Trina Deboree
Teaching and Learning

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7 Valuable Components That Are Useful In Reading Units of Study

Back to school planning can be such an overwhelming task. Whether you have been teaching or homeschool teaching for a while or are brand new to lesson planning; it can be one of the most time-consuming thought-provoking tasks on your back to school list. 

7 Valuable Components That Are Useful In Reading Units of Study

Even when it isn't back to school, lesson planning is hard work. I know for me, I worked for two different principals with entirely different expectations, and if I were making this all up from scratch to teach my children at home, I would feel like I was underwater!

Even when it isn't back to school, lesson planning is hard work. I know for me, I worked for two different principals with entirely different expectations, and if I were making this all up from scratch to teach my children at home, I would feel like I was underwater!

Teaching reading is my very favorite thing about teaching. Beyond decoding skills, phonics, and fluency I love the real value of reading- comprehension. I love that this essential aspect of reading (the most important in my opinion) allows kids to dig deeply into text. It opens up worlds that they can discover and in which to imagine. Comprehension is what reading is all about. (But that is a whole other topic of discussion!)

So my reading plans have to be substantial. Not only is my goal for children to fall in love with reading, but I also want them to walk away having learned something or felt something. Deeply. 

So let's talk about the 7 Valuable Components That Are Useful in Reading Units of Study. These components focus on comprehension in a Shared Reading/Closed Reading Reading Workshop type model. I do incorporate language, decoding strategies, and fluency into my units of study, but a great deal of that work occurs in my Guided Reading small groups or a one on one conference. 

7 Valuable Components That Are Useful In Reading Units of Study

So let's dive in!

7 Valuable Components That Are Useful In Reading Units of Study

1. Standards-Based

I believe to have a complete set of lesson plans for the year; you need to keep the end in mind as you plan. You will want and need to know your grade level standards. I also feel it is crucial to think about how these standards are demonstrated will change throughout the year. The end-of-the-year expectations are NOT going to look like the beginning-of-the-year. Keeping this in mind will help you and your students tremendously. Understanding a progression of learning is crucial in knowing how to determine mastery at the appropriate time of the year. 

Since I taught second grade for the majority of my career, I wrote my units of study based on second grade standards. However, I was acutely aware of what the standards looked like in first grade and third grade. It is essential to know where you are coming from and know where you are going.

2. Essential Questions

I know there is some debate about how and if children should be informed of what they are learning. I have found that it is helpful for the child and for myself to know what we are focusing on in each lesson. Instead of posting objectives and or (at least it is for me) discussing these objectives at the beginning of each experience, I tell the students what we are learning about today, and then I give the goals to them in a question/inquiry style format. I tell children that today they will be able to answer these questions by the end of this lesson. Here is an example:

(Standard: Ask and answer questions as who?, what?, where?, when?, why? and how? to demonstrate an understanding of key details in a text. )

Today readers we will be learning how to ask and answer questions by asking who, what, where, when, why, and how to show that we understand the key details in the story. By the end of our lesson we will be able to answer our essential question- How do readers ask and answer questions in a text to show that they understand key details? -Trina Deboree

I love how EQs (essential questions) lend themselves so nicely to inquiry-based learning.  I refer to these questions throughout my lesson. Going back to the EQs helps the students think about how they will answer this question at the conclusion of the experience (with a group share, or an exit ticket, or graphic organizer, or even a partner share). This way they know that they will be held accountable for learning this content and it keeps us on track if we start to veer off. (Which I can be guilty of doing!)

3. Gradual Release of Responsibility

Next, we begin the lesson. I utilized the gradual release model to help students move toward the complete responsibility for their thinking and learning. This method starts off with modeling the mentality I want them to do. At the beginning of a new skill/standard and story, I use modeling a lot. Kids need to see thinking in action. I may do a think aloud, or a stop and jot as I read method. I may show them how I use stickie notes or graphic organizers to record my thinking. Just show them your thinking. 

Then I allow kids to work with partners to practice the work I modeled. If you don't have another child for your student, then you can play the part, but let them do a lot of the thinking. I often listen in and then share out what some partnerships say. You can also keep track of this on chart paper or a Google doc that kids have access to if you are using Google Classroom. (Integration of technology and very helpful! Win-Win)

Finally, I allow kids to try the skill on their own. It can be fast in an exit ticket fashion. Or it can be more comprehensive in a graphic organizer type structure. The thing to keep in mind with the gradual response model is- I Do, We Do, You Do.

