Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Scheduling Your Reading Block

I always get a lot of questions about how I schedule my ELA Block. I've been working on this post for awhile, and I'm hoping it proves to be helpful for some of you who are new teachers and for those who need to revamp your current schedule. I am getting more into the Workshop Model this year, so this is a thing that is subject to change for me;
as always you have to do what works best for you and your kids!

I've broken this post down into steps in hopes that it will help you plan out your own schedule. At the end of the post, I'll share a Schedule Freebie that I made and adapted for my classroom needs. 
If you have any questions, please post them below.

Decide first what you are not willing to give up. What does that mean to you? For me, first and foremost it's choice and time for Independent Reading. My kids get 20-30 minutes a day and this never gets shaved or omitted. UNLESS THERE'S A FIRE.

A Student reads in the Recycling Bin during Flashlight Friday

Two Students share Victoria Jameson's Roller Girl during Independent Reading Time

Students get cozy in the library area

Conferences are also very important to me during this time: this is when (at the beginning of the year, I get to know my kids and their interests) I talk with students about reading. If you are intentional during this part, you cut out the guesswork in who is reading and who hasn't found the right book yet. Touch base with students and find a schedule that works for you!

This year I simply kept track of who I met with and when to make sure I was meeting with everyone. This year, I'm working on a more detailed system that will help guide the next conference with each student. It's a work in progress and you have to find something that is EASY and EFFECTIVE.

I hope you read out loud to your kids! There is so much research suggesting that Read Aloud is a vital part to our older kids learning, too! I love to use short stories, articles, blog posts and picture books to guide mini-lessons. You're also letting students HEAR a fluent reader and it's a great time to model reader thinking! Plus, who doesn't love being read to??

The moment when I connected a CCSS strand to Independent Reading :)

While I may not be the Common Core's biggest fan, those are the standards my district follows and I do like having a sort of Blueprint for what my kids should know. I like to tie my daily standard to the mini-lesson and talk with kids about applying it to whatever they're reading for IR. Works for us!

Another non-negotiable for each day is Writing about Reading. Last year, I started using Reading Response Letters and I loved the outcome. We also wrote to Authors, wrote Book Reviews and recommended books to our friends. This year, I'm looking to get other outlets involved. We will be blogging, tweeting, skyping Authors and writing RR Letters to help share what we are reading.

Decide what you would not want cut from your day and go from there!

If you use a Workshop Model most of the things included in Step One should be revisited here. Make plans, schedule out your Read Alouds and have Mini-Lessons ready to go. This is the set that I am heavily working on this school year! I am researching great children's books to help me (gently) teach the CCSS. I'm working on Mini-Lessons that are planned and organized and ready to start the year.

If you're looking for something to help with Reflections at the end of Workshop, this is something I'll be using this school year!
Find them here in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

Some things come up and there's nothing we can do about it. Don't all teachers have the middle name, Flexible? We have to be ready to move things around at the last minute and adapt to our always changing days. I've found that keeping yourself organized really helps here. Make sure you keep a Teacher Planner or Binder and as you get emails write down dates and times for meetings and schedule changes. I also keep a desk calendar on my desk and that helps me keep organized, too!

Keep track of Book Release Dates to help build anticipation with Students!

Use binders or some other filing system that works for you!
Covers and Spines are from Joey Udovich

I'm a big fan of Erin Condren, but again, you have to use what works for you. I have a Life Planner, Notebook and Teacher Lesson Planner. When school is in, I use all three almost daily!
My Notebook helps keep my ideas organized and in one place.

My Teacher Lesson Planner keeps all of my grades, contacts, plans and schedules in one place. It's also easy to pick up and take to meetings.

Keep all of those schedules and pop-up changes at bay whichever way is best for you!

I just did a post on Student Accountability during Workshop and/or Independent Reading Time. It goes with my post about setting up your Reading Notebook. I use a two main things to keep kids "accountable" for their time: conferences and reader's notebook forms from Reading in the Wild.

If you are conferring with students on a regular basis, you KNOW if they are reading during IR time. If you see that they've been on the same book for a really long time, talk about it. If you see that they need to sample more genres, talk about it. TALK TO YOUR KIDS! Get to know them so you can build a strong relationship and ultimately classroom community. You can start giving them recommendations, because guess what? When you're looking for books you'll be reminded of your kids! You start to learn their tastes and what genres they love. Nurture that reading love!

