Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 275, Chapter 10: Organizing for Instruction

Teaching With Basal Reading Programs

Basal reading programs are commercial reading programs that have been around for many years. Some of these programs from years ago did not teach much phonics but more memorization. Basal reading programs today concentrate on cultural diversity and introducing strategies for reading especially phonics.


  • Selections in grade-level textbooks
  • Instruction about decoding and comprehension strategies and skills
  • Workbook assignments
  • Independent reading opportunities

Materials in Basal Reading Programs:


Teaching With Literature Focus Units

A literature focus unit typically uses one story but could also use multiple stories of the same genre or from the same author.

Steps in Developing a Unit

Step 1: Select the Literature – The book could include a picture-book, a novel, a nonfiction book, or a book of poetry. There should be at least one copy for each student. The teacher then selects related stories; this could include sequels, books written by the same author, or books from the same genre; to include in the classroom library for students to read independently. The teacher also find supplementary materials related to the focus story, such as stuffed animals, book boxes which could be used to introduce the story, and information about the author and illustrator. Also, many picture books have larger versions which can be used during shared reading time. DVDs or books on tape could be used too.

Step 2: Set Goals – Teachers develop goals that work along with standards that students are expected to accomplish by the end of the unit.

Step 3: Develop a Unit Plan – Teachers read or reread a book and decides what the focus for learning will be. This focus could include an element of the story structure, a historical setting, word play, the author or genre, or a topic related to the story such as the weather or desert life. After the focus is decided on, activities are chosen to be used at each of the five stages of reading.

Step 4: Coordinate Grouping Patterns With Activities – Teachers need to think about how they will use whole-group, small-groups, partners, and individual work during this unit. Groupings should be alternated during various activities of the unit.

Step 5: Create a Time Schedule – The teacher needs to create a schedule that gives students plenty of time to move through the 5 steps in the reading process and complete the activities that go along with it. Minilessons may be incorporated to teach reading or writing strategies, also, to introduce specific activities or assignments.

Step 6: Assess Students – Teachers plan their assessment strategies when planning the goals for the unit as well as the book they choose. Informal assessment is used to evaluate what is working well and what needs to be changed. By the end of the unit, students will have a final project that they will be assessed on. Students can also receive folders to keep all of their work in throughout the unit making it easier for the students to keep track of their work and for the teacher to assess it at the end of the unit. The students should receive a checklist of assignment so they can keep track of them as they are finishing them.

Literature Circles

Literature circles are small, student-led book discussion groups.

Key Features of Literature Circles:

  • Choice: The students choose the book and the groups they will participate in. The students set a schedule, choose the roles they will take during discussion time, and decide how they will share the book with their classmates.
  • Literature: The books should be interesting and at the students’ reading level. When first introducing literature circles, teachers should choose picture books or easy to read books so students can understand how literature circles work. The teacher should make sure to read each book and be able to be excited about the book so they can introduce the books well to the students and get them excited about them too.
  • Response: Students meet several times to discuss the book. The students will summarize the reading, make connections, learn vocabulary, and explore the author’s use of text factors.

Types of Talk During Literature Circle Discussions:


Roles Students Play in Literature Circles:


Implementing Literature Circles:

  • Step 1: Select Books
  • Step 2: Form Literature Circles
  • Step 3: Read the Book
  • Step 4: Participate in a Discussion
  • Step 5: Teach Minilessons
  • Step 6: Share With the Class
  • Step 7: Assess Learning

Reading and Writing Workshops

Students participate in authentic reading and writing projects during these workshops. There are three main characteristics:

  • Time: Students are given plenty of time to read and write. For reading students should get 30-60 minutes and for writing they should get 30-45 minutes to work through the processes.
  • Choice: Students choose the books they read and what they write about.
  • Response: Students use reading logs to respond to their books and then have conferences with their teacher about what they read. Teachers also periodically collect the students reading logs and will write notes about their responses. Students also share their rough drafts with classmates and share the completed draft with an audience.


Sustained Silent Reading (SSR):

This is where students choose a book to silently read during a time that is set aside during the school day for reading. SSR and reading workshops are similar because the students are choosing their own books. However, SSR focuses just on reading where reading workshops focus on reading, responding, sharing, teaching minilessons, and reading aloud to students.

Management of the Workshops:

Workshops take time for the students to figure out what they are suppose to be doing. For reading workshops, students need to learn how to correctly choose a book and other reading workshop procedures. For writing workshops, students need to learn how to use the writing process when working on a piece of writing. The teacher need to talk through and model what the workshop will look like so students can see and hear what they are expected to do.

All above information comes from:
Tompkins, G. E. (2017). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson

Classroom Application

In my classroom, I will use the strategies for using basal reading programs, literature circles, and reading and writing workshops. When using literature circles, the roles will be posted for students to see so they know what their roles can be and decide who will do what. I would also post the Goldilocks Strategy for choosing books so that students will understand what it means to choose a book that is best for them.

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