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Grade Level Summary of Language Arts Curriculum

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Tel: 609.806.4200

Rubicon Atlas Curriculum Maps
Reading Workshop Format

Components of the Reading Workshop:

Readers Workshop is a teaching method in which the goal is to teach students strategies for reading and comprehension.  The workshop model allows teachers to differentiate and meet the needs of all their students.  Reading Workshop helps to foster a love of reading and gives students chances to practice reading strategies independently and with guidance.  It provides students with a supportive environment that involves them in authentic reading experiences that focus on the strengths and needs of individual students. Reader's Workshop helps students develop strong reading skills through the use of a mini-lesson, shared reading, read aloud, conferencing, independent reading, paired reading, literature response, and sharing. The basic philosophy behind the Reading Workshop is to allow students to spend an extended amount of time reading authentic texts that interest them on a daily basis and to provide opportunities to talk about literature. The ultimate goal of a Reading Workshop is always to develop life-long passionate readers.  Reading Workshop helps to foster a love of reading and gives students chances to practice reading strategies independently and with guidance.

10 minutes
Read-aloud (often leads to mini-lesson)
10 minutes
20-25 minutes
Independent Reading & Conferring, Small Group Instruction, and/or Assessment
5 minutes

Read Aloud (10 minutes) The teacher reads orally and invites active listening and participation from the children. Longer, more diverse, and more complicated texts are selected to provide a rich experience of literature. This provides an excellent opportunity for additional modeling of reading and response strategies. It also offers closure for the reading workshop within the community.
Mini-Lesson (10 minutes) Lesson topics are determined by the needs of the class as well as the curriculum. Lessons are brief, whole group, and always involve teaching a specific reading skill or strategy. Topics vary, but typically address the following: procedures, literary craft, reading and comprehension strategies, response, and conventions. During a mini-lesson, teachers model for the students a specific reading skill or strategy. During a Historical Fiction unit, a teacher may show how an author is creating an “emotional atmosphere”—maybe an edgy nervousness on the brink of war—as well as a “physical atmosphere.” They may talk about/chart ways in which the author accomplishes this, then read a bit more, looking for clues to further determine how people are feeling in this time and place.  
Independent Reading and Conferring, Small Group Instruction, Book Clubs, and/or Assessments (20-25 minutes) As the children select new books or retrieve ones they are still reading from their book boxes, the teacher asks each student what she or he will be reading. This provides an excellent opportunity for a brief conference with every child about her or his reading and the books she or he has chosen. It also provides a reliable assessment tool by which the teacher can monitor self-selection and provide guidance when necessary. Once the children have selected their books and conferred with the teacher, they are expected to read silently and independently. While many primary age children vocalize while reading and may need the support of reading orally with apartner, silent independent reading remains the goal. Silent reading provides the teacher with guaranteed time to meet with individuals and small groups forassessment, guidance, remediation, and enrichment. If a number of students are struggling with a similar skill—say, making predictions based on what we know about a character—then a teacher may form a small group and re-teach the lesson from a different angle. As well, a teacher may form small groups as an enrichment opportunity for strong readers, challenging them with higher-level skills. During a conference, the teacher meets with individual children to talk about their reading and offer brief individual instruction in an informal conversation that may last from 8-10 minutes. Conferences focus on the individual needs of every child, so no two conferences are alike, although the conversation always surrounds books the child has recently been reading. Occasionally, the teacher groups 4 or 5 children according to their instructional needs and forms a book club. The teacher is then able to address these needs with a common textfollowing a lesson structure that involves preparation for reading, independent reading, and response. Most often, book clubs meet over the course of two or more days. As children become more sophisticated readers, the book club format becomes increasingly independent. Students are assessed both formally and informally throughout the school year. Informal assessments include reading conferences, small group conversations, and teacher observations (i.e.: Does the student consistently choose texts within his/her level of understanding?) Formal assessments include strategy-checks, Reading Journal collections, homework checks, book club conversation reports, quizzes, presentations, and reading tests.
Share (10-15 minutes) The children are invited to respond to their reading in both oral and written ways. During this time, students can share their successes or struggles with a particular strategy. These shares are often instructional in nature as well. For example, a teacher may have taught a mini-lesson on organizational strategies for note taking from nonfiction text. During the “share,” students may show the class their own note-taking strategies. This helps to increase everyone’s skill repertoire. Every day the children meet with a friend for book talks, brief conversations that share reactions and responses to reading. About once a week, the children write more formal responses in journals or traditional book reviews. The children write independently and freely, although the teacher occasionally provides a prompt to guide the response.  Connections between reading and writing are encouraged. Writtenresponses are always shared with peers and the teacher in order to maintain purpose and audience.

