Sunday, July 29, 2012

Managing the Literacy Block (Part 1)

I recently discovered this amazing blog:

The Differentiation Destination

It's a collaborative blog on best practices for differentiating instruction (based off Dr. Carol Ann Tomlinson's work). The four teachers behind this effort just created this blog in July, and I can already tell great info and ideas are going to come from them!

I was in the midst of figuring out how to structure my literacy block with the CAFE and Writers' Workshop when I started feeling SUPER OVERWHELMED...reading conferences, writing conferences, small group (or strategy groups) instruction, whole group instruction, assessments, mini-lessons... my brain was overloaded. So I took a break and stumbled upon a post on flexible groupings from The Differentiation Destination. This post really spoke to me. After reading it, I got the inspiration I needed to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And now I'm ready (and a little afraid) to share it with you. :)

First of all, two of my biggest questions this summer have been:
1. How am I going to manage reading and writing (and math but I'm still working on that one)?
2. How am I going to meet the needs of 27 second graders?

I know many of you have been reading the Two Sisters' CAFE and Daily 5. Both books are such a great resource! I am also a fan of the books below too.

Product Details
Product Details Product Details 

During student teaching I had a binder, like the Two Sisters suggest, and I used elaborate charts and graphs from The Next Step in Guided Reading (I should have read The CAFE Book more carefully because they warned about elaborate charts). I found that I had trouble managing a binder (it just got too crowded) so I have taken the bare necessities and parts from each of these resources to create a system of individual, small, and whole group instruction that will hopefully work for me and my students. As for centers, I'm not going to do the exact model of Daily 5 but I'll post more about that at a later time (you can view my center board here though). It might be too much or not enough but I won't know for sure until I actually meet my students and get in the classroom! Nonetheless, I like to be prepared and would like to share my plans with you anyway. :)

Here is my tentative weekly literacy schedule:
note: to the right of any slashes is what I'm doing with selected students and to the left of any slashes is what the rest of the students are doing

The Meek Moose was recently talking about baby steps and that's what I need to take when introducing all the components of the literacy block to my students.The CAFE Book and Launching the Writers' Workshop give great suggestions on how to get started...the Two Sisters recommend not even starting strategy groups (groups based on need not ability/level) until mid-October. A lot depends on my students too, who I am anxious to meet!

Here is how I will stay organized:

I am going to use magazine boxes (Ikea) and file folders (Target). The pictures above are my reading files and the boxes they are kept in (I have my writing documents set-up the same way). Like I mentioned earlier, the binder didn't work for me but if it works for you, you can easily adapt these files into sections of a binder.

Box 1, Individual Instruction: will house the conference schedule file with (1) reading conference appointments and (2) keeping track form. Each students' reading conference file will also be in this box. I'd also like to put some kind of helpful conferencing resource on the left side (the side that is currently blank) of the student conference form.

Box 2, Strategy Group Instruction: will house file with (1) reading strategy group appointments and (2) reading strategy group lessons. Materials for strategy group lessons will also be placed in this box.

Box 3, Whole Group Instruction: will house file with (1) weekly overview of whole group reading mini-lessons and (2) plans for mini-lessons.  Materials needed for whole group lessons will also be placed in the box.

You can download all the labels and documents (both reading and writing) in my TpT store for free.

If you are interested in learning more about each of these documents, stay tuned for Managing the Literacy Block (Part 2) where I will go into more detail about how I am going to use them, etc. If you have any questions, leave me a comment, and I will try to answer it in my post. :)


  1. The Jan Richardson model is the one that my school uses- religiously. So I'll be having kids in leveled groups. Last year was my first year ever using it- I had "trained" myself in the past. She has some very good, clear-cut methods though that are helpful with that "overwhelmed" feeling.But- they are very different expectations from Daily 5. So it's a place where you'd have to go Frankenstein on the two systems and find what works for you.

    This year will be my first year starting with Daily 5- which I have to say is the best answer to "what is everyone else doing when I'm teaching small groups"- and I'm thinking of trying the strategy group. But yeah- baby steps. I might make my experiment with strategy groups my "fun Friday" kind of gig. And you can always slip in that reader's theater practice by having a retelling station that they can visit in lieu of listening on a cd player or at the computer.
    The Meek Moose

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Heather!

    I'm definitely going to be going "Frankenstein"...haha I like how you used that word!

  3. The daily five was used in my first grade classroom and took awhile to implement and build up student stamina. How do you hold them accountable for fulfilling the centers while you are with a small group? I guess by assigning meaningful tasks that require them to share or produce something that shows they are done with the center? In my class in the fall I noticed that when students were doing read to self...their were some who would just sit there with the book not actually reading (just one example).


Thanks so much! Have a Happy Day! :)

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