Dat workshop model
This week my blog post is late because I didn't know where to begin. I've been thinking obsessively about the workshop model.
The workshop model, the brainchild of Lucy Caulkins and Carmen Farina, is new for us at my school. Some time last year it was decided that this model was the right one to address our sliding state test scores and our "changing demographic". First, our faculty meetings started following this format.
The idea is that the teacher acts as more of a facilitator, getting students started thinking at the beginning of class with an activator, then teaching the material for the day in a mini-lesson, then providing work time for students to hash it out in groups. At the end of the class, the teacher does a formal or informal check-in with the class. Each component has a recommended amount of time attached to it.
At the beginning of the year, I embraced the idea of adopting this model. One, because there was no choice. Two, I was trying to stay optimistic. At the start of week 4 of school, though, as I become more familiar with the model, my doubts are growing. This is not a criticism of our coaches, or of our principal. I just think we need to approach using any kind of model critically.
Here are the pros I have found so far:
- provides structure
- good especially for beginning teachers
- students know what to expect in each class
- a model that works best for ELA
- I find it very rigid (what if one day you want to extend your lesson beyond the 10-15 minutes recommended?) and scripted.
- not great for beginning ELL students
- patronizing for experienced teachers
In the workshop model, the work session consists of students figuring things out mostly in groups. My ELL students, especially when they first arrive in the U.S., are not accustomed to working in groups and helping each other. Whether I put them in cross-language or same-language groups, so far I have had limited success. On Friday, one of my students ended up not speaking to her partner, and another one ended up in tears. I don't think they shouldn't ever work in groups, but I do think it's a skill they have to learn - little by little.
We are, of course, not even at the end of September. Maybe as the teachers at my school get more used to the model, and if we are able to discuss ideas that worked with each other, and if we are given time to figure it out ourselves, AND if we are able to reflect on it as a faculty to decide if it is working or not ....then MAYBE it will be the right model for us.
Trying to stay optimistic. Thoughts?
The NYC public school system adopted this model in 2004. Here is more information, and a critique, of it:
9/20/2015 07:54:11 pm
Well said! My optimism extends to the hope that there will be flexibility. Used with teacher discretion, the model has many good points. Applied rigidly, it's not useful, and it's insulting to teachers. I'm not going to call what I do a "mini lesson"!
9/20/2015 09:10:30 pm
"Maybe as the teachers at my school get more used to the model, and if we are able to discuss ideas that worked with each other, and if we are given time to figure it out ourselves, AND if we are able to reflect on it as a faculty to decide if it is working or not ....then MAYBE it will be the right model for us." Exactly. Let us know!
9/20/2015 09:24:00 pm
9/20/2015 09:25:20 pm
Agreed about the flexibility piece!
9/21/2015 09:43:46 pm
Glad to hear it! Let me know what your students' thoughts are if you can, I'm curious! Thanks for reading!
9/22/2015 01:57:36 am
There is a reason why I am replying to this at 1:52 a.m. It is bothering the hell out of me.. the rigidity of the workshop model, that is... not Alicia's blog post. Everything she said is spot on and I feel insulted pretty much daily by the presumption that I bring nothing to the teaching profession after nearly 30 years and that this model will be the solution to very complex issues such as kids being hungry every day. I need sleep but I am glad to have read this as I know there are people out there, very, very gifted and seasoned teachers who are craftspeople and artists with a wealth of experience who need to be valued for the professionals that they are. Alicia, thank you for all you do both in the class, and at school and on this blog... XOXOX
9/22/2015 03:47:52 pm
Thanks for your comment! It sucks that you were up at that time of night. Here's hoping we can come to an understanding that is tenable for all.
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