Writing Workshop Format

Components of the Writing Workshop:

The workshop model recognizes that, in order to achieve maximum success, writing instruction must be differentiated (that is, each students’ individual needs must be addressed.) When students are able to choose their own areas of focus, it generates an unmatchable level of writing enthusiasm. The class often takes on the buzz of a newsroom, as students prepare to plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish their pieces.  Some units of study naturally support certain types of skills. That is, we might talk about developing setting during a narrative unit, while focusing instead on developing coherent arguments during an essay unit. Each unit, however, goes through the writing process “cycle” of generating ideas, planning, drafting, revising, and editing. Teachers promote skills related to all cogs on this wheel, with each phase taking a certain number of days.  Sometimes parents wonder where grammar and punctuationlessons “fit” into Writing Workshop. These lessons occur during the editing phase of each unit.

10 minutes
20-25 minutes
Independent Writing & Conferring, Small Group Instruction, and/or Assessment
5 minutes

Mini-Lesson (10 minutes) During a mini-lesson, teachers model a specific writing skill or strategy. During a Research Essay unit, a teacher may show how a student can create a certain tone by the words the student selects. That is, if students are arguing that sharks should be a protected species, we may use words like “majestic” or “magnificent” in their essays. Though these words aren’t technically a part of the argument, they help to set a favorable tone for the poor sharks. During a Feature Article unit, a teacher may show samples of figurative language (similes, metaphors, etc.) in magazine articles, demonstrating how authors can use this language to great effect in nonfiction.
Independent Writing and Conferring, Small Group Instruction, and/or Assessments (20-25 minutes) Following the mini-lesson, students will research, note-take, and/or write independently for 20-25 minutes. They may also use this time for peer revision and/or peer editing. While students work, they may apply the just-taught strategy, or perhaps apply other strategies from their writing “toolkits.” Conferring is the core of the Writing Workshop. Teachers will meet with each student approximately once per week; during this time, teachers are able to determine the student’s understanding of recently-taught strategies, and teach a new skill specific to that child’s needs. For one writer, that skill might involve learning to "stretch out" an important moment in a story; for another, it might involve showing how to move through time with more subtlety (rather than, “the next day…the day afterthat…”). Naturally, the lesson depends on the student’s skill level as a writer in that particular unit. It is interesting to note that a student may be particularly strong in one area (for example, fiction), while struggling in another.  A teacher may also be facilitating a small group lesson. If a number of students are struggling with a similar skill—say, weaving a quotation into a Literary Essay—then the teacher will form a small group together and re-teach the lesson to deepen their understanding.  Students are assessed both formally and informally throughout the school year. Informal assessments include writing conferences, small group conversations, and teacher observations (for example, is a student committed to peer editing to the best of his/her ability?) Formal assessments include strategy-checks, writing notebook collections, the checking of homework, quizzes, the collection of writing folders (which contain drafts,revisions, and edits), and final publications. Students are assessed on all elements of the writing process, not simply the final product.
Share (5 minutes) Following the block of time allotted for Independent Writing, teachers will often have a “share.” During this time, students can share their successes or struggles with a particular strategy. These shares are often instructional in nature. For example, a teacher may have taught a mini-lesson showing how to use a timeline as one tool to plan a narrative. During the “share,” a student may show the class how he or she used a storyboard or a mini-book to plan instead. Everyone benefits from this sharing of ideas.  Many classes typically have a “Publication Party” at the end of each unit, giving students the chance to enjoy others' writing, as well as with their parents! This celebration provides an authentic audience for their writing efforts, and acts as powerful motivation for each writer to strive for his or her best.