Here are some examples of exit tickets. (I had this free exit ticket poster made into a massive advertisement for my kids to post their thinking. {It also helps to see who has done it or not from a glance. The other win is you can sort exit tickets by got it vs. needs small group help. SO HELPFUL! Makes for a quick formative assessment.}

Here are some comprehensive graphic organizers I have used as formative and summative assessments. Keep reading for more information on assessment. 

4 Anchor Charts

I often use anchor charts to help students see visually what a term or concept looks like in action. We make them together, or I have them pre-created before the lesson.  There is value in both. When I pre-create them, I don't forget anything, and I can make them neat and ready to hang. I can also give students copies to add to their reading notebook. 

Creating anchor charts with kids give them so say in what goes on the chart. Student input is powerful stuff! Kids know what they need. Also, this helps if you spent all weekend writing your plans and ran out of time putting all the pieces together! That is so me!!

5. Graphic Organizers/Assessment

Graphic organizers are a great way to allow your students to share their thinking in writing or illustrations. I often created a response to pretty much every story we did as a class. I wanted to give my kids lots of practice thinking and sharing their thinking. However, I don't believe this is the only way. A tableau can be powerful. I also love to allow kids to act things out, create artistic representations of their thinking, as well as write a song and more. Utilizing all multiple intelligences is vital. 

When I do use graphic organizers, I use them as a formative or summative assessment. If we have practiced the skill repeatedly, then sometimes I'll give them the evaluation to see a summary of all of their learning. Other times, I want to know how they are progressing in the standard. Either way, I always go over the criteria in advance. {This may require me modeling how the graphic organizer is to be completed.} I added the practice of going over criteria in advance and allowing student input when this activity was added to the teacher evaluations. I finally saw kids striving to accomplish the task. It made all the difference. 

6. Mentor Texts

Mentor texts are books that the students and I can return to for many different purposes. I have some old favorites that I love to read year after year. It's funny how many learning opportunities you see even after you think you have exhausted them all from the 20 other readings you have done. 

Some of my favorites Mentor Texts per Unit of Study:

Character Unit (Focus on characters overcoming obstacles)
What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yomada (and all of the books in the series)
Any Mo Willems books (love, love, love him!) Gotta love Trixie and Piggie and Gerald!
Kevin Henkes {Lilly is one of my favorite characters}
William Steig (Dr. Desoto is the focus of several of his books)
The list could go on and on!

Nonfiction Unit
I love to utilize technology for this unit. I have some great science and social studies apps that I like to use for nonfiction reading. Anytime I can integrate the content area into reading, it is a win-win. This saves me time and keeps the students and I focused. 

Mystery Unit of Study
Now, this is one of my favorite units of study. Using mysteries in your teaching is like teaching inferencing by accident. I love all the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew books (a newer version of Nancy Drew).  Jigsaw Jones is so fun! And I have to keep my good friend Encyclopedia Brown in the mix.  I also created a super fun classroom mystery for the conclusion of this study.

Nonfiction LIfe Cycle Unit of Study
Sometimes I like to get really specific in my units of study. That way I can go deeper into the content area information. 

Fairytale, Folktale, and Fable Unit of Study
This one is fun to mix it up. The Brothers Grim can be pretty intense, but some kids love that. Comparing and contrasting traditional stories with newer versions makes for some higher level thinking! 

I also love the series by Trisha Speed Shaskan where she tells the stories from a different point of view. That makes teaching point of view so much easier!

7 Valuable Components That Are Useful In Reading Units of Study

7. Build on Standards

I think it is crucial to continue to spiral-teach the reading standards. Having a few standards that you are focusing on at a time makes complete sense. But I like to keep in mind that as the students learn to think on a higher level and dig into more complex text, the demonstration of the standards is going to look different. That is why when I write my reading units of study, I focus on specific standards and spiral back to standards we have covered in the past. 

Keep in mind that your end-of-the-year expectations are not the same as your beginning-of-the-year expectations. By the time your children have come to the last unit of study, you will be expecting mastery of all of the grade level standards. 

So as you know, esson planning is hard work! There are tons of things to keep in mind most especially the needs of your students/child. 

Need a little help figuring it all out? I have a complete set of reading lesson plans done for the entire year. These plans were recently updated to include samples of standards-based assessments. Also, if you are interested in knowing which standards I focus on for which unit, check out the description in the Bundled set of plans. 

I hope these 7 valuable components help you to write your perfect reading units of study. Have a great year!

Happy Teaching and learning!

Trina Deboree