Saturday, February 21, 2015

What I Learned From a Teacher College Reading Workshop


Over the summer, my colleague, Genie and I attended the Institute for the Teaching of Reading run
by the Teacher College Reading and Writing Project. I thought the workshop was exhilarating; I couldn’t wait to get back into the classroom to teach my kids everything I had learned.
My colleague, was deathly ill; recovering from pneumonia, but didn’t want to miss this great institute, filled with new ideas for us.

 We carpooled together and each day, I couldn’t stop talking about the class while she was dying slowly in my car.

Reading Workshop 
For the past few years, I implemented the structure of the Daily Five in my kindergarten classroom. I loved using the Daily Five, there are still parts of the Daily Five that I miss: but I left this workshop excited to try a different approach to structuring my reading time.

Could I like this structure better or would I want to go back to using Daily Five?

As teachers, I think it is always important to see what works in our classroom. Each year brings a different learning experience.  We learn new things and try doing things in a new way. Over the course of the three-day workshop the instructor Christine talked about the components of a balanced literacy program; reading workshop, writing workshop, read aloud, word study and shared reading.

Today’s blog post is going to share what I learned about the structure of the reading workshop time using the Teacher College approach.

Unit of Study

Every few weeks the students engage in a unit of study that focuses on reading; this approach is similar to the writing workshop model. For example in the month of October the unit of study focuses on reading and talking about emergent storybooks.  All of my lessons that I teach my students will connect to how reading and talking about books will help us grow as readers. The anchor charts we create in the classroom will connect to our unit of study. The studies last for 3-5 weeks.   A resource called A Curricular Plan for The Reading Workshop by Lucy Calkins and the Reading and Writing Project gives you an outline of units to teach each month, an essential to have this book!

The unit of studies gives me a strong roadmap to where I need to take my students. There are times when modifications need to be made, but that is just part of good teaching. Another must have resource is Kathy Collins Growing Reader (Kathy is coming out with a new book soon).

reading workshop units of study

reading workshop units of study
Unit of Study: Readers Study Patterns in Big and Little Books 
To Help Us Read and Talk About Books

The Mini-Lesson (7-12min)

Each workshop begins with a mini-lesson. The mini-lesson teaches the class about what we will be working on at reading workshop time. The Mini-lesson has four parts: the connection, the TEACH, active involvement (turn to your partner and try) and the link.  If you use Lucy’s Calkins writing books, you will notice that all of her lessons are in that format.

Private Reading Time (15-30)

Each day students have assigned spots and begin Reading Time.  Reading time is similar to Daily five- READ TO SELF; one difference is that students sit next to their Reading Partner. They may sit side-by-side or back-to-back. Once the bell has rung, students turn to their partner for partner reading. In the fall, kindergarten students are reading from book buckets on each table. The books can be from shared reading or star books. Students eventually move into book baggies with 'just-right' books. T
his year, I started everyone with book baggies at the same time.

During Daily Five-time, the students do not always have to start with Read to Self.  The Daily Five structure lets student pick their reading partner too.

Partner Reading Time (10-15min)

Students are partnered with a child at the same reading level. Another surprising suggestion was to have the students have the same partner all year long. The thought is that the more students work together, the deeper their relationship/thinking will grow.

I would never have thought of keeping partnerships all year, but I understand the reasoning behind it. During the large group mini-lesson, the students are sitting next to their partner. In my class this year, I have changed partners a few times.  I have found that although students are at the same reading level, their personalities may not be an excellent match.

Teaching Share (5min)

The class gathers on the rug and shares something they worked on as readers. At this time, I may ask kids to share things they noticed during the workshop. For example, if the mini-lesson focused on taking a picture walk before reading, a child could demonstrate to the class how they did that.

Teachers Job

What is the teacher doing during Reading Workshop time?

The teacher is...

  • Conferring
  • Small group guided reading
  • Small group strategy lesson

Quick Reflection 

I believe the primary goal of reading workshop time in kindergarten is to develop confidence and love of reading.  The reading workshop in September will look different then the workshop time in the spring. We want to provide various books for student to read: book bags, writing workshop books, poetry binders/notebooks, classroom made big books, and favorite song charts, the list is limitless!!

No matter what time of year it is; students are at different places in their literacy journey; it is our job to help them grow.

My next blog post will go in-depth about the structure of the mini-lesson what I love about it and what I find challenging.

Comments Today

I would love to hear comments from you...what kind of structure do you use for reading workshop? What do love about it and what do you find challenging?


  1. My problem is I usually have some students who come in reading at E or above. I can't use the whole group time to teach everyone the same strategy. I have the same problem in writing: too many levels to use one strategy.

