So much to be thankful for….
After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Me, The Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine, My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love , Mary Poppins & Fenway Park by Steve Klugler are the finalists of this new $5000 award for the best novel that possesses a positive approach to life, appeals to a wide and appreciative teen audience, and demonstrates literary merit. The winner is ….
My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park by Steve Kugler.
Franki over at A Year of Reading is so right about ncte being such an amazing professional development experience. I just heard her partner-in-crime Mary lee, Karen from literate lives, and Katie from Creative Literacy talk about how they’ve grown professionally by “going public” with their blogs, videos , and book (not all one venture). Central Ohio bloggers are the best! I will type up notes later, but their talk was inspiring and thought provoking. Now I’m sipping coffee at the table next to babymouse’s Jennifer and matthew holm and getting ready to challenge myself to see how many books one person can shelp at one time. Get as many books as possible, stand in line to mail home, repeat as many times as your patience and back can take. Like Filene basements wedding dress mania, the opening Of the expo is sheer madness.
Ah…flight delays. Who would have thought in a month that has been so beautiful in the midwest that there would be flight problems. I just got the call that my flight was delayed 152 minutes. Well, at least they called! I might be tired, but at least I’m going to get there. I just home Julie Andrews and all the other presenters’ flights gets them there to NCTE.
Provisioning a Reading Workshop: Overview, Classroom Environment, and Tools
Deputy Director of Reading, Teachers College Reading & Writing Project
The workshop model is a model in which all children are involved and engaged. In the case of the
reading workshop, students are engaged with reading books they have picked themselves. It’s
truly differentiated because children read books that they’ve chosen and on levels that they can
read. The workshop is not everybody doing the same thing. Imagine Santa’s Workshop, all the
elves are involved in different activities, but these activities share the same final goal. In reader’s
workshop, all students are focused on activities that are going to help them grow as readers. So
they’re putting into action some of the skills and strategies that have been taught to them, either in
conferring or in mini-lessons, and that they feel like they need to get better at as they go off and
The reading workshop consists of several components. Usually, it starts off with a mini-lesson,
which is whole-class teaching, and then the children read independently for the bulk of the time.
There is usually some form of interruption in the middle to refocus the kids or to teach them
another strategy. This is the mid-workshop teaching point. After that, the kids continue to
read. Finally, there is usually a teaching share that may involve partner work. This brings
closure to the workshop.
So, in the reading workshop, one of the essential goals is to build a community of readers,
where children are really owning their reading life and composing their reading life in the
classroom in the company of others. Students are making decisions on what they’re going to read
and how they’re going to read it, even going so far as to choose the best place in the classroom
for them to read. The teacher is really working on trying to get children to see reading as
something they work on. Students need to think about their purposes, who they are, and how
they’d like to grow. And, ultimately, the teacher is working to get the children to become good
thinkers, to use reading to help them develop ideas about the texts and themselves in the world.
In workshop teaching, you’ll notice that teachers work hard at creating a place that encourages
kids to read and author their own reading lives. Classrooms are set up for both independent
work and collaboration. There’s no one way a classroom should be. However, there are some
things to think a little bit about as you set your classroom up. Is this a classroom that would foster
collaboration? Clustering desks or tables in groups can help. You want to make sure that you
provide opportunities for books to be talked about and shared.
It’s also important to create areas in which the class can come together and meet. This common
area is where we usually pull the kids together for whole-class teaching. A rug is not required, but
many people choose to use a rug to mark this space. Some teachers even have couches to make it
comfortable around the meeting area. None of that is required; you’ll make the classroom your
own. In designing your classroom for reading workshop, think about how to create a place that
feels like your home, where you would be doing a lot of your reading.
It’s also a good idea to have an extensive classroom library for workshop teaching. And so
setting up your library is something that you need to think a lot about. You want to make sure that
the room is set up in such a way that kids can easily find books that match them as readers during
the independent part of reading workshop. And so a lot of the time the children have a part in
setting up the library. How do you make sure students know which books they should choose?
You could organize your library by reading level or create a section organized by reading level
using guided reading letters, dot colors, or some other method of your choice. The library should
also have sections organized by author, such as all the books by Jerry Spinelli, as well as areas, or
bins, that are organized by genre—such as adventure or mystery. There are some bins that the
class will create, like our favorite books. In this way, the kids are really helping to shape the way
their library looks and the way that they think it would help them be more powerful readers. In
some schools, each teacher can’t have his/her own full library so teachers sometimes borrow
books from each other. You might consider putting a shared library on a wheeled cart. That way
when I’m finished, the kids put their books back and then it goes down the hall to the next
teacher. So teachers share libraries. Teachers also take out a tremendous amount of books from
public libraries or from the school library to fill up the shelves in their classrooms. The library is
something that changes and grows. So as your kids are reading more and growing more, you have
to replenish it quite often.
