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Literacy Scheduling and Planning

A look into my portable of fun!

I remember my biggest worry before starting my teaching internship was that I wouldn't know how to fill the day. Seven hours seemed like a long time. Now, one of my largest struggles as an educator is trying to fit it all in. So many requirements. So many pushes. So many pressures. How we get anything completed now is an amazing feat on its own. Here is my schedule and planning under the literacy umbrella. I hope it helps you in some way.

Disclaimer:I am not presenting my schedule as the exemplar of schedule planning. Rather, I am posting this because I am trying to show what is happening in our tiny portable classroom in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I've also had schedule questions asked throughout the blog, so I thought I'd just post it all together in one post.

Overall Schedule

Our overall schedule

Sample Mini-Lesson Overview

Mini-lesson overview

Rotation Overview

Our afternoon rotations

Details on Mini-Lessons

Reader's Workshop: For the first part of the year my schedule included a near daily reading comprehension lesson for reader's workshop. I followed the works of McGregor, Miller, and Harvey pretty closely. This included a picture book and anchor chart for most lessons. With a nonfiction focus (Navigating Nonfiction) for this current six weeks, our schedule has shifted with touch-up lessons twice a week on reading comprehension strategies. 

Writer's Workshop:I use Lucy Calkin's Units of Study 3-5 in our room. We are currently using her essay unit of study three times a week. This past week I shifted to Katie Wood Ray's essay unit in Study Driven so I don't follow it like a script. I use one lesson a week to specifically look at grammar in context of rich literature.  I might photo-copy a page in a book and use this time to talk about the conventions used. My typical saying is: "What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Can I try this myself?" An excellent resource is available under Scholastic is Lester Laminack's Cracking Open the Author's Craft. Visit his link here.

Navigating Nonfiction: This resource comes from Scholastic. It is an anthology of articles, with a focus on a nonfiction feature for 30 lessons. This includes types of print, maps, charts, cause/effect, problem/solution, captions, etc. Each lesson includes one shorter article to be used for the lesson and then includes a longer article to be read independently (or with a partner). The questions included are not based on direct recall, rather questions that focus on applying the discussed skill. Ex- Add a title, an intro., create a caption, etc. to a partially completed article. Cost- 295.00 for 30 books and a teacher manual.

Basal: We are required to follow the basal skill weekly, including a weekly basal test. There is some freedom in using other resources to teach that skill. For example, if the skill is cause/effect I can use a Navigating Nonfiction article to elaborate on this. If the skill is inferring, I could use a picture book of my choice to demonstrate that. I tried my best to purchase most of the stories provided in the basal so that it becomes a read-aloud for the students (ex- Snowflake Bentley or The Raft). Depending on the skill or strategy delegated, this lesson may look and feel like a reader's workshop lesson. I also make sure to connect skills such as cause/effect and problem/solution as nonfiction text structures through the Navigating Nonfiction lessons.

TCAP Coach Book: This was just purchased by my grade level. Essentially, it is for test prep. We did not use this before the holiday break. Skills include reading and writing. Some example topics include author's purpose, identifying topic sentences, and grammar.

Spelling/Cursive: With the average grade of an "A" using the traditional spelling lists, I supplement spelling on an individual level and reinforce cursive practice. Students have a spelling dictionary and use their conference time with me to add 3-5 new words they would like to spell correctly. Students circle unknown spellings, I correct it, and it is added to the spelling notebook. We also have a class homophone chart with picture clues. If it is posted, it must be spelled correctly in our writing.

Word Work: Last semester more time was built into the schedule for word study. Now, it is used during transition times more. An example would be, "Tell me a root word and it's meaning as you walk out the door." It takes just a minute to have students create movement to root words and I might have students do this as they transition from one subject to the next (ex- "Show me what 'de' means," as students point down). A natural review comes throughout the day when we encounter stem words studied in class. Our last example was while teaching fractions- "de" means down. It helped us remember that the denominator is the bottom portion of a fraction.

Book Buddies/Mystery Reader: This rotates every other week.

Overall: The first mini-lesson is followed by a reader's workshop block; the second lesson is followed by writer's workshop; the third lesson is whole group; the fourth lesson is followed by literacy rotations.

Details on Rotations

Read with a Partner: This is used for either reading partnerships or re-visiting guided reading literature with a partner for fluency practice.

Guided Reading: The vast majority of books used are content driven based on recent studies. For example, last week all guided reading books dealt with our government unit. Some read about our first ten amendments while others read about famous figures of The American Revolution. Our focus is on organizing information learned and reading nonfiction features. Fiction books used often focus on reading strategies read in class and include printable books from A-Z. I use a large filing cabinet to store and organize all the books by Fountas and Pinnell. More information can be found near the end of the post.

Computers: This can also be content driven for other subjects. For example, I might suggest a branches of government site for my students and place that link under favorites (lots of reading to learn). Other options include: on-line book downloads from our local library (books can be downloaded for free onto an Mp3 or computer); Into a Book, student site; Storyline On-line; leveled reading books on-line (our basal includes this with an audio reading); Raz A-Z. Raz A-Z does require a paid subscription. It is under Reading A-Z and hasthe same feel, except the books are on-line with audio. Individual requirements can be created with individual student sign-in. A comprehension test is available for each book. A free trial is available.

Class Assignment: Currently, students use Scholastic's Reading Skills Kit B. It allows students to read a leveled nonfiction article, answer questions and self-check their work. The cost is 250.00 and my neighbor teacher, Mrs. Myers, uses it as well.

