Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille
No matter how long you have been teaching reading workshop, it’s likely that Lucy Calkins' Units of Study for Teaching Reading series will help you to charge up the level of reading teaching and learning in your classroom. The series is chock-full of tips, advice, and suggestions collected from scores of reading experts, staff developers, and teachers. When implementing a series as robust as the Units of Study, there is much to consider. Classroom set up, resources, and scheduling have a huge impact on the success of the units themselves.
There are a few areas of consideration to ensure that your Reading Units of Study go as well as possible. Such as:
- Classroom arrangement. Workshop classrooms are recognizable instantly from their set-up. A generous, inviting meeting area is a must. This is a place where children gather for minilessons
- Classroom library. Setting up a classroom library that meets and reflects the needs of the readers in the room is a must. The Reading and Writing Project’s curated classroom libraries are a wonderful resource. Teachers can further customize their classroom libraries by making sure the library meets the unique needs of all students in the class. For example, libraries should have enough books for readers at the low and high ends of the range of levels and books to support English Language Learners, such as books in each ELL’s native language.
- Predictable, transparent schedule. Teachers and students will get the most out of a Unit of Study when the flow of each day is clear and predicable. It helps to post an age-appropriate chart listing the parts of reading workshop and the expectations for students during each part. For example, a chart might begin: Minilesson—Children gather in the meeting area. Independent work—Children head off to work spots. And so on. In addition, assigned spots and partnerships on the carpet and at work areas preclude negotiations over where to sit that can eat up precious class time.
- Conferring and Small Group Work. From the very start, teachers should set the expectation that they will be conferring with students during independent work time, and these meetings are sacred. Students not working with a teacher at any given moment should know two things: First, hey are not to interrupt the conference except in the case of an emergency, and second, if they need help, they can seek it out before asking a teacher. They might consult a chart or ask a partner. If only a teacher will do, they have ways of alerting the teacher they need help without interrupting a conference, such as writing their name on a help list for the teacher to respond to later.
Tomorrow night, TCRWP staff developers Ryan Scala and Allyse Bader will lead the TCRWP community in sharing tips, advice, and suggestions for implementing Units of Study in Reading. Please join to share and hear ways to make reading workshop instruction go as well as possible this year.
Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @rscalateach & @allyseB09 to chat about implementing Units of Study in Reading tomorrow evening.
Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.
Anna Gratz Cockerille
Coauthor of Bringing History to Life (Grade 4) in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing Series.
Anna was a teacher and a literacy coach in New York City and in Sydney, Australia, and later became a Staff Developer and Writer at TCRWP. She served as an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College, and taught at several TCRWP institutes, including the content literacy institute, where she helped participants bring strong literacy instruction into social studies classrooms. Anna also has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Heinemann 2012), and Navigating Nonfiction in the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3–5 series (Heinemann 2010). Most recently, Anna served as an editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, K–5 series.