In the reading workshop classroom, we try to think a little bit about what scaffolds we can put in
place to support our kids. So you’ll see a lot of charts, like this chart that a teacher is working on
to explain strategies, that are close to the meeting area. We try to create charts that are going to be
kid-friendly. Sometimes they’re co-created by the kids and the teachers. Some of us are better at
creating ones on the spot, others have to think carefully about the best way of expressing an idea.
On those occasions, the teacher has already written the information up and reveals it at the
appropriate time to the kids. Some teachers make a smaller version of the information, such as a
bookmarks or handouts, so that the kids can keep the information handy as they read. We often
suggest that the teachers refer to the chart in their teaching, so that the kids don’t see it as
wallpaper, but actually keep using it and referring to it across the unit of study, and even after the
unit of study is over. You will find that a lot of the time charts will go away and come back. It
may be that the kids have outgrown it and don’t need it anymore. You can take it away and pull it
back out when needed. In this way, the information can seem fresh and new to the kids. We don’t
want to have a classroom so covered with charts that you can’t read any of them. So some of what
we do is have teachers read over the charts and figure out which ones are most valuable for the
kids and then they put some of them away.
In reading workshop, there are tools that help children see themselves growing as readers and us
assess their growth. A reading log is one example. Kids use their reading logs every day,
recording the number of pages read and how much time it took to read those pages. Not just at
school, but also at home, so they can compare and see what were they like as a reader in
September to October. Kids might notice in September they read less and in October they read
more. Or they realize that in September they read more books, because they read shorter books
than I read in October. So they’re able to answer the questions, “Who am I as a reader? Where am
I going? How have I grown?” Using this tool, kids can set goals for themselves about where they
want to be and they can realize that have something to reflect upon. Of course, it’s also a useful
tool for teachers to check in with kids.
Another powerful tool in reading workshop is Post-its. A lot of people find that the kids are Post-
it crazy. What is all that sticking out of their books? It’s just a way for kids to be reading, and
many adults use the same tool. If you want to jot an idea or question down, you just stick a Post-it
on it. In this way, children can record their thinking and their ideas fast, either in their
independent reading book or in the read-aloud book while it’s being read. Often kids will jot
something as a reflection of the teaching that’s been taught. Kids look over their Post-its before
talking with a partner or with their book club for ideas they want to discuss.
A tool that is introduced later in reading workshop is reading notebooks. We start with Post-its
and then in October we start using the notebooks to study characters a little more in depth. We
don’t use the notebook in the same way for every student because everyone is not doing the same
thing, just like every student is not reading the same book. Children use this notebook to help
them grow their ideas or support their thinking as they read.
You’ll also find that we’ve created classroom book baggies. A book baggie is a simple little
Ziploc baggie where the kids put three or four books that they’re planning on reading that week
or in the next few days. We don’t want kids up and down to the library all the time because we
want them reading. It can create management issues if, in the middle of the workshop, kids are
going up to pick new books because they have nothing to read. So, if a student is a JK reader,
he/she might have 12-14 books in a baggie because that student is going to go through them
quickly. But if you’re a child reading at level P, you might only have three books in your baggie,
because that will sustain you for a week. So the book baggies is a simple way for students to have
their books there. Usually the reading log goes in there, along with some Post-its. And sometimes
even a reading notebook. If you get the gigantic big ones (baggies), you can fit more in there.
Book shopping, in a week, is usually spread out, so there’s only four or five kids each day going
to the library, and there’s usually a schedule. The children never choose books during reading
time, because that is disruptive, but usually during the unpacking or packing up to go home, in the
mornings or the afternoon. Teachers should create a book shopping schedule so that they can be
available to kids who need more support in making book choices. For example, teachers can’t be
in the library every day, but on Thursday, they’ll take the kids who have trouble finding their way
to books, they’ll put them on one day, so they know they have to be there on Thursday morning
when the kids are picking books.
“Years from today, if you were to gather close around you the children you teach now and ask them about their reading lives, would they name your teaching of reading as a turning point? Would you like it to be? Does your teaching of reading have the potential to change not only your students’ lives but also your own life? It could, if you let your teaching be a course for you, and not just for your kids. Your life as a teacher, as a reader, and as a person, could be changed in big and important ways, if you let it.” —Lucy Calkins
I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Units of Study for Teaching Reading: A Workshop Curriculum (Grades 3-5) by Lucy Calkins and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Originally the predicted release date was Winter 2010. Now it’s Spring 2010. I want it now!