Creating Groups: I have formally used DRA and think it is a fantastic resource (I have my own personal kit). However, running records, individual conferences, and observation help me change up groups regularly. I have dabbled with flexible grouping based on strategy rather than just level, but I have not done well with that.

Details on Reading and Writing Conferences

Visit my post: A Blended Approach to Reading and Writing Conferences

Details on Guided Reading

Visit my post: Guided Reading in the Upper Grades

To learn more about our classroom, visit is at: www.bar.rcs.k12.tn.us/teachers/bunyia/bunyihome.html


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I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Angela Bunyi

Wow, wow, wow. You just made me feel like I am REALLY doing something. I feel really blessed to have an active inbox of teacher emails on a weekly basis, but when I am on a first name basis with the spouse-that's new grounds. My husband should know Beth Newingham, Heather Renz, and Mrs. Jasztal. So, I identify with you!

Okay, so here are the answers, for what it's worth:

Navigating Nonfiction 30 student workbooks and teacher manual, 4th grade- page 204- QGY978288- price $299.70

*FYI- This week we were required to focus on sequencing. The basal sheet was completed within seconds and all but two students scored a 100% The N.N. book had a lesson on sequencing, which included creating a sequencing time chart, so we used that today. It was more challenging, took more thought, and allowed some creativity. I really have enjoyed it and recommend it too.It seems like the second we cover a topic in an article, we hear about it shortly after (ex- Nome, Alaska was discussed in a Gary Paulsen book after reading an article on Nome that day). Good stuff.

Lucy Calkins- I purchased mine on eBay at the end of the school year. I THINK I got it for 50.00. There were no other bidders, so I kept thinking I must be bidding on one book, not the kit...I have everything. I think retirement specials come up that time of year.

Testing. Must we go there? Just joking...You know, I really need to post on that one. The school I am at has some of the highest test scores in the state, and really there is no "program" or common style or practice. I credit our principal for having really, really high standards for teachers. There is NO wasted time at our school starting from day 1 and she keeps you on your toes. With that said, I am looking at the Coach books as a small unit of study and review sessions. The Coach books were purchased, so we have been asked to use them. It has helped us to go back to older topics for touch up reviews, but you are right- the joy of teaching is pretty low on the scale. Try being energetic and inspiring reading a short passage and answering questions. Ha! I will say that when you have multiple mini-lessons, it gives you the freedom to balance it out with some more authentic and engaging lessons for you and the kids.

Science/Social Studies: I do have this as an upcoming blog post topic for sure. We are BLESSED to have hands-on science kits. Right now we have the electricity kits. We have enough supplies for 16 or so experiments and the kit really supports learning through writing in a science notebook (journal). It also supports learning through discovery (ex- problem given- then go and figure it out). Our last kit (simple machines) allowed kids to create and work with complex pullies, fulcrums, etc. Overall, it is honestly fun and enjoyable teaching the content. I am going to write about our science notebooks and how we use that for assessment.

Regarding S.S. I use a lot of United Streaming videos and try to make it hands-on too. Look under my Government 101 blog. That was my honest to goodness S.S. plans, day by day. That will give you an idea of my pacing and methods for covering the oh-so-overwhelming scope of topics required.

And one last note- Guided reading...I heavily push content topics this way. Whether it's on energy sources to address renewable and nonrenewable resources or a Bill of Rights book, this is a working smarter not harder option in the works...

Wishing you the best. Thank you for making my day. You rock.


P.S. My husband has just walked in the room. He says Beth is the one he knows best. Don't we all? :)


I check your website and blog pretty much every day. My husband even "knows" you by name. When he asks what I am reading so intently online I typically respond "Oh, it is something new from Mrs. Bunyi!" I moved from 3rd grade to 4th grade this year and have used your website/blog as an ongoing resource. So, I must thank you for sharing all your wonderful ideas.
I was encouraged to see that my schedule is outlined very similar. I use the Sisters Daily 5 as my basic structure and incorporate many of your suggestions and ideas into my daily routine. When looking at your schedule it led my questioning toward Science and Social Studies.
First, I would like to check with my county and Title I resources for the Navigating Non-fiction resource you mentioned.I have been unable to located this on Amazon or Scholastics. Can you give me a bit more information on where to located this resource? I have wanted to Lucy Calkins unit so badly and keep watching ebay but no luck. Are these resources provided to you through your Rutherford County?
Second, I, too, begin TCAP "Tips and Training" in January. (I teach in Sumner County). It feels like State Assessments arrive faster than the Christmas holidays. It brings with it those same holiday fears of last minute "shopping" (teaching) and rushing to get everything accomplished. Yet, it lacks the joyous spirit and festive cheer that Christmas brings. I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and tips on State Assessments. Might make a great blog in the coming weeks, too.
I feel I am covering my math and literacy objectives at a comfortable pace to ensure the students are prepared for TCAP (and life). I am getting that panic feeling when I look at Science and Social Studies concepts. I have a strong belief that you need to teach these concepts in depth and not just merely skim the surface. With that I tend to take a bit longer than fellow teachers to move through our science/social studies units. I do find that, overall, my students do have a better grasp and understanding of these concepts than the classes that move faster. Yet, how do I get it all covered in time? I have a block of 45 minutes to teach both and typically only get to either science or social studies. I am feeling that overwhelming feeling that I may not get it all covered, or covered well, prior to testing.
Your thoughts, suggestions, or words of encouragement would be so greatly appreciated.
Again,thanks for sharing-Kim

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Angela's 4th Grade Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.