Category Archives: Reading

How to Plan for Book Clubs in Middle School

historical fiction book club option

The following is an excerpt from pages 74-75 of A Guide to the Teachers
College Reading and Writing Project Classroom Libraries, Grades 6–8
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth

What is a book club?

Simply put, a book club is a group of readers, usually three or four, who read books roughly in sync with each other. Usually clubs read the same book, but sometimes clubs may read books by the same author, or read a series of books together that share a common genre—mystery, historical fiction, fantasy—or they may read a collection of disparate books with a common lens—thinking about interpretation, learning about shared social issues across the book.

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Tools Don’t Teach, Teachers Do! Using Tools to Support Our Teaching & Teach to Independence

Teachers Toolkits

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille

Building a strong workshop practice is similar to building a house. Doing it successfully takes expertise, patience, foresight, flexibility, and, of course, the right tools. Having an arsenal of resources to draw upon, in minilessons and in conferences and small groups, is key when you need to teach on your feet, reflexively and quickly meeting the needs of a range of students. 

Just as no two teachers are the same, and no two groups of students are the same, so must teachers’ toolkits be varied, personalized by the teacher and set up to best support the teachers' current group. A toolkit might be a binder filled with text samples and checklists, or it might be a digital toolkit filled with resources available at the touch of a button. A toolkit’s mode of delivery is far less important than its usability and connection to students’ needs. However you decide to store your teaching toolkit, digitally or in a good, old-fashioned binder, here are some tips for its organization and development.

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Teaching Middle School Reading Units of Study: Tips from the Authors

Teaching Middle School Reading Units of Study: Tips from the Authors

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille

Teachers of middle school reading have their own, unique set of challenges. On the one hand, there is the pressure to get middle schoolers ready for high school. In high school, the demands will be high, to say the least. Students will be expected to wrestle with complex texts with minimal help. They’ll be expected to read and digest information quickly, and to write well about what they read. The inclination for many middle school reading teachers is to prepare students for a high school curriculum by angling their own curriculum toward what will come in high school. On the other hand, most middle schoolers still need plenty of instruction in reading skill work, and many are not quite ready for the high levels of text complexity of whole class novels. So what is a middle school teacher to do? 

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Who Are Struggling Learners?

Who Are Struggling Learners?

The following is adapted from the introduction to Supporting Struggling Learners: 50 Instructional Moves for the Classroom Teacher by Patricia Vitale-Reilly

I have been thinking of writing about struggling learners for many years and for many reasons. I’m sure a tiny seed was planted even when I was a young child, and that seed began to grow as soon as I started working with children and young adults. We will (unfortunately) always have students in our classrooms who struggle. They struggle in many different ways—different in both the reasons why and the ways in which they struggle. Since each and every classroom will have struggling learners, it is helpful to define the kinds of struggling learners we might encounter in our classrooms and then plan moves to support them.

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Upcoming Webinar Series: Reading Conferences

"Researchers have calculated that teachers engage in literally thousands of oral interactions with children every day. What we say and the way we say it shapes children's understanding more than any other pedagogical tool we use."

Ellin Keene in To Understand: New Horizons in Reading Comprehension (2008)

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Amplifying Student Voice Through Writing Workshop, 3-12

Writing Workshop Students

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille

When we teach students to express themselves well in writing, we are doing so much more than simply helping them to do better on school assignments. We are giving them tools so that they can express themselves to the world in the best ways possible. When we teach students to become better writers, we are teaching them to become better thinkers. We are teaching them to connect ideas, to unpack arguments, to angle details, and to draw conclusions. Perhaps most importantly of all, we are teaching them that what they have to say matters. 

Many students feel powerless in their environments. They don’t feel they have a voice, or a place in the world to share it. In writing workshop, we can teach them that they do have power, the power of words, and they do have a voice, a voice they can use for good. Any writing unit in which students are taught to choose and grow their own ideas (every unit in the Units of Study for Opinion/Argument, Information, and Narrative Writing, that is) will help students to find their voices. But there are some that are more specifically angled toward helping students to identify and express their opinions on topics that matter to them. These are: 

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