I have been feeling a little lost with my classes this year. I have always had a wide variety of skills and abilities present as our school does have a high population of low SES kids as well as transient students, but this is the first time I have seen these extremes. In one class, I have kids reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level, kids reading at an 11th grade level, and everything in between. I also have high numbers of students with IEPs and 504s and what seems like a very large population of very reluctant learners. How do I accommodate for all that? How do I differentiate?
Today I observed a 5th grade classroom that utilizes the workshop model, and I have to admit that I was incredibly impressed. Students worked independently on a Read-to-Self assignment while the teacher met with small groups and interspersed some individual conferences. She was able to connect with most of her class, and all the class time was used effectively. I loved it!
But I was left with these concerns--does the workshop model depend solely on the students' ability to work independently? In the class I observed, every student was working quietly, and for the most part, they were all on task--minus maybe a couple of short breaks. They had the space to stretch out and get away from distractions (a luxury I definitely do not have), and since the teacher had spent the first week establishing behaviors, routines, and expectations, there really were very few things to stop her from focusing on just a few students (or one student) at a time.
However, we have all had those students who cannot or will not work no matter the consequences, so what do we do then? How do we make this model work if our students do not work well on their own? I have a handful of students who seem to need constant redirection. The second I turn my back, they stop working--some do this by choice, but some have IEPs that say this behavior is out of their control. Can workshop model work in this situation?
I really do love so many things about this method of instruction, but I am just not sure it works 100% of the time like so many researchers claim. Do I need to make a change? Or is it the schools that need to change in order to make the workshop work?