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Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grade 4

A Workshop Curriculum

By Lucy Calkins, Kathleen Tolan, Emily Butler Smith, Mike Ochs, Janet L. Steinberg, Grace Chough, Mary Ehrenworth, Alexandra Marron, Teachers College Reading & Writing Project

Fourth graders are ready to delve into complex texts. In Unit 1 children study the complexity of characters and themes. Unit 2 invites students to form research teams to investigate topics about extreme weather. In Unit 3, kids explore history while developing their skills in cross-text synthesis, close reading, and evaluating multiple points of view. Finally, in the fourth unit students join historical fiction clubs.

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About the Grade 4 Units

In fourth grade, you’ll help children delve into complex texts and see significance in details. In the first unit, Interpreting Characters: The Heart of the Story, children study the complexity of characters and explore themes while developing skills such as inference and interpretation. In the second unit, Reading the Weather, Reading the World, children form research teams to delve into topics about extreme weather and natural disasters while developing their skills in cross-text synthesis, practicing close reading, comparing and contrasting, and evaluating sources to determine credibility. Children take on the challenge of researching history in the third unit, Reading History: The American Revolution. Children study multiple points of view, support a position with reasons and evidence, tackle complex texts, and learn strategies for using new domain-specific words. In the final unit for fourth grade, Historical Fiction Clubs, children practice reading analytically, synthesizing complicated narratives, comparing and contrasting themes, and incorporating nonfiction research into their reading.

About the Series

Drawing on learning gleaned from decades of research, curriculum development, and working shoulder-to-shoulder with students, teachers, and school leaders, Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project have developed the Units of Study for Teaching Reading. Designed to meet ambitious 21st century global standards, this reading series offers grade-by-grade curricula rooted in the Project’s best practices and newest thinking. It includes state-of-the-art tools and methods for teaching reading skills and strategies, grounded in the Project’s learning progressions for narrative and informational reading. 

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)

Purchase Recommendations and Options

Purchase Recommendation: Choose the Grade 4 Units of Study with the Trade Book Pack if your library does not already include the mentor texts referenced in the Units. If you do not need the trade book pack, purchase the Grade 4 Units of Study without the Trade Book Pack (as shown in this product bundle).

Save when you purchase related cost-saving bundles, with or without trade book packs:

Select the Grade-Level Units you need most, available both with and without the trade book packs

To learn more about the Units of Study for Teaching Reading series, visit


Four Units of Study

  • comprised of 2 units in fiction and 2 units in nonfiction
  • lay out 4-5 weeks of instruction (16-18 sessions) in each unit
  • include all of the teaching points, minilessons, conferences, and small-group work needed to teach a comprehensive workshop curriculum
  • model Lucy and her colleagues’ carefully crafted teaching moves and language

A Guide to the Reading Workshop, Intermediate Grades

  • crystallizes the essential principles, methods, and structures of effective reading workshop instruction (The Guidenow available for separate purchase, can be an essential manual for principals, curriculum coordinators, coaches, and others who are supporting implementation of Units of Study—or for anyone wanting to learn more about reading workshop).

If… Then… Curriculum

  • offers additional units of study
  • presents if/then conferring scenarios that support targeted instruction and differentiation

Reading Pathways: Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions

  • organized around a grades 3-5 learning progression
  • includes performance assessments, student checklists, and rubrics

Large-Format Anchor Chart Sticky Notes

  • Large-format preprinted Anchor-Chart Sticky Notes with illustrated teaching points help teachers create and evolve anchor charts across each unit

Online Resources

  • Video Orientations
  • Spanish translations of important resources—includes Spanish translations of Anchor Chart Sticky Notes and Learning Progressions. Also available are lists of Spanish-language mentor texts and translated Teaching Points.
  • Downloadable and printable files for the anchor charts, figures, student exemplars, homework assignments, and checklists in every session
  • Digital files for resources provided in Reading Pathways, including Learning Progressions, sample student work, and charts 


Companion Resources

Mentor Texts 

The Grade 4 Trade Pack includes age-appropriate texts that feature heavily in the units. They are teaching texts, meant to be used in read aloud or shared reading to model effective reading strategies and provide background knowledge. 

  • The American Revolutionaries: A History In Their Own Words, 1750-1800 by Milton Meltzer, Ed.
  • Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant
  • Hurricane And Tornado by Jack Challoner
  • King George: What Was His Problem? by Steve Sheinkin
  • Liberty! How The Revolutionary War Began by Lucille Recht Penner
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • The Revolutionary War by Josh Gregory
  • Rose Blanche by Cristophe Gallaz
  • The Split History Of The American Revolution: A Perspectives Flip Book by Michael Burgan
  • The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
  • Weather by Kathy Furgang

Independent Reading for Students

The following TCRWP Classroom Libraries shelves were curated to specifically align with the Fourth Grade Units of Study.

Supporting Materials

Also in this series