the classroom quiet.
  • Some students may become complacent and allow their teammates to do the majority of the work.
  • The groups can become too social.
  • Takes away from students practicing problems on their own.
  • Less time to teach more challenging concepts, resulting in less curriculum covered
A teachers Blog about his challenges using the Workshop Model
New York Teacher: Trouble in the Workshop
The Workshop Model: Policy Pariah

Suggestions for trying the Workshop Model:

There are three major things you must carry out in order for Workshop Model to have the expected results:
  1. Group work is, as one can argue, the heart of the lesson. It is here that teachers observe their students carrying out what they have learned during the mini lesson. Student participation during this time is crucial. If a peer starts to analyze a certain topic, and the other adds to his/her statement and then a third or fourth or possibly fifth, etc., what we have here is a large variation of ideas being exposed to each individual. If there were a situation where a lack of participation surfaced, neither the teacher nor the students would have the certainty that what was taught in the mini lesson was actually understood. Make sure you take full advantage of the time alloted for group work.
  2. Another key element in student success would be self motivation. Self- driven students tend to do better because their vision for the future is clear and their priorities are set. Taking the initiative to participate during class and ask questions or help peers is a great pathway towards reaching one's academic goal, to learn and help others learn as much as possible. Giving every student equal opportunities will most definitely have positive results under the Workshop Model program. You have to do your best to determine where you can improve and where you can help others, and act upon that information.
  3. Lastly, but most definitely not least, a requirement for all students instructed under Workshop Model is to work hard. Students who expect to perform well in school have to study after school, complete all the assignments appointed to them, and make sure they understand every aspect of the subjects covered. Grades are a tremendous part in the future academic development of a student, however, it is only part of what is necessary to succeed, and knowing for a fact that you have learned a specific topic beyond the boundaries of tests is also elemental. As with many things in life, you have to give it your all. If trying to complete a task for the sake of getting it over with, then you will not achieve all you possible could.

Other sites for suggestions for trying the Workshop Model:
Breaking the Workshop Model
Notes from Expeditionary Classroom

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Examples of where this model is being used:

Article about using Workshop Model in Elementary Math: Bridging the Gap between Traditional and Reform Methods
Article about using developmental grouping to differentiate instruction: Math Workshop



Secondary Video on Best Practice:

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Format of a standard class in the workshop model:

The Workshop Model and Its Structure
Purpose of each section

5 minutes
Starter / Warm up:
15 minutes
Teacher (and sometimes student) based instruction:
20 minutes
Group work:
5 minutes
Closer / Summary:

Some Helpful Reading:

Teaching Effectively Using the Workshop Model
NYC Helpline for teaching Reading and Writing.

The Reader's/Writer's Workshop:Stepping from the Platform and into the Classroom
(Go to section by Mariah Dickson). A detailed description of how to use the workshop model as the best classroom structure.

Teachers want to talk
A teachers blog about the challenges of teaching using mini lessons.

I speak of Dreams
A general outline of the evolution of the workshop model, plus an interesting blog.

The Wave, School Scope
A discussion of balanced literacy, and when not to use the workshop model.

The Workshop Model: Finding my way to their independence
A review of the text about using the workshop model in the classroom (In the Middle, by Nancy Atwell).

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