Monday, June 22, 2015

Reading Workshop: Overview & Unit One {Taking Charge of Reading}

{Click on the image above to be taken to the first post in the book study}
Hey y'all! Welcome to the first installment of Mrs. Felts & Friends' Reading Workshop? No Problem! Summer Book Study! Like many teachers out there, I struggle the most with making my reading block run effectively and efficiently. I want my little sweeties to get the most out of their time just like I want to get the most out of mine. As a year round school teacher, I am pressed for time, especially in the summer. All these great ideas and changes for the better for next year are always put into hyper speed as I plan for students on July 20th. Therefore, I thought the best thing I could do is to read up on a text that goes right along with my district's writing curriculum. I am sure you have heard of it: Lucy Calkins' Units of Study. The book we will be talking about over the next few weeks is entitled A Curricular Plan for The Reading Workshop: Grade 2. You can follow along by downloading a copy from this LiveBinder. A few things first:

  1. This book study will be fast! We will have two posts per week and cover this book at lightning speed that way everyone can take advantage of all the tips and tricks for the new year. This is especially useful for those teachers heading back early August, or even in July like me.
  2. You can always click on the header image above on any of the participating blogger teachers' pages to be taken back to this first post in the series.
  3. A button linking to the next post will be placed at the bottom of each post and will be captioned with a date on when that post will come available.
  4. All comments are welcomed and encouraged!
  5. We may offer products or links to ideas along the way, so definitely read the whole post each time!
Here is our schedule for this book study so you do not miss a thing:
  1. 6/22 - Overview & Unit One
  2. 6/26 - Unit 2
  3. 6/29 - Unit 3
  4. 7/3 - Unit 4
  5. 7/6 - Unit 5
  6. 7/10 - Unit 6
  7. 7/13 - Unit 7
  8. 7/17 - Unit 8 & Conclusion
If you are planning a vacation, no worries! We will be right here when you get back. Now for the stuff you've been waiting for:

What an easy and enjoyable read! The overview began with an outline of how to roll out the units in your classroom. This was especially helpful for me, even though I had to modify it to meet the needs of a year round schedule. As you can see below, this makes tackling the units and integrating the ideas into your pacing guide so much easier! And did I mention this book is aligned to the CCSS? Oh yeah! [insert fist pump!]

The overview gives some much needed background information about why we do Reading Workshop. To say we do it for the students is simply brushing the surface. Calkins reminds us the importance of collecting data on our students as soon as possible and how it is not uncommon for one teacher to juggle first, second, and third grade curriculum simultaneously in their reading instruction. The goal explicitly expressed in the overview is to come away with a curricular calendar of your own at the end of the book. We will make sure you see some of our calendars at the end of this book study.

The overview further goes on to explain the importance of the minilesson as part of the reading workshop. "Students should be taught all about ways of working with partners, how to organize a reading life, tackling tricky words, monitoring for sense, using fix-up strategies when sense falls apart, jotting in response to reading, and so forth." The minilesson is designed to set the stage for the day, focusing on a given skill - not a set of work assignments that changes daily. We all know that stamina is difficult to achieve, but by the time we get our second graders, they should be able to read independently for at least 30 minutes. If not, Calkins stresses the importance of building and tracking that stamina daily. SET GOALS!

The overview closes out with an explanation of balanced literacy and what that should look like in a given classroom. "One cannot stress enough the importance of reading aloud," Calkins explains. This sounds like a no-brainer, but would you believe that some individuals think it is not as crucial? The read aloud is a time for students to hear correct fluency, phrasing, and intonation {and so much more}. The read aloud paired with shared reading, word study, small group instruction, and assessment make for balanced literacy instruction.

Unit One is all about independence and getting books in those hands as fast as possible. It is easy to get caught up in the classroom management side of things at the beginning of the year. One of the most important things I took away from this unit was to look at students' previous data and have book bags or bins ready for them on DAY ONE! This is something totally doable. Ideally, you want students to read during the summer with some paper books sent home on their independent reading level from first grade. With PLCs in place across many states, bags of books should be easily accomplished when planning with other grade levels.

Students need to be reminded to make smart choices with their reading when they enter your classroom that first week. Teach them how to use sticky notes to mark important parts, funny parts, questions they may have during reading. Comprehension that Sticks is a great pack to help with this. Understanding how long it should take a student to read a book can give you a good idea on your class' stamina at the beginning of the year, and help gauge what type of just-right books they should have in their hands.