  2. Laura,
    I can not agree with you more, I find that not all the units of study match up to where the kids are. If you have half the class at a level A/B they need help with pointing power but the E readers need to be working on something completely different. When I did take the workshop the instructor suggested pulling groups of kids aside and teaching the unit that connect to where they are could be spending the whole day creating groups!! I found myself pulling and mixing units. Thanks for your feedback Laura! Melissa

  3. I use this approach in my grade 1 class and it works beautifully even with a range from level e to h.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Barbara,
    That is good to know for any first-grade teacher who may be interested in buying the book. I thought the first-grade book looked great! I wish I had that resource when I was a first-grade teacher! Thanks your sharing! Melissa

  5. If this works as well as Lucy Calkins' Writing Workshop, I say give it a try. It sounds organized, and I think all students well benefit at their own independent level. I'm not sure about using the same partner all year long, though, unless the number of students is limited.

  6. Jo, I agree with that! Lucy Calkins is supposed to come out with a book (like her writing book) that focuses on the units of study in reading (I think this spring).But I think this ebook is a great buy. At the workshop, I asked the instructor if they thought writing partners should stay the same all year long too, and she said YES! Thanks for the comment, I would love to hear back if you give it a try! Melissa

  7. I taught half day kindergarten the last three years and I loved Daily 5. I did not enjoy having the students doing five different things while I was working with small groups, so reorganized my plan. They had a round one and they could do all things reading (self, partner, or listening). Then during round 2, they could do work on writing (fine motor practice and painting) or word work (word sort by Kathy Ganske). It worked so much better this way! I love Kathy Collins book. I need to explore Lucy Calkins units. Thank you for this great post!

  8. Lorna, I think the Kathy Ganske books are great...I find them similar to Words Their Way, but she has a lot more information. I like how you structured the Daily 5...that makes a lot of sense. I feel like Daily Five had more movement in the class which could be good for kids but could be not so good for teachers. I like that kid get more choices with Daily 5 but I think the Teacher College Structure zooms in on a reading strategy more closely. I like how Teacher College works with partnerships...I plan to blog about it soon! I think the Lucy units are worth looking at! Thank you for sharing what you do in your classroom! Melissa

  9. I've been doing Daily 5 for several years now, but I'd be very interested in looking at Calkins' Reading Workshop Units. I'd also love to go to her Teacher College!

  10. Tammy, I have been thinking about going to a summer would be amazing!!! I wish I hit the Power Ball. Melissa

  11. I attended the summer institute as well and thought it was the best reading instruction I have ever received. My kindergartners are reading very well within the workshop model. I can't wait for the Units of Study for reading to come out. The new writing units are very user friendly! Thank you for this great post!

    1. Lisa,
      Thanks for your comment...I feel the same way about the units coming out!!! I may even try to go to the free day Teacher Colleges has in March! I just wish I took the institute during the school year so I could go back and do it right away! Sometimes you learn so much stuff that you forget!!! Melissa

    2. I am lucky enough to be going to the March reunion. Can't wait! Also, teacher's college is doing a home grown institute on writing in June for my district. I would go to NYC every summer if I could! Thank you for all your great ideas and posts and freebies! It is much appreciated!

  12. That really sounds interesting. I also like to attend such workshops where I can get information. Last month in workshop we played group activities, and everyone enjoyed a lot. Hey do you have any idea when it will be next workshop in Boston?

  13. I use both Lucy and Daily 5 in my 3rd and 4th grade class. I love them both for so many different reasons! With older kids it's easier to implement 2 programs, but I'm still ironing out the seams of how to do both.

  14. Scout are you teaching the new reading units? Teachers in my building love how they compliment the writing unit. The only negative feedback is that teachers are finding prep time difficult. I did Daily 5 for a long time and loved it. I found in the primary grades it was difficult to manage both in my schedule. Melissa

  15. I didn't care for the Lucy C model. I found it didn't allow for differentiation or meet needs of varying levels. I now assign kids a "job" for reading workshop (usually begins with word work - we use Fountas and Pinnel or Words Their Way), then kids are free to choose from a management board (writing, making cards, reading games/puzzles, reading activities on computers or reading). While they do this I pull guided reading groups. Over 3 days I can see all groups. Then next 2-3 days is writing workshop. Rinse/repeat. When we do a big nonfiction study, guided reading is replaced with research. Similarly, when doing a big writing genre we might write 5 days and publish. The kids own writing becomes their reading instruction. We do shared reading, shared writing, read aloud, interactive read aloud also. Independent reading is done at rest time. It seems to work. We still have a 40 min free play period every morning too.

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  17. My building uses a lot of the Fountas and Pinnell resources too. I think the most important thing is to do what works for you. I am a strong believer that teachers teach kids and not programs. Meeting the needs of individual readers and writers is what it is all about.

    I LOVE that the kids writing becomes their reading instruction (how powerful for kids). To me, shared reading, interactive writing and interactive read aloud are the big parts of a balanced literacy program too. I love that your kids get 40 minutes of play each day (so important)!

    Since writing this post, I have had some first grade and second grade teachers use the new Lucy Calkins reading units of study and they have had success with it. Thank you for sharing what you do. It is helpful for teachers to hear all the options we have in our classrooms!
    Happy Friday!

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful reply. My students became very independent. The first "job" a child is assigned to is differentiated - I generally have 3-4 levels with an occasional outlier! Of course what it available as a free choice after the child completes their "job" changes throughout the year. Our district goal is independent C/Instructional D by June and the majority reach the goal.


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