Quality Educator







I strongly believe that students should spend time reading during the school day and that they should be given ample opportunity to read BOTH material at their reading level AND their grade level. Students need to see grade-level material for exposure, common experience with text within the classroom, and because they will be tested on grade-level passages. Students also need an opportunity to read materials at their actual reading level so they can grow in their reading abilities -- important for both high and low students.

Texts Used

To provide a combination of grade-level and reading-level text experience I use the following:

  • short texts for shared reading (whole class instruction with grade-level material)

    • magazine articles, poetry, and content related texts work well

  • picture books or short non-fiction texts for modeling strategies

  • novels as whole class read alouds or novel studies

  • a wide variety of texts for small group instruction at the instructional level of the student (guided reading)

  • a variety of student-selected texts for independent and paired reading

I have an extensive classroom library, most of it purchased at garage sales, used book stores and through Scholastic. I have also made some purchases on ebay, and there are a few books that were mine when I was a kid.


Planning the Year -- Because I don't use a basal (except sometimes as a resource), I have to plan out my year. It can be a complex process, so I try to consider all of the following:

  • Integration - I look at my social studies curriculum to see if any reading standards fit in particularly well with any unit. For example, pulling passages with different points of view on events leading to the American Revolution was great for teaching critical reading and author's purpose. Compare and contrast fit with my unit on the Middle Ages in Europe.

  • Strategy Units - I use strategy units, thanks to the influences of Mosaic of Thought, Guiding Readers and Writers: Grades 3-6, and Reading with Meaning. I do units on questioning, visualizing, connecting, summarizing (includes determining importance and main idea), and inference (includes context clues). I aim to spend 2-3 weeks on a unit that focuses on each of these strategies, but do reference, model, and ask students to practice them throughout the year. See these strategy posters.

  • Genre Units - I also teach genre units such as myths, mystery, persuasive texts and media, and non-fiction text features.

  • Whole Class Novels/Literature Requirements - I also have some literature required by my curriculum and I have done whole class novel studies of my own choosing. I try to integrate these into other units if possible. I also consider other items on the calendar when deciding when to do these. For example, a light novel study is great to do during testing so the kids can have something light and engaging between test days.

Planning the Weeks and Days -- Every year my exact schedule is different, but I believe it's important to fit in the following components over the course of a week.

  • Shared Reading - I use a weekly template for shared reading. I select a short text that is at grade-level and plan to use the same text for the whole week. I use both fiction and non-fiction and try to relate this to a current content area unit. Ideally, this takes 15-20 minutes per day.

  • Strategy and Genre Unit Mini-lessons - The ideal mini-lesson is 5-10 minutes. I admit that sometimes my mini-lessons become maxi-lessons, but it's important that they're short because you want to give students time to practice whatever you've just taught in their independent reading. Mini-lessons can also fall under the category of procedural lessons, especially at the beginning of the year, such as "How to Choose a Just Right Book." You can find resources specific to units below. Also, Mandy Gregory has a great resource page for mini-lessons.

  • Independent Reading - Students need to have regular time for independent, silent reading. They need to be taught to choose books at their level (I use the Five Finger Rule) and have a level of accountability for their reading. R5 is a great format for independent reading that includes: Read, Relax, Reflect, Respond, Rap. Beth Newingham also has some great resources on Reading Workshop, a format that includes a mini-lesson, independent and guided reading, and closure.

  • Guided Reading - Guided reading is flexible small group instruction designed to meet students' specific needs. A teacher may pull a small group of students to address a specific strategy they're having difficulty with, but may also pull small groups based on their instructional reading level. I try to meet with my below-grade-level groups 4-5 days a week, my on-level groups 2-3 days a week, and my above-grade-level groups 1-2 days a week. Right click here for the guided reading lesson plan template I developed. (If you're having trouble seeing the document, click here for the pdf.)

  • Reciprocal Teaching - Reciprocal teaching is a multiple strategies approach to reading. Reciprocal Teaching At Work by Lori Oczkus is an excellent resource. I've created these Fab Four strategy cards for use in small groups and these Fab Four bookmarks for individual use.

Ideas and Resources for Specific Units

Mystery -

Non-fiction text features - project

Visualize -

Questioning -

Persuasive Text and Media

Infer -