I’m trying to decide if the Heinemann one-day workshop by Lucy Calkins on UOS in Upper Grade Reading will be beneficial to attend in January even though I won’t be able to have my hands on those books. Will it be beneficial to hear Lucy Calkins explain the UOS ahead of time? OR Will it be frustrating because the books aren’t available for purchase yet?
I’ve never attended a non-beneficial Heinemann Professional Development session and certainly LOVE Lucy, so I’m leaning towards attending.
Oohhh-I did just find that at the Units of Study website, there is an audio of Lucy Calkins giving an overview of the new Teaching Reading series. If you have never seen her speak, you should listen to this. Just hearing her voice makes me want to be a better teacher!
Here’s the transcript:
Units of Study for Teaching Reading: A Series Overview
A transcript of remarks by Lucy Calkins
Founding Director, Teachers College Reading & Writing Project
I’m excited to be able to tell you about Units of Study in Teaching Reading and to walk you through all
that’s there for you. The first thing is a book called “A Guide to Reading Workshop”, an overview of the
reading workshop. It describes the essential methods that will inform your teaching. In this guide to the
reading workshop, there is a chapter on conferring and small group work to support readers. There’s a
chapter on assessing readers and tracking their development and using data to inform your instruction.
There’s a chapter on the methods that are important to leading effective minilessons that explains how you
can explicitly teach the skills of powerful reading. There are chapters on the skills of powerful reading that
identify what it is that proficient readers do that we need to be able to teach all kids. All of the other main
questions that you’ll ask about methods of teaching reading are there in the guidebook, including what do I
do to support struggling readers. The guidebook is deliberately lean and meant not to overwhelm you but to
enable you to get the essence of all of these methods and this content, because in fact, the unit books
themselves illustrate them. So, there’s the guide and then there are four units of study books.
Unit of Study Book 1
If you know the series The Units of Study in Teaching Writing, the Units of Study in Teaching Reading are
patterned exactly after the units in writing. The first unit is a book which really helps you to launch the
reading workshop and to teach readers those essential skills that are so foundational that you really need to
address them in September. The first book teaches readers how to read with stamina, how to monitor for
sense, how to do the kind of retelling that shows a basic level comprehension. It helps you to assess all your
readers, to match them to books, to teach them the rituals of taking books between home and school, of
keeping logs of their reading. All of that is contained in book one. But I think the challenge of book one is
that there’s a lot of really essential work that you as a teacher have to accomplish. Of course, you want to
do it in a way that inspires kids and makes them see themselves as readers. You want them to feel that they
are authoring lives as readers and that their whole community of practice this year is going to be different
than any other year. This year, reading may in fact be the best thing that they’ve ever done. This book has a
whole lot of very practical work in terms of helping you with classroom management and getting your
methods going: getting the kids assessed, getting all of them going on their trajectory as readers, and then it
also does this inspirational work.
Unit of Study Book 2
The next unit of study book is a book on character. And of course character is one of the most important
things for a reader of a fiction text to be thinking about. All of us when we read fiction are thinking about
character. So it’s a book on character, but, for you as a teacher, what you know is that you’re really
following character into higher level comprehension. That’s really what this second book is about.
Specifically, you’ll see that it helps you to teach three different main reading skills. First of all, it helps you
to teach envisionment, and as sort of an extension of envisionment, prediction. What I have come to believe
is that so often we think that some kids are born as readers. Those are the kids that are sort of nose-in-the-
book readers and you can’t take them away from books. As teachers, we sometimes think that that’s in their
DNA or something, that they just come to us that way. What this book sets out to do is to help you as a
teacher challenge that notion, that some kids are born readers and some aren’t, so that you can do
everything you possibly can to help all of your readers be nose-in-the-book readers, who read, envisioning
and on the edge of their seat predicting. The other thing that it does is take envisionment and prediction and
talk about these as skills that unroll across a trajectory. There are ways of being a novice predictor, an
intermediate predictor, and an advanced predictor. You’ll see prediction and envisionment concretely laid
out so that you have a sense of what are the real specifics that you can be teaching to move kids from where
they are to where you want to take them. So the first half of the character book begins with teaching
envisionment and prediction. And then the book makes a real turn and tackles, instead of nose-in-the-book
reading, kind of lost-in-the-story reading; it aims to help readers grow theories as they read. You could
almost say that the second half teaches how to read a little bit like a professor with literary theories that you
can support with evidence. It’s helpful to think about that as teaching readers to have a different kind of
relationship to characters. So in the first half of the book, they almost are the characters. In the second half,
it’s a more expository relationship to characters where they’re looking at characters and thinking, “What
kind of person is this? What are the character’s traits? What are my theories for the character? What is my
evidence for those theories?” All of that work is supported in the second book.
