Sunday, November 8, 2015

Teacher Playbook: Integrating Reading & Writing

I'm big a proponent of integration to help save time and make connections to kids. Kids need to see that reading and writing are not isolated skills but skills we can use together along with content areas like Science and Social Studies.

With my Bengals on an 8-0 winning streak, I thought I'd break out the playbook and share my upcoming plans for teaching nonfiction reading and writing.


We do a lot of work with teachers across the entire grade level, so I'm super lucky I have a district that supports collaboration and integration. However, I know that's not the case for all teachers or districts. Hopefully, even with out some of our districts resources, you can pull together a great integrated unit.

The first set for me before thinking about how I can integrate my reading and writing and thus not teach both workshops at the simultaneously but instead sort of switch the focus, is for me to look at my resources.


Knowing what resources are out there to help you is the BEST thing you can do to help yourself! We're lucking to have Lucy Calkin's newest Units of Study for Reading and Writing at our school along with several trade book packs.

However, you don't need to necessarily buy the kits to put together a great Reading and Writing Workshop plan. Lots of districts have their outlines available online so you can see how it all works without dropping the money right away. Portland Public Schools has the old version of the units of study and an outline available through their website. You can see an outline of teaching points and how to set up a workshop lesson using their link.


Other schools also have links to the online versions of the old units of study. You can find Grade 4, Grade 5, and Grade 6 all online with a simple Google search. Even though Lucy has changed some of her grade level requirements and suggestions, these are still solid units if you do not have access to her "new" program. They still align well to the Common Core at each level and are engaging for kids.

The Columbia Reading and Writing Project also offer an entire page of FREE resources to teachers and schools. They have text sets by topics, videos of reading and writing lessons, and book lists based on your unit of study. This is a great resource to explore if you're trying to pull together your own integrated unit!

After you understand your resources, you need to start pulling things together.

Here's the core questions I ask myself: 

  • What will be your key teaching points?
  • What is the mentor text(s) you will use?
  • What will students be reading?
  • What will students be writing?
What am I using?

I will be using Lucy's Units of Study. We'll be using the recommended mentor texts When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses & Alien Deep. I also checked out several other high interest nonfiction books from my local library: Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead and Journey Into the Deep

It's important to know your readers. I used my MAP score breakdown report to get an idea of my students and their readiness for nonfiction. Knowing your kids that excel and kids that need that extra help will help you get your students oriented to the unit. I prepared some text students for readers that aren't quite on grade level as well as found some ways to front load nonfiction using resources like Scholastic News that I receive each week. 

An eye opener for me was knowing that one of my students needs to be able to find captions in a nonfiction text and know how to use them. She had no idea how to use them or their purpose! 

Ways to get to know your team?
  • Give a pretest
  • Using testing data like MAP
  • Use a paired nonfiction text with a read aloud
  • Pull out a magazine and have students "walk" you through an article

I also know that if I start with great models and read deeply read our nonfiction mentor texts that my students will be able to really pull together their nonfiction writing pieces. 


For the writing portion of the unit, students will be doing some research with their nonfiction reading materials to write a feature article. We're upping the game by saying that all articles will need to have a point of view or stance. To score that additional touchdown, we're having our students focus on the science topic of space exploration. This would include NASA missions, space race, NASA failures, aliens, etc. For some of these topics text sets have already been created to help with research! Check out the alien text set here.

This will help our fifth grade science teachers out tremendously. Students will be doing some personal front loading and background building in Language Arts and then be able to bring that research and reading with them to their new science unit! 

You don't need to perform the the triple threat but there are lots of science and social studies topics that lend themselves to reading and writing while still offering lots of choice within the topic. 

How do you support integration in the classroom?



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