Tag Archives: Reading

Looking Ahead to the ELA Exams: What We Have Already Mastered & Developing Next Steps, 3-8

ELA Exams

Written By Anna Gratz Cockerille

Probably the greatest advice we ever hear about preparing kids for high-stakes tests is that a strong curriculum is the best test prep there is. When children are reading and writing daily for long stretches of time, they are far more likely to be successful on an exam that tests reading and writing. There are two key considerations when planning a curriculum that supports success with ELA exams: time and level of text complexity. 

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Developing Robust If…Then… Units in Reading, K-5

Developing Robust If/Then Units in Reading K-5

Written By Anna Gratz Cockerille

The Units of Study in Reading is a comprehensive curriculum designed to provide a years’ worth of instruction in reading. Each kit contains four fully fleshed-out units that together provide a balance of foundational skills, nonfiction and fiction. Each unit represents about six to eight weeks of instruction, so there is space for some additional teaching to round out a school year. Hence, the If…Then…Curriculum: Assessment-Based Instruction book that is part of every kit. 

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Helping Struggling Learners to Show Understanding

Supporting Struggling Learners book cover

Allowing students to show understanding in multiple forms plays off of one of three universal design for learning principles — incorporating multiple means of expression. For a variety of reasons, expressing understanding is hard for many struggling learners. Sometimes, a learner has trouble putting thoughts to words and is unclear of what he or she wants to say. Other times, the learner knows what he or she wants to say but has trouble expressing it clearly and succinctly. And in other cases, a learner is taking time to process input and just needs time to express understanding. Regardless, we serve all our learners well when we provide students with multiple ways to demonstrate understanding. 

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How to Plan for Book Clubs in Middle School

historical fiction book club option

The following is an excerpt from pages 74-75 of A Guide to the Teachers
College Reading and Writing Project Classroom Libraries, Grades 6–8
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth

What is a book club?

Simply put, a book club is a group of readers, usually three or four, who read books roughly in sync with each other. Usually clubs read the same book, but sometimes clubs may read books by the same author, or read a series of books together that share a common genre—mystery, historical fiction, fantasy—or they may read a collection of disparate books with a common lens—thinking about interpretation, learning about shared social issues across the book.

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Tools Don’t Teach, Teachers Do! Using Tools to Support Our Teaching & Teach to Independence

Teachers Toolkits

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille

Building a strong workshop practice is similar to building a house. Doing it successfully takes expertise, patience, foresight, flexibility, and, of course, the right tools. Having an arsenal of resources to draw upon, in minilessons and in conferences and small groups, is key when you need to teach on your feet, reflexively and quickly meeting the needs of a range of students. 

Just as no two teachers are the same, and no two groups of students are the same, so must teachers’ toolkits be varied, personalized by the teacher and set up to best support the teachers' current group. A toolkit might be a binder filled with text samples and checklists, or it might be a digital toolkit filled with resources available at the touch of a button. A toolkit’s mode of delivery is far less important than its usability and connection to students’ needs. However you decide to store your teaching toolkit, digitally or in a good, old-fashioned binder, here are some tips for its organization and development.

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Teaching Middle School Reading Units of Study: Tips from the Authors

Teaching Middle School Reading Units of Study: Tips from the Authors

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille

Teachers of middle school reading have their own, unique set of challenges. On the one hand, there is the pressure to get middle schoolers ready for high school. In high school, the demands will be high, to say the least. Students will be expected to wrestle with complex texts with minimal help. They’ll be expected to read and digest information quickly, and to write well about what they read. The inclination for many middle school reading teachers is to prepare students for a high school curriculum by angling their own curriculum toward what will come in high school. On the other hand, most middle schoolers still need plenty of instruction in reading skill work, and many are not quite ready for the high levels of text complexity of whole class novels. So what is a middle school teacher to do? 

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