Kindergarten Reading Units of Study: In kindergarten, students begin to establish their identities as readers while they build the foundational skills for reading. In the first unit, We Are Readers, children will develop concepts of print, phonemic awareness, phonics, and the knowledge necessary to use story language to support their approximations of reading. The second unit, Super Powers: Reading with Print Strategies and Sight Word Power, glories in childrenís love of play as they learn “super power” strategies that help them search for meaning, use picture clues, work on fluency, and communicate meaning. In the third unit, Bigger Books, Bigger Reading Muscles, children attempt more difficult books with greater independence and use reading strategies to read with more accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. The last kindergarten unit, Becoming Avid Readers, helps students role-play their way into being the readers teachers and parents want them to become. They pay close attention to characters, setting, and plot while reading fictional stories, become experts in nonfiction topics as they read together in clubs, and play with rhyme and rhythm while reading poetry.

Kindergarten Writing Units of Study: The kindergarten series begins with helping children approximate writing by drawing and labeling first in all-about books and then in stories. The first unit, Launching the Writing Workshop, acknowledges that most children will be labeling their drawingsóand the letters in those labels will include squiggles and diamonds. The second unit, Writing for Readers, helps children write true storiesóbut does so fully aware that the hard part will be writing read-able words. Growth in kindergarten is spectacular, and by the later kindergarten units, children are invited to use their new-found powers to live writing lives. In How-To Books: Writing to Teach Others, Unit 3, students write informational how-to texts on a procedure familiar to them. In Persuasive Writing of All Kinds: Using Words to Make a Change, the fourth and final unit in the kindergarten series, students craft petitions, persuasive letters, and signs that rally people to address problems in the classroom, the school, and the world.

Grade 1 Units of Study in Reading: The start of first grade is a time for dusting off the skills and habits that children learned during kindergarten. In the first unit, Building Good Reading Habits, teachers reinforce childrenís learning from kindergarten, and they will establish ability-based partnerships that tap into the social power of peers working together to help each other become more strategic as readers. The second unit, Learning About the World: Reading Nonfiction, taps into childrenís natural curiosity as they explore nonfiction, while teachers focus on comprehension strategies, word solving, vocabulary, fluency, and authorís craft. The third unit, Readers Have Big Jobs to Do: Fluency, Phonics, and Comprehension, focuses on the reading process to set children up to read increasingly complex texts. The last unit of first grade, Meeting Characters and Learning Lessons: A Study of Story Elements, spotlights story elements and the skills that are foundational to literal and inferential comprehension, including empathy, imagination, envisioning, prediction, character study, and interpretation.
Grade 1 Units of Study in Writing: The first-grade series is written for children who are just tapping into their burgeoning powers as readers as well as writers, and believe they can do anything. Students begin with the always-popular unit Small Moments: Writing with Focus, Detail, and Dialogue. In this unit students take the everyday events of their young lives and make them into focused, well-structured stories, then they learn to breathe life into the characters by making them talk, think, and interact. In Unit 2, Nonfiction Chapter Books, students enter the world of informational writing as they combine pictures and charts with domain-specific vocabulary and craft moves to create engaging teaching texts. In Unit 3, Writing Reviews, students create persuasive reviews of all sortsópizza restaurant reviews, TV show reviews, ice cream flavor reviews, and finally book reviews that hook the reader, clearly express the writerís opinion, and bolster their argument in convincing ways. In From Scenes to Series: Writing Fiction, the final unit of the Grade 1 series, students learn to “show, not tell” and use action, dialogue, and feelings to create a whole series of fiction books modeled after Henry and Mudge.

