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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

Additional Grades 6-8 Shelves with content directly aligned to the new Middle School Units Now Available for Order!

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.

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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

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.

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.

Note: First French Kiss: and Other Traumas by Adam Bagdasarian is recommended as a read-aloud text for this unit. This text is now available as part of a bundle and for separate purchase through Booksource.

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. 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.

Note: Fast Food Nation: the Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser is recommended as a read-aloud text for this unit. This text is now available as part of a bundle with this unit.

Now Available: Nonfiction Book Clubs Shelves (available in both on level and below benchmark collections). Order Now!

Dystopian Book Clubs
by Katy Wischow

Dystopian Book Clubs This unit is for teachers whose classes could benefit from a deep study of an incredibly engaging genre. It will support classes who could learn to talk more deeply about their reading and push themselves to read with greater volume. It will also pay off for teachers who want to take advantage of the power of a popular genre to lure kids into studying complexity and symbolism and allusions.

During the unit, readers will read more complex fiction texts, developing the skills to:

  • analyze symbolism
  • deepen character analysis
  • read critically with questions in mind

Meanwhile, they will build on their work with reading notebooks, strengthening their ability to transfer their skills from one context to another, and supporting their increasing independence as readers and thinkers

Now Available: Dystopian Book Clubs Shelves (available in both on level and below benchmark collections). Order Now!

Historical Fiction Book Clubs
by Mary Ehrenworth and Pablo Wolfe

Historical Fiction Book Clubs Historical fiction helps students see how history is not a collection of old, dead facts to be memorized, but is full of compelling stories that help us understand our present and, perhaps, what we need to do to shape a better future. We hope that the reading of historical fiction in this unit will not only kindle in your students an interest in the genre, but that it will also generate awareness of how much we have yet to learn from history and the stories of people who struggled, suffered, and persevered as we do today.

As students progress through these lessons, they will read stories from history that will expose them to hard truths about the world. They will cry out, "That's not fair!" again and again, and the teacher will respond with "You're right!" and then ask, "What kind of world do we want to live in? How do we get there?"

Now Available: Historical Fiction Book Clubs Shelves (available in both on level and below benchmark collections). Order Now!

Social Issues Books Clubs: Reading for Empathy and Advocacy
by Audra Robb and Emily Strang-Campbell

Social Issues Books Clubs The topic of social issues, the lens for reading in this unit, is a topic that matters greatly to the young human beings who enter our classrooms every day. In middle school, many kinds of issues start to weigh more heavily on students: relationship issues, school issues, and a growing awareness of larger societal pressures. There can be serious consequences to the spiraling troubles that surround middle school kids.

A recent Washington Post article titled “Does Reading Make You a Better Person?” concludes that the answer to the title question is “Yes!” Reading literature especially has proven to increase people’s ability to empathize with others, and to be more socially aware. A driving force in this unit is the power of reading to transform how we see others and to show us new ways to be kind, to connect, and to stand up for what’s right.

Now Available: Social Issues Book Clubs Shelves (available in both on level and below benchmark collections). Order Now!

Forthcoming Units

2 New Units (Note: titles are tentative; not yet available for preorder)

  • Characterization and Author’s Craft
  • Evidence-based Argument

More details coming soon! Please check back.

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.


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View additional library shelves: TCRWP Classroom Libraries

  • Complete libraries for grades 6, 7, and 8
  • On level and below benchmark collections

Common Core State Standards Correlations

Also Available:

Grades K-5 Reading Units of Study