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.
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.
Lucy Calkins recently sat down to discuss the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s groundbreaking Classroom Libraries for grades K-8. Throughout this three-blog series, Lucy answers your most frequently asked questions about the TCRWP Classroom Libraries. In the following video Lucy talks about "What Inspired the TCRWP Classroom Libraries project?" where she asserts that she and her TCRWP colleagues began the project with the conviction that, “the particular book matters.” In other words, children are drawn to read more when they are enjoying the particular book they’re reading.
Managing classroom libraries requires a delicate balance between organization, choice, behavior, and matching children with appropriate texts. Classroom libraries can be organized in many ways– by genre, series, or some other category. Susan Taberski (2000) suggests having bins of unleveled books from which students choose their independent reading selections and bins of books by level for when they need practice with something "just right." Other teachers label their books using the Fountas and Pinnell A through Z gradient.
Because an "assessed" reading level doesn't always correspond with a student's level of comprehension, it is important that students spend time with more than just independent-level texts. To do this, it is necessary to spend time working with students on independent text selection that supports decoding development, fosters comprehension and thinking, and pique students' interests in reading.
If you are a K-2 teacher, have you ever asked: “During reading workshop, what kinds of meaningful work can students be doing independently, while I confer one-on-one or with small groups?” Lindsey Moses hears this common frustration among those who work with our youngest readers in her work with teachers around the country. That’s why Lindsey, along with First grade teacher Meridith Ogden, wrote: What are the Rest of My Kids Doing? Their goal is to help you move beyond assigning busy work to providing purposeful learning experiences that build independence over the year and ideally take the anxiety out of reading workshop.
In Lindsey Moses and Meridith Ogden’s new book “What are the Rest of my Kids Doing?” Fostering Independence in the K-2 Reading Workshop, the authors introduce a set of five research-based principles centered around successful components of early literacy instruction. In addition to the formalized research literature, each principle is one that has been found to be useful for primary teachers when fostering independence with purposeful learning experiences. In their book, Moses and Ogden offer teaching moves based on these specific research-based principles.