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Study Group: Including Strong Vocabulary Work Inside Rich Reading Workshops

Aug 23 - Aug 24
9:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Dobbs Ferry, New York

Grades: 3-8

Led by: Katy Wischow

Hosted in: Dobbs Ferry, New York

Dates: Friday, August 23, 2024 - Saturday, August 24, 2024

The author Khaled Hosseini writes, “Words were secret doorways and I held all the keys.” How we all wish our students felt this way, too! Every teacher undoubtedly yearns for kids to have that same confidence, that same sense that their students are poised at the doorway to new books, new topics, new adventures–and hold the vocabulary knowledge to unlock them all. Instead, many of us flounder as we try different vocabulary programs and workbooks, searching for one that feels like a key. Instead, so many of them feel like just another padlock. 

This group will step away from trying to identify the perfect vocabulary program–knowing that there isn’t one!--and look seriously at the question of how we can best integrate powerful vocabulary learning into our reading workshops, in ways that enrich all the other learning going on as well as develop strong word-learning skills. We’ll study the work of researchers like Isabel Beck, Freddy Hiebert, Donald Bear, Douglas Fisher, and others, and we’ll figure out how to apply their ideas in real classrooms with real-time constraints. We’ll look at the ways vocabulary acquisition intersects with knowledge building and is made easier when done in the context of rich content studies and text sets. We’ll pore over our own favorite children’s and YA books, looking at how vocabulary is used and practicing together how we might introduce words to kids. And we’ll try out games and sorts and activities that make word learning joyful as well as sticky. 

We’ll also look at the role of fostering word consciousness and a vocabulary-rich environment. When we’re able to visit a school together, one of our big questions may be “What are the ways that kids are encountering interesting words in this school? Where are they hearing new words? When are they using them?” We can explore and, together, test the impact of bringing more puns and wordplay into the day, elevating teacher language, and sharing read aloud books that celebrate words and word curiosity. 

This group will start with a two day in-person retreat in Dobbs Ferry on Friday, August 23, 2024 and Saturday, August 24, 2024. There are lots of ways to stay on the premises. Together, we will dig deep into the existing research, share our current practices and brainstorm our most out-of-the-box ideas. We’ll also meet online, checking in for roughly 4 virtual sessions across the semester,  at times that work for the group. We’ll have a second in-person retreat later in the year, perhaps in December or January, visiting a school together to try strategies with kids and colleagues.

About All 2024-2025 Study Groups and Retreats:

The educational world has been changing in important ways, and we all need to consolidate and intensify our learning. In 2024-2025, you are invited to join The Reading & Writing Project in study groups designed to grow the knowledge base of us all. 

It is important that each of these study groups become close-knit communities. So, we’ll launch most of the groups with a two-day retreat. (The school leader group is a bit different, see that write-up for more information) The East and West Coast study groups will meet in one of our homes and will involve cooking together, backyard barbecues, and more. The RWP can provide lodging for some participants at no cost, and other participants will no doubt be local and able to commute (plan on evenings and breakfasts together!) To learn more about possibilities for lodging, write These study groups will be free, although you’ll need to finance travel and, if necessary, lodging. 

To apply, please complete this form and include a one-page letter which includes:

  • A brief overview of your experience 

  • Your history and experience working with Units of Study and/or RWP. 

  • Might you be able to lead your own, more local study group, learning from kids and colleagues in classrooms other than your own, bringing that broader range of data and thinking to the study group?

  • To what extent are you able/willing to commit to participating/attending the group 

You can use the same letter to apply to multiple study groups. We will prioritize accepting educators who partner with The Reading & Writing Project in year-long Staff Development, but everyone is encouraged to apply to join this adventure.  We want to learn with all sorts of schools, all sorts of places. We will communicate your application status by early June.