Unit of Study Book 3
The third unit is a book on navigating nonfiction. It’s hard to choose a favorite book, like it’s hard to
choose a favorite son, but at least at this moment, it may be my favorite because I think it does such
important work on the entire field of thinking about nonfiction reading. Essentially, what Kathleen and I try
to do in this book is to help readers read nonfiction. I argue that a lot of times our instruction in nonfiction
has helped readers generate some questions and shown them how to open up a nonfiction book so that they
can skim and scan it to find answers to questions. Although I think that kind of nonfiction reading is really
important, we also need to teach kids to read nonfiction; to give themselves over to a nonfiction text and to
comprehend it. To take in what a nonfiction author has said in its entirety, not just finding cool facts.
Instead of, “When the Egyptians built the pyramids they didn’t wear underwear. Isn’t that cool?”, we want
them to comprehend the main ideas that an author’s putting forth. So the book on nonfiction forwards the
role of structure and suggests that when we’re reading nonfiction texts that are organized as expository
texts, we need to be able to use the expository structure to help us to find big ideas, to find the specifics that
support big ideas. And that when we’re reading narrative nonfiction, or nonfiction that’s written like a
story, as for example biography is, that we can actually bring all that we know from reading stories, to bear
on reading that kind of nonfiction. We can read it in a way where we synthesize the whole text by bringing
that structure to bear on it.
Unit of Study Book 4
Then the fourth book, the last of the units of study books, is a book on reading historic fiction and doing so
in book clubs. The kids will think of it as a book on reading historic fiction, and you will as well, but the
real work of this book is that it’s teaching you to help kids tackle more complex texts and to read with
higher level comprehension. In fact, the main skill work in this last book in the series is that of teaching
interpretation and critical reading. And with it, teaching kids to write about their reading. So the historic
fiction book has a lot of work to do, because it’s teaching kids to tackle more complex texts, to read with a
more literary consciousness. To take their skills and ratchet them up even higher, to specifically read,
thinking, “What is this text really about?”, to try to figure out what the theme is in a text, and to be able to
talk and write about that in ways that are powerful and compelling. All of this is done while the kids are
working not with partners, which is the social structure that supports the first three books, but instead in
book clubs, where four kids are reading shared books. And, of course, the nonfiction book has added power
because it helps students think about nonfiction in relation to historic fiction. So that kids are also learning
that you not only read a couple historic fiction books that are set in a particular era, and think across and
among those books, but also bring in nonfiction texts that relate to those books. The other work of this unit
is helping with this intertextuality, looking across books including both fiction and nonfiction texts. Those
are the main elements in the units of study series.
Resources for Teaching Reading CD-ROM
Those of you who know the CD-ROM full of resource materials in writing won’t be surprised that there’s
resource materials in reading as well. But this time we really felt, because of having listened to teachers and
their requests, that we needed to provide extra resources.
Alternative Units of Study
So we’ve got a whole other book which is designed to help teachers tailor their teaching to kids. This book
supports teachers in developing alternate units of study. It lays out in a slightly more abbreviated form, but
still with all the minilessons there, four or five other units and then in yet more abbreviated form, another
half dozen units. This final book is one that helps you not just have minilessons that you can draw on as
you author your own curriculum, but also whole units of study that you can draw on as you author
curriculum in response to your kids and in conversation with your colleagues.
I have been on a hunt this fall for books that fill that niche for the transitional reader. Ones that aren’t too hard or too babyish. I thought I had found a new winner in Annie Glover is Not a Tree Lover by Darleen Bailey Beard, but unfortunately, I am not a Annie Glover Lover.
Here’s the blurb from Amazon:
I would describe this book as one that can be added to a public or school library’s collection that will probably get a fair amount of traffic, but not one to buy for home or a classroom library. I think it will be especially popular at libraries with parents looking for books for their advanced (young) reader without subject matter that is too mature (Fair warning, there are farting Elvises).
Is Leroy Kirk “the type of kid who kept an emergency medical kit in his desk and carried his own travel-size box of Kleenex everywhere he went” (p. 8) or the pesky bully? Trying to have him be both is too much for a character in a 120 page book.
The illustrations are great by Heather Maione.
All I could think about while reading this book is the character Flo from that old TV sitcom Alice. You get the picture.