In reading workshop classrooms, many goals that teachers have for students and that students have for themselves are tangible and measurable. These include being able to read books at higher levels of text complexity and becoming more skilled in areas such as inferencing, predicting, and thinking critically. There are other goals that workshop teachers keep in mind that are perhaps less tangible and measurable but are nonetheless just as important when helping children to develop thoughtful, rich reading lives. These include working well in partnerships, developing greater independence in managing the reading process, and bravery when tackling the challenges that arise when becoming a better reader.
To move a child to become a lifelong reader and writer takes commitment, passion, resources, and teamwork. The most powerful teams extend beyond the child and her classroom teacher to include other students, other teachers and administrators, and, not least, the child’s parents and caregivers. Certainly, in most cases, everyone on the team wants the child to succeed at reading and writing. But on the best teams, everyone shares an understanding of what success looks like and what it takes to get there.
Earlier this year, Lucy Calkins and colleagues released a new series aimed at supporting upper-grade students who are new to writing workshop. This series, Up the Ladder: Accessing Grades 3-6 Writing Units of Study is a powerful resource that leads to noticeable, rapid improvements in students’ work. The series contains three units, one each in narrative, opinion, and information writing. In each unit, students have the opportunity to experience the writing process repeatedly and to learn essential characteristics of each genre.
If you are new to teaching reading workshop, welcome! You are in for a wonderful experience, where you will watch your students flourish as readers as they read books of their choosing, at optimal reading levels, for long stretches of time, while receiving targeted instruction on specific skills. If you are a reading workshop veteran, you know there is always room to hone your craft, and each new school year brings an opportunity to launch your best reading workshop yet, as you bring the experiences of past years to bear on your teaching.
Few topics matter more in literacy instruction than providing access for all learners, regardless of their level, learning needs, or proficiency in English. One of the most important ways to address the needs of all learners is to choose a curriculum that is predictable and simple, yet flexible and customizable. Those who espouse workshop teaching know it is this: a curriculum that allows teachers to teach responsively every single day.
Above all, we want you to know that the Up the Ladder: Accessing Grades 3–6 Writing Units of Study series embodies the one mission that is closest to the hearts of all of us at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. For us, the most important word in the title of this series is this one: access. Nothing matters more than the mission of giving all young people access to the beautiful, important work that happens in reading and writing workshops.
– Lucy Calkins and the Co-Authors of the new Up the Ladder Units of Study