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Units of Study – Middle School Reading

Units of Study for Teaching Reading
A Workshop Curriculum, Middle School Grades

"This series builds on decades of teaching and research—in literally tens of thousands of schools. Across the country, the Units of Study for Teaching Reading series has already given young people extraordinary power, not only as readers, but also as thinkers. When adolescents are explicitly taught the skills and strategies of proficient reading and are invited to live as richly literate people do, carrying books everywhere, bringing reading into every nook and corner of their lives, the results are dramatic."
Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth,
A Guide to Reading Workshop: Middle School Grades

Middle School Readers
1. What Do Middle Grade Readers Need?

We want our middle grades students to become flexible, resilient readers who read for pleasure as well as for multiple academic purposes. We want them to have a toolkit of strategies for dealing with difficulty, and we want them to know when and how to use those strategies. Not least, we want students to read broadly and deeply, alert to the intricacies of texts and to the power of language.

To accomplish such ambitious goals, we must reconsider how we think about our classrooms and our curriculum. We can no longer conceive of the curriculum as a few books kids will master. We now recognize the value and importance of teaching a repertoire of skills and strategies to help students be more powerful in any text, whether print, digital, or multi-modal.

Middle School Readers
2. How Can We Best Meet Middle-Grades Students' Needs?

As we set new instructional priorities, we must also rethink the classroom structures that support our teaching. The reading workshop, like the writing workshop, is deliberately simple and predictable, because the work itself is ever changing and complex. If offers a powerful framework for teaching strategies and for giving students feedback while they are in the midst of their reading work.

The simplicity and predictability of the workshop frees the teacher from constant choreographing so that he or she has time to observe, to listen, to assess, and to teach into each student’s zone of proximal development. For the bulk of time during each day, students read, and as they do so, they draw upon an ever-growing repertoire of skills, tools, strategies, and habits.

Middle School Teacher with Students
3. Reading Workshop: A Classroom Framework That Allows Teachers to Focus on What's Most Important

The responsive teaching of the reading workshop asks a lot of teachers. It requires that they adapt to new structures and learn new teaching methods. It takes some hard work. And while that’s true, we’ve seen again and again it produces truly dramatic results—and that it’s truly worth the effort.

In fact, the Units of Study for Teaching Reading series also saves teachers hundreds of hours of planning, freeing time for analyzing student work, working with individuals and small groups, and for studying with colleagues. The Units of Study for Teaching Reading series provides teachers with the tools and support they need to move students quickly and efficiently toward grade-level expectations, while also helping kids become proficient, lifelong readers.

Coming in Fall 2017—Introductory Bundle with Two Units and A Guide to the Reading Workshop: Middle School Grades

A Deep Study of Character
by Mary Ehrenworth

A Deep Study of Character This unit serves as a primer in what it means to participate in an intense reading workshop. It introduces students to a variety of instructional methods and coaches both teachers and students in how to harness those methods to increase reading expertise and independence.

Students will grow as readers of narrative texts by learning to:

  • consider ways writers reveal complex character traits,
  • investigate how setting can shape characters,
  • and analyze how characters are vehicles for themes.

Throughout the unit, students also learn to take charge of their reading lives by annotating the text and jotting notes in ways that deepen their thinking and prepare them for smart literary conversations with other readers.

Note: This is an ideal unit for the beginning of the school year, offering extra support for organizing a classroom library, matching readers to books, organizing partnerships, and planning for reading workshops.

Tapping the Power of Nonfiction
by Katie Clements

Tapping the Power of Nonfiction Nonfiction reading skills are essential to students’ achievement in virtually every academic discipline. To do science, students need to read science books and articles. To study history, they need to be skilled at reading all kinds of primary and secondary sources. When we help students become powerful readers of nonfiction, we help them become powerful learners.

Across this unit, students will develop a solid set of nonfiction reading skills including:

  • discerning central ideas
  • summarizing to create a concise version of a text
  • synthesizing within and across texts
  • building vocabulary
  • and reading critically to question an author’s point of view and perspective.

At the same time, students develop flexibility as they read across text types and transfer what they know from one type of text to the next. Throughout the unit, students learn to grow their ideas and to work collaboratively around high-interest texts and topics.

Note: This unit assumes you have a reading workshop up and running in your classroom and that your students have done some work in reading partnerships.

A Guide to the Reading Workshop: Middle School Grades
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth

A Guide to the Reading Workshop: Middle School Grades
Preview a Chapter from the Guide

The Guide to the Reading Workshop: Middle School Grades offers a comprehensive but concise introduction to:

  • the need for this series
  • research on what adolescent readers need
  • ways to launch and sustain independent reading
  • a big-picture introduction to the reading workshop
  • the architecture of minilessons
  • classroom management tips and strategies
  • levels of text complexity
  • conferring with readers and providing transferrable feedback
  • small-group work
  • writing about reading
  • practical help for book clubs
  • instructional Read Aloud
  • the special importance of nonfiction reading
  • supporting English learners in reading workshop


Coming in Winter/Spring 2018

(not yet available for preorder)

  • Social Issues Book Clubs
  • Dystopian Book Clubs
  • Reading History: Historical Fiction and Nonfiction Book Clubs

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Suggestions for Sequencing Units Across Grade Levels

Suggestions for Sequencing Units Across Grade Levels

Of course there are many other viable options for sequencing as you begin with these first units. Keep in mind that there is a layering of complexity across the units that you will want to consider as you plan. Also note that you will most likely choose to add additional units and shift some to different grade levels in your curricular plans as new reading units are published.

Also Available:

Grades K-5 Reading Units of Study

TCRWP Classroom Libraries

  • Complete libraries for grades 6, 7, and 8
  • On level and below benchmark collections
  • Individual library shelves including Book Club shelves