A Preview from A Guide to the Reading Workshop: Middle Grades
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth
Over decades of research (1977, 2002), Richard Allington has returned often to the three key conditions readers need to thrive:
time to read,
access to books they find fascinating, and
The first condition, time to read, means examining middle school schedules to make sure students get time to practice. Allington argued, and many other researchers have argued, that above all, students need time to engage in reading in order to get better at reading. Arguing for time for independent reading in schools, Donalyn Miller (2015) likens the situation of students needing to read in order to get better at reading to learning a sport or an instrument. No one ever asks the coach why his players are practicing on the field, and no one asks the music teacher why students are playing instruments during practice times. The only way to get better at doing something is to practice doing it.
“I think that many teachers have been subjected to intensive efforts to remake their small-group instruction so that it is 'just so.' There have been so many books written on how to lead small groups in precisely the right ways that too many teachers approach a little hub of readers, gripped by anxiety over doing this The Right Way. Meanwhile, the whole point is to be personal, be responsive, and to channel kids to do some work while you observe and coach.”
– Lucy Calkins, in A Guide to the Reading Workshop
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.
Picture this. You pull up to confer alongside a Kindergarten reader. Henry, let’s call him. He has become fairly confident at reading level B books, and he is reaching for level C. You only have a few minutes to work with him, and you want to make sure your teaching has the most bang for its buck. As Henry reads aloud, you think about the big work of level A/B readers. You know that A/B readers are learning a few high-frequency words, and one thing you notice is that Henry says a few words, like the and for automatically. You also notice that he doesn’t always use the beginning of the word to figure out what unknown words might be. You know that at level C, where not as much information is given in the pictures, readers must use beginning sounds to figure out unfamiliar words. You also know that continuing to build knowledge of high-frequency words is crucial at level C.
This week, thousands of educators are gathering with The Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College at Columbia University to learn, to think, and to share about the topic of the Teaching of Reading.
For over thirty years, educators have been gathering at TC for The Project’s summer institutes. Many of the basic principles and methods of learning are just as they have always been since the inception of the institutes: participants learn by doing the reading and writing they will be asking students to do, they hear amazing keynotes, they have access to great leaders in the field of literacy.
Already, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project June Writing Institute is upon us. Thousands of educators from all over the country have descended upon Teachers College to learn, to talk, and to write. There is nothing quite like a TCRWP Institute. An Institute is a week-long opportunity for participants to completely immerse themselves in one aspect of literacy instruction. It is a chance not only learn invaluable fundamentals and best practices, but perhaps even more importantly, it is a chance to become a learner, to get to know a subject area inside and out because of daily practice and reflection.