Grade 2 Units of Study in Reading: In second grade, children move from a “little-kid” focus on print to a “big-kid” focus on meaning. The first unit, Second-Grade Reading Growth Spurt, teaches children to take charge of their reading, drawing on everything they know to figure out hard words, understand authorís craft, and build big ideas about the books they read. Children learn that books can be their teachers in the second unit, Becoming Experts: Reading Nonfiction, in which they learn more about familiar topics and grow understanding of new topics while working on word solving, vocabulary development, and comparing and contrasting information across texts. In the third unit, Bigger Books Mean Amping Up Reading Power, children learn strategies to build three foundational reading skillsófluency, understanding figurative language, and comprehension. In the final unit for second grade, Series Book Clubs, children work within book clubs to study authorís craft to understand ways authors use figurative language, punctuation, and  patterns to construct a series and evoke feelings in readers.

Grade 2 Units of Study in Writing: The second-grade series is written with seven-year-olds in mind. These youngsters are chomping at the bit for something new. They feel very big now and want work that feels big and important. Thatís what theyíll getóthis series invites second-graders into author studies that help them craft powerful true stories, science investigations and lab reports, and finally, into some very grown-up writing about reading. Across the writing genres, children learn to understandóand apply to their own writingótechniques they discover in the work of published authors. In Lessons from the Masters: Improving Narrative Writing students learn how to create engaging narratives by stretching out small moments and writing in detail. Unit 2, Lab Reports and Science Books, uses inspirational nonfiction texts to help students design and write about experiments and other scientific information. Unit 3, Writing About Reading, has students read closely and gather evidence from texts to craft persuasive arguments. The final unit, Poetry: Big Thoughts in Small Packages helps children explore and savor language. Students learn to use line breaks to express the meaning and rhythm they intend and use visualization and figures of speech to make their writing more clear and powerful.

Grade 3 Units of Study in Reading: The third-grade units were written to support the crucial transition children make from learning to read to reading to learn. The opening unit, Building a Reading Life, launches studentsí lives as upper elementary school readers. Children ramp up their reading skills by immersing themselves in within-reach fiction books while working on word solving, vocabulary development, envisionment, and prediction. The second unit, Reading to Learn: Grasping Main Ideas and Text Structures, addresses essential skills for reading expository nonfiction, such as ascertaining main ideas, recognizing text infrastructure, comparing texts, and thinking critically, as well as the skills for reading narrative nonfiction, such as determining importance by using knowledge of story structure. The third unit, Character Studies, lures children into fiction books, teaching them to closely observe characters, make predictions, and sharpen their skills in interpretation. The final unit, Research Clubs: Elephants, Penguins, and Frogs, Oh My!, shows youngsters how to turn to texts as their teachers. Children work in clubs to gather, synthesize, and organize information about animals, and then use this information to seek solutions to real-world problems.

Grade 3 Units of Study in Writing: The third-grade units of study take into account that many third-graders are writing on full sheets of notebook paper and in writers notebooks for the first time. The opening unit, Crafting True Stories, extends studentsí work with personal narrative while engaging them more fully in the complete writing process, with increasing emphasis on drafting and revising their work. In the second unit, The Art of Information Writing, youngsters write chapter books that synthesize a wide variety of information and learn to section their topics into subtopics. They are supported in this challenging work because they are writing about topics on which they have firsthand, personal knowledge: dogs, soccer, gymnastics. Changing the World: Persuasive Speeches, Petitions, and Editorials rallies third-graders to use their newfound abilities to gather and organize information to persuade people about causes the children believe matter: stopping bullying, recycling, saving dogs at the SPCA. The final unit in third grade, Once Upon a Time: Adapting and Writing Fairy Tales, uses familiar fairy tales to explore techniques of fiction writing such as writing in scenes, employing an omniscient narrator to orient readers, using story structure to create tension, and crafting figurative language to convey mood.

