Studying and Thinking about Powerful Whole Group Instruction: Minilessons, Shared Reading, & Read Aloud K-3
See below for a full transcript of the chat
Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille
One power of reading workshop is the way in which instruction can move seamlessly from whole-group, to small-group, to individual and back again in the span of a class period. Certainly, a reading teacher’s best chance of really moving kids further in their understanding is while working with small groups and individuals, where instruction can be differentiated to meet the needs of the each student. It is not as possible to meet every student’s needs during whole-group instruction. Inevitably, there will be students who are beyond or not quite at the level of whole-group lessons. But these lessons serve a very important purpose, nonetheless. They serve to rally students’ energy around a single, worthy cause. They serve to create classroom community-wide goals for reading and common language to talk about these goals. They serve to get students jazzed up about a new line of thinking, or a new trajectory in their path of work.
In the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch teaches his children, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings, plight, or situation of another. It is recognizing and valuing perspectives that are different from one’s own. It is the basis for relationships and, some would even argue, is vital to survival.
Teachers, give a thumbs-up if you've ever delivered a minilesson that failed miserably. (This teacher is putting up both thumbs.) It's likely that we all have. Sometimes, we go on too long. Sometimes, we cut one part or another too short. Sometimes, no matter how how clear our demonstration, the students just don’t understand the teaching point. What’s more, not every minilesson will meet the exact needs of every student, every day. There will be days that nearly every student leaves the meeting area charged up and ready to read more purposefully at the end of the minilesson. And, there will be days that the minilesson goes right over most of their heads.
Luckily, even when minilessons don’t go so well, we have the opportunity to reach students via conferences and small groups as they read independently. But even so, though minilessons aren't the sole means of instruction in reading workshop, they are the centerpiece. They are how we prepare students for their best independent reading, how we bolster their energy, and rally them to a common cause. In minilessons, we set the vision for the kind of readers we want them to become.
Whether you are new to reading workshop instruction and you are learning how to deliver minilessons effectively, or you are a seasoned instructor looking to tweak your minilessons to give them even more power, now is a perfect time to study your teaching and set some goals for the latter half of the school year.
The heart and soul of reading workshop is independent reading time. This is the time in which students head off with books they can read well to practice skills they’ve learned. It is also the time in which what is often the best instruction takes place: the targeted, differentiated instruction that occurs during conferences and small group work. Continue reading →
TCRWP Twitter Chat: Choice and Independence in Teaching the Reading Units of Study
Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille
It may come as no surprise that research shows that Americans are reading less. A 2015study from the Pew Research Center found that 72% of American adults say they have read at least one book in the past year, a 7% drop from 2011. Some happy news: reading rates among the youngest group surveyed (ages 18-29) have gone up, with 80% of participants claiming to have read a book in the last year. As teachers of reading, we know how important it is to support the continuation of this upward trend.
Now that the Units of Study for Teaching Reading and Writing have become essential parts of daily life in tens of thousands of classrooms around the world, Lucy Calkins and her coauthors have begun identifying ways they can be even more helpful to teachers and students. Based on all they’ve learned working with teachers implementing Units in their classrooms, Lucy and her colleagues are hard at work on a number of important resources to support and extend the Units of Study.
You can be among the first to know complete details on new Units of Study resources as they are developed. Simply click on the link at the bottom of this page to register for updates.