For a good ten years, at least, I've been teaching language arts using a workshop model. This year we tried something more daring and went to what we call L.A.B. (language arts block). We do a focus lesson at the beginning and then the kids are in charge of their learning, mostly, for an hour or more. We might call them to read with us or for a writing conference but otherwise they decide how to spend their time. They may be writing, reading, or doing a work station (listening work station, word work, buddy reading, poetry, etc.). It hasn't always been perfect, but it's been pretty exciting. One day I was so impressed with them (in a positive way, unlike some days when I'm really impressed with their ability to drive me crazy) that I took a video of the class.
You see kids reading whatever they want, writing about whatever they want, and working on their literacy work stations. Some are chatting together (maybe about their work, maybe not) but they are all pretty darn engaged. It thrilled me.
By the way, the little one who was clearly looking for some help from me did get it as soon as I stopped recording. I promise.