Have students keep track of their reading lives, just like real readers do.
Maybe not all readers keep a reading notebook, but guess what? I'm a reader. I leave reviews for books, I make plans to read books, I keep a mile long wish list on Amazon and I jump on Twitter and Good Reads updating page by page as I'm reading a great book! Teach your kids how to do the things that real readers do. Reading in the Wild has all the forms you could need for this part. Our key components are Status of the Class, Books I've Read, TBR (to be read) List, and our Genre Chart where we start to see our habits and tastes on paper in a nice visual format. Encourage kids to read widely throughout different genres. You will have kids that love graphic novels, or realistic fiction, or non-fiction. Don't discourage them because they show preferences, that's what real readers do. The 40 Book Challenge helps encourage kids to sample different genres without being a jerk about it. Guess what, there's no one to tell me to stop reading the heck out of Graphic Novels, and I'm still a reader, a functioning reader with good comprehension skills.
Like Donalyn says "All readers are valued, all reading is valuable."

Leave me now and go read this book if you haven't yet.

This is an area of personal improvement for me. I'll be attending the Scholastic Reading Summit next week and I'm going to a session about Troubleshooting Conferences. Notice where you need help, and then get the help you need to be better for your kids.

This last step has some other important considerations... Everyone will want to look over these and see if any are factors in your schedule. We all have different amounts of time to work with, again, do what will be best for your situation and your kids!

Okay, now, it is with great caution that I share with you the time I get for ELA. This year, I will have two hours a day with my students to teach Reading and Writing. Before you start drinking HATERADE, just remember that each district is different and I recognize that I am very lucky to have the class time that I do... 

With that being said, my schedule is going to look different than yours! My recommendations are this: Keep a Read Aloud and Mini-Lesson and then do Independent Reading... If I only had 60 minutes that is what I would do with it. 30 minutes for each. I would also recommend using the mock schedule where one week you have a Reading Focus and the next is a Writing Focus. Every week will be filled with both subjects, but one week you may be doing reading mini-lessons and the next it will be writing.

This was my schedule last year (this year, I get a little less time):

I would like to share a schedule I use that was adapted from a Reading in the Wild (see, Mrs. Riedmiller is to Reading in the Wild as Mr. Schu is to Kate DiCamillo) Book Study last summer. I took someone's schedule (one that was originally a sample in Donalyn's book) and made it work for me with the addition of Genius Hour, because I LOVE GENIUS HOUR. :)

Enjoy and I would love to hear some feedback. Also, kudos to you if you made it through this very long-winded post! I hope it helps you in the classroom. 


  1. I loved this post! I am nervous as we are moving to a 4 day school week and I am worried about how to fit my workshop model in with losing a day. I hope I can get it to work.

    1. I've learned that there is no one Workshop that is best. It seems like everyone tries to keep the key components and do the best that they can. I think you always have to do what is best for your students and that looks differently for all of us. Good luck with your new set up. I hope it all works out! :)

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  3. LOVED this post!! All of these fabulous pointers have really gotten my creative juices flowing!! Can't wait to for your writing post! Where did you get your teacher planner??

    1. I'm glad to hear that Whitney! It was a little long-winded, but I had so much information to share. :)

      I use an Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner, but some weeks I print out plans from a template A Pinch of Primary made (FREEBIE in her shop) and tape it into my EC weekly plan pages.

  4. Incredible information! Thank you for sharing how you set up your day. This is my first year strictly teaching ELA in 4th, and I'm nervous, but oh so excited. :) I love reading your blog-because I know I CAN do it.

    1. Thank you! You will love it. I would never want to go to teaching it all, I love ELA too much. There are so many great things you can do and it really gives you the chance to get to know your readers!

      Good luck!!!!

  5. Loved this post, Stacey! So much helpful information. We just finished year 1 of LC RWW after using Reading Street for a million years. My students definitely were so much more motivated to read and write using the workshop model. Your ideas will help me fine-tune and improve my block this year!

  6. We had Reading Street in my district, too. We never got the updated Common Core version, and a lot of people kind of just stopped using it. I'm not a basal fan, I think Workshop is much better.

    I hope you keep motivating your kids to read! Thanks for the comment :)

  7. Thanks for this post! I will be teaching Reading again this year after only teaching math the last two! It had some great reminders and some new ideas to make sure I'm focused this year!

    A Tall Drink of Water

  8. How would you incorporate a basal like Reading Street in your workshop if you had to. My district uses it

  9. What great reminders and questions to think about! You'll love using the workshop model -- it gives you time for kids to read and practice what they're learning! I need to save this post to go back to when I need some ideas or a

  10. Great post! I'm starting to think of how I want to structure my block this year and you've given me a lot to think about!

  11. I am so happy to try this model this year! I found out a little to late last year the impact independent reading time has on my students…they started to love to read! My students were better behaved and engaged when I gave them the time to read. I can't wait to try this out with my new students this year.

    One question I have is what do you use for mini lessons?

  12. Stacey,
    thank you so much for this phenomenal post! Your words have really helped me with planning my literacy block this year. I also read Reading in the Wild this past April because of you and it has become my book of answers. Reading in the Wild just speaks to my heart and what I want my students to understand about reading. A million thank yous!!


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