One of the biggest Ah-Ha moments I had while reading this unit was when Calkins said "remind children not to point at each word as they read." I will be the first to admit I tell students to read out loud and point to each word. DOH! It is my mission to rectify this for next year, and I may use some of these to help students track....or make my own. ;)

Unit One goes on to explain the importance of reading as thinkers by asking questions before, during, and after. This is something students can forget easily, and we need to help them remember its importance as soon as possible. As students grow that first week with you, allow them to read with partners and discuss text openly in whole group, small group, and partnered settings. Allow them time to write down their questions and observations when reading and listening to reading. Develop or remind them of the excitement found in a book and how rewarding reading really is.

I hope you enjoyed reading this section of the book. I cannot wait to begin the next section. Read up and check out Lupe at Kindergarten Common Core on Friday for Unit 2 in our series.
{Click on Lupe's button to be taken to Unit 2 in the book study}

post signature


  1. Don't you just LOVE those A-Ha moments!?!? We always have things to learn! I can't wait to dig in and read this chapter! Thanks for getting this started for all of us to enjoy & be ready for Back-to-School!


    1. Who says a teacher cannot learn? I cannot wait to hear your input once you read the chapter. I am sure you will provide valuable input.

  2. Oops! I'm guilty of having my readers point to the words when they read. I like the picture you shared on how I could help my readers be better without having to point. I also love the sticky note product suggestion. What a great way to hold kids accountable and to check on their work while reading. I find it hard to roam the room and get to as many readers as I would like, and that makes it hard for me to know whether they really understand it or not.

    1. Why is it do you think that you find it so difficult to room the room and get as many readers as you would like? I am curious if it comes down to scheduling or some classroom management techniques that would help you.

  3. First of all, I want to say I love this book! I love how it details what each part of balanced literacy should look like and sample question stems for teachers and students. When students start to "speak the language" they better understand and can apply the desired skills. I can't wait to read the next chapter! :)

    1. I love how you pointed out that students can speak the language. So many times I have observed classroom teachers take academic language and put it in kid friendly language. While I think there is a place for that, I absolutely believe they need to speak the actual academic language. Inviting them to notice things in subjects and teaching them what it means to inserve and co I love how you pointed out that students can speak the language. So many times I have observed classroom teachers take academic language and put it in kid friendly language. While I think there is a place for that, I absolutely believe they need to speak the actual academic language. Inviting them to notice muni ate is absolutely essential. Why do we need to modify so much how we speak to children? Given them examples of what things mean and they will use the correct language. For example I teach my students the word conversation. I asked them if we need to have a conversation at the beginning of the year. I get the deer in the headlights look because they have no idea what conversation means or is. I explain to them that a conversation is a two-sided talk. From then on my students can heard using the word conversation.For example I teach my students the word conversation. I asked them if we need to have a conversation at the beginning of the year. I get the deer in the headlights look because they have no idea what conversation means or Is. I explain to them that a conversation is a two-sided talk. From then on you can hear my students using the word conversation correctly. This is the same as teaching them what shared reading, a read aloud, and word study is.

  4. Amber, thank you for a fresh perspective on reading workshop. I read the second grade version even though I teach fifth grade. Yes, I am going to read the 4th/5th grade version and modify for my class. I agree with the time spend on independent reading. After lots of reflection, it’s time to weed out some activities in the classroom and make more time for independent reading. Comprehension that Sticks is such a simple but powerful activity to incorporate daily that also shows evidence of reading. After I study our new South Carolina standards, I will modify this activity to fit my classroom. Looking forward to the next chapter!

    1. Hi mom! Thanks for stopping by! :)

      You may be interested in another book study I am participating in as well, this one for professional development at work. The book is called "Beyond Guided Reading" and the author specifically talks about the need for more independent reading in the school day. I found it interesting that with the push for guided reading we are often found trying to fit in as many groups as possible into a single school day. For the reading workshop, you have more flexibility. You can meet with one or more groups in your reading block, then you can spend time circulating and conferencing one on one with students. Or you can use some of your time for target skill/strategy/phonics groups. The point is to assess our students and find out their needs. Find what works for them. I don't know about you, but I have had students that simply do not perform well at the guided reading table with other peers. This would be a student that I would take note and conference with one on one for phonics, skill work, and comprehension strategies during our reading time. I would be interested in seeing what you come up with for your blended literacy block the coming school year.

  5. One way to make a tool to help with reading instead of pointing to each word is to get leftover a piece (rectangle) of clear laminated plastic, like the pieces you throw away. Take a permanent yellow or orange marker and color the edge of the laminated plastic. Cut them in appropriate lengths, and you have a reading tool as well as a bookmark.

    1. Cindy,

      That is a such a great idea, and a money saver! Thank you for sharing. Check back later in the book study for a freebie that is something along those lines! :)


  6. Wonderful chance to learn and connect. To share with you please check out this resource for Caulkins Units Book Study Writing.

  7. Love the idea of having books ready for reading on the first day of school! Getting books in their hands and getting them reading is the best way to start the year with success.
    Burke's Special Kids