Grade 4 Units of Study in Reading: In fourth grade, teachers help students delve into complex texts and see significance in details. In the first unit, Interpreting Characters: The Heart of the Story, children study the complexity of characters and explore themes while developing skills such as inference and interpretation. In the second unit, Reading the Weather, Reading the World, children form research teams to delve into topics about extreme weather and natural disasters while developing their skills in cross-text synthesis, practicing close reading, comparing and contrasting, and evaluating sources to determine credibility. Children take on the challenge of researching history in the third unit, Reading History: The American Revolution. Children study multiple points of view, support a position with reasons and evidence, tackle complex texts, and learn strategies for using new domain-specific words. In the final unit for fourth grade, Historical Fiction Clubs, children practice reading analytically, synthesizing complicated narratives, comparing and contrasting themes, and incorporating nonfiction research into their reading.
Grade 4 Units of Study in Writing: Written for children on the cusp of writing more academic texts, the fourth-grade series familiarizes students with the genres they will regularly encounter throughout schoolóthesis-driven persuasive essays, literary essays, and research reports. Each of the units begins where children are and then provides a progression of instruction that brings students step by step toward increasing proficiency. In Unit 1, The Arc of Story: Writing Realistic Fiction, students learn that the lenses they bring to reading fiction can also be brought to writing fiction, as they develop believable characters with struggles and motivations and rich stories to tell. This unit is followed by Boxes and Bullets: Personal and Persuasive Essays in which students learn the value of organization and form as they gather evidence to support and express an opinion on topics they know well. By Unit 3, Bringing History to Life, students are ready to tackle historical research in which they collect evidence and use details to vividly describe people and events long ago and far away. Unit 4, The Literary Essay: Writing About Fiction, brings the series full circle as students build on their learning of essay writing and apply it with increasing sophistication to a unit on literary essaysóthat is, writing about fiction.

5th Grade Units of Study in Reading: Fifth grade is a time for children to hone their intellectual independence. In the first unit, Interpretation Book Clubs: Analyzing Themes, students draw on a repertoire of ways for reading closely, noticing how story elements interact, understanding how different authors develop the same theme, and comparing and contrasting texts that develop a similar theme. In the second unit, Tackling Complexity: Moving Up Levels of Nonfiction, children investigate the ways nonfiction texts are becoming more complex, and they learn strategies to tackle these new challenges. This unit emphasizes the strong foundational skills, such as fluency, orienting to texts, and word solving, that are required to read complex nonfiction. In the third unit, Argument and Advocacy: Researching Debatable Issues, students read complex nonfiction texts to conduct research on a debatable topic, consider perspective and craft, evaluate arguments, and formulate their own evidence-based, ethical positions on issues. In the final unit for fifth grade, Fantasy Book Clubs: The Magic of Themes and Symbols, students work in clubs to become deeply immersed in the fantasy genre and further develop higher-level thinking skills to study how authors develop characters and themes over time. They think metaphorically as well as analytically, explore the quests and themes within and across their novels, and consider the implications of conflicts, themes, and lessons learned.
5th Grade Units of Study in Writing: By the time children enter fifth grade, they will have been introduced to most if not all of the new skills expected of fifth-graders. The sequence of fifth grade units consolidates those skills and introduces the learning objectives called for in the sixth-grade standards: how to conduct research using primary sources, how to write narratives that are reflective and theme-based, and how to write argument essays that use counterargument to clarify a position. Unit 1, Narrative Craft, helps students deliberately use their knowledge of narrative craft to make their stories more thematic. In Unit 2, The Lens of History: Research Reports, students draw inspiration and understanding from mentor texts, historical accounts, primary source documents, maps, and timelines to write focused research reports that engage and teach readers. Building on these new skills, Unit 3, Shaping Texts: From Essay and Narrative to Memoir helps students grasp that form follows content, learning to take insights about their lives and decide whether these are best expressed in narratives, in essays, or in a hybrid genre created especially to convey the writerís content. In the concluding unit of this series, The Research-Based Argument Essay, fifth-graders learn to build powerful arguments that convincingly balance evidence and analysis to persuade readers to action.

Grade Level Curriculum
Click here for Instructional Strategies for students in kindergarten
Click here for Instructional Strategies for students in the first grade
Click here for Instructional Strategies for students in the 2nd grade
Click here for Instructional Strategies for students in the 3rd grade
Click here for Instructional Strategies for students in the 4th grade
Click here for Instructional Strategies for students in the 5th grade
Click here for Instructional Strategies for students in Middle School
Click here for Instructional Strategies for students in High School

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