Commonly asked questions about
Readers' Workshop in Kindergarten
What does Readers’ Workshop
look like at the beginning of the year in Kindergarten?
All kindergartners are involved in a daily Readers’ Workshop
(Opening, Work Session, Closing) beginning the first week of
school. The teacher begins by opening with procedural
min-lessons, working on rituals and routines for managing
the workshop (e.g., where to sit, how to get the teacher’s
attention, what to do if you have to go to the bathroom). As
the routines are set, the teacher begins to immerse children
in rich literature and mini-lessons that teach that reading
is fun and exciting. The Readers’ Workshop in August starts
at about 40 minutes a day as the teacher monitors routines
and learns about her students as readers. The work session
gradually increases until the Readers’ Workshop runs for
about an hour each day.
Do all students read in kindergarten?
Kindergartners enter school with widely different
preparations. Some enter reading while others have little
knowledge of letters. By the end of the school year, most
kindergartners are reading at the “B” level (based on the
Fountas-Pinnell leveling system) which is beginning
What are students doing during the Readers’ Workshop when
they can’t read?
For those that are not yet reading, teachers fill their
individual book bins with books that they can “read” such as
wordless books, copies of familiar nursery rhymes, familiar
fairy tales, and “poems/songs of the week,” alphabet books
that have a single concept on each page, and “star” books.
Children practice “concepts of print” such as holding the
book right side up, turning pages one at a time, and looking
at the pictures to tell the story. They “pretend read” these
books during their individual reading time. Teachers extend
this work session by inviting students to literacy stations.
What are “Star” Books?
Star books are those books that Timucuan teachers
have identified as books with great stories such as The
Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Carrot Seed, The Three Bears.
They have easily identifiable characters, settings,
sequenced events, problems and solutions. The teacher
introduces 4 awesome books each week by reading them
multiple times so that students become familiar with the
stories. Teachers develop several strategies for having the
class practice retelling each story such as inviting the
class to act out a story using props. During the Work
Session, the teacher “makes the rounds” by asking individual
children to “read” their favorite book to her while she
charts their progress.
How does a kindergarten teacher know when a child is
ready to read conventionally?
Kindergarten teachers chart the progress of pre-emergent
readers based on the research of Elizabeth Sulzby from the
University of Michigan. Dr. Sulzby’s research is based on
the stages that a child goes through from sitting on his
mother’s lap to hear a good story to reading independently.
As children reach levels 7-8 in Sulzby’s system they are
able to retell storybooks using story language with
elaboration. They realize that the words hold the story.
When they have also made the sound-symbol connection in
their writing, they are ready for conventional reading.
What about children that come to kindergarten reading?
Less than 16% of kindergartners at Timucuan
Elementary enter kindergarten reading. They are identified
the first month of school on a Reading Assessment that
assesses phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension and
fluency. As the teacher confers with the children that are
reading she often helps them select new books, listens to
them read and often gives a running record to check for
accuracy and fluency, discusses strategies to help them
decode unfamiliar words, and checks comprehension.
Individual books bins are filled with leveled books that
youngsters can practice reading and rereading during the
What are leveled books?
Leveled books are specifically selected to support small
increments of reading. They are leveled using the Fountas
and Pinnell system. Levels A-B are considered kindergarten
levels and C-I are considered first grade levels. Children
move independently through the levels at their own pace.
What are literacy stations?
Teachers use literacy stations at the beginning of the year
to extend the independent work session. These “centers” are
unique because they support reading and include activities
such as Reading the Room, Books on Tape, Partner Reading,
Storytelling, Sequencing Nursery Rhyme. All of the
activities require the student to read. As the year
progresses, literacy stations take less and less time as
sustained focus in independent reading takes more of the
Work Session time.
What is the expectation for reading at the end of
Teachers expect kindergartners to read Level B books by the
end of the year, understanding that every word in the text
has meaning and getting at least 90% of the words correct.
However, teachers do not hold kindergarten students hostage
to the “B” expectation when making retention decisions.
“Kindergarten standards have a special status due to the
enormous variability that exists at this early level” and so
teachers base “success” on the amount of progress that the
child has made during the year rather than on the ending
Do you teach phonics skills?
While phonics skills are reinforced incidentally during
reading conferences with individual students, all students
receive daily lessons emphasizing phonological awareness,
including phonics skills during the Skills Block. The Skills
Block is a 30-minute daily work period outside the Readers’
Workshop. Since the Kindergarten Reading Assessment, which
is given the first month of school, identifies students that
are weak in phonemic awareness and phonics skills, these
students are targeted early in the year for safety net help
that occurs during the school day. This is in addition to
the daily Skills Block.
How can parents support reading at home?
Each night a book-in-the-bag is sent home with each child.
The child selects the book from his independent book bin to
read to an adult each night as part of his nightly homework.
Usually children who are pre-emergent readers select a
“star” book to take home and “read” to their families.
Conventional readers usually choose a leveled book that they
are reading independently. In addition parents are
encouraged to take their child to the public library on a
regular basis and to read to their child each night at a
level above where the child can read himself. This quality
time models the fun and pleasures of reading and lets the
child know that reading is important in the life of the