5 Tips for Engaging Students During Reader’s Workshop

Struggling to Engage Students During Reader's Workshop?

If you’ve been teaching for any length of time, chances are you have gone to your district’s training on implementing Reader’s Workshop. It can sound very overwhelming to think about your students reading for 40 minutes straight. I bet you can think of those students in your class right now who are “fake reading.” They stare at their books, but the pages don’t turn, or they can’t tell you what they just read once independent reading time is over. I used to struggle with the same thing in my classroom until I implemented these 5 strategies to engage all of my students during Reader’s Workshop!

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Tip #1: Poll Your Students on Books that Interest Them

At the beginning of every year I give my students a Reading Inventory that I created easily using Google Forms. I ask each student if they first of all enjoy reading and how often they read daily. (If a student says they do not have a favorite genre or they don’t like reading, I make a point to conference with them during the first week of independent reading time to learn more about their interests and then suggest several books that I think they might enjoy reading.) 

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Reader's Workshop library

I also include a question in the inventory about their favorite genres and what book series they are reading or would like to read. Based on the information from the reading inventory, I check to see if I have the books that my current students are looking forward to this year! If not, I check with our librarian to see if it is available through our school. I’m also always the first in line to the Scholastic Book Fair that comes twice a year where I can get the latest titles that my students are anxiously waiting to read. 

Tip #2: Flexible Seating

Engaging Readers during Reader's Workshop

When I think about flexible seating, I think about how I would like to read my favorite novel at home. I don’t run to my desk and sit upright while getting lost in a good book. I tend to gravitate towards my comfy couch with my back propped against cozy pillows. Our students are the same way. I made a reading nook in my classroom with an affordable rug from Target and hand me down throw pillows! I made sure to collect enough pillows and stuffed animals, so my students could grab either one of these items as they get settled into their book. Other students prefer to just “lay out” around my classroom as they read. This change of scenery and seating position will help your students look forward to independent reading time.

Tip #3: Reader's Response Journal or Sticky Notes

Students are just like adults in that we need to know the “why” behind what we are doing. I found that once I gave my students a guiding question to respond to during their independent reading time that their engagement in their books increased. For example, if your mini lesson is on character traits for the week, have your students stop and jot about their main character and list three traits about that character. Have them briefly state text evidence as to how they know each of these traits about their main character. My students especially love writing their responses on sticky notes. They can keep the notes in their book as they read, and then notice how their character changes throughout the story. Once they are finished with their book, they can transfer their sticky note responses to their Reader’s Notebook.

Tip #4: Have an Author's Chair for the Share Portion of Reader's Workshop


My students love to share, especially when they get to come sit in my teacher’s chair or show their work using my document camera. That’s when I decided to make an Author’s Chair. My Author’s Chair is a hand me down director’s chair from a sweet teacher friend’s classroom. You can also use a bean bag, your teacher chair, or even a regular student chair! I put it in the front of the room when it is time to close our Reader’s Workshop time for the day. Since the closing of Reader’s Workshop should only take 5-10 minutes, I call on two students a day to share. The students beg to be the ones to share their reading response entry for the day! I’ve noticed they take the reading response question seriously since they know they can come read their response in front of their classmates!!

Author's Chair for Reader's Workshop Closing

Tip #5: Assign Each Student a Book Buddy

Flexible Seating in Reader's Workshop

We all know how students love to talk and share with their friends (sometimes too much!) Some students may be more comfortable discussing their book and journal responses with one other person instead of in front of the whole class. A great way to keep your students engaged during Reader’s Workshop is to let them know that to close out their workshop, they will get to have ten minutes of a book talk with a buddy! Each student can have five minutes to discuss their book with their book buddy and share their response to your question for the day. This is a great way for students to also hear about books that they might want to read next during independent reading time!

Getting your students to find their just right book, a comfy spot, and a guiding question to think about as they read independently can make a world of difference so that Reader’s Workshop is a time that both you and your students look forward to instead of dread daily! I hope your students enjoy getting to share their reading responses with a book buddy or in the author’s chair with their classmates!

If you’re still looking for additional reading comprehension practice, check out our 60 Close Reading Passages!! These passages are a mixture of high-interest and curriculum-based topics that include informational text, literature, and poetry.

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