Reading and Writing Program

At the Murray building, teachers implement the Reader's Workshop Model to teach reading. This is a ninety minute block of time, usually in the morning.  Brain research says that the optimal time for teaching reading, which is a more passive activity, should be done in the morning when the brain is fresh. Since math is more hands on it can be taught after lunch when the brain goes into a down cycle.

At the beginning of school, the walls are relatively bare because students and teachers will create Anchor Charts to put in these spaces. To get the Reader's Workshop started, the teachers spend the First 20 Days doing mini lessons that let them get to know their students as readers and puts the routines of the workshop model into place.  Also, at this time, students are given several informal and formal assessments.  The results of these determine the focus for instruction based on student needs. Third grade students are given the Gentry Spelling Inventory,Narrative writing prompt, a writing spree and a DRA 2. Fourth and fifth grade students are given a spelling inventory, a Narrative writing prompt, a writing spree and a DRA.

The DRA not only tells us information to help us focus our instruction, but it also helps us to determine the students' independent and instructional reading level.  We need to know the independent reading level of a student to make sure they are reading independently at a level that is appropriate for them.  Independent level books are read during a silent sustained reading time of a minimum of 20 minutes per day to practice strategies and skills that are taught.  Their instructional level is a level above independent level. The teacher will start instruction in guided reading and strategic groups. (see Glossary for definitions)


Once testing is done and routines are in place, teachers move into the Reader's Workshop Model.  The structure of the reading block is as follows:

  • The first fifteen to twenty minutes, the students gather at the meeting place for a mini lesson. Read alouds are used during mini-lessons and are called mentor texts. These Mini Lessons focus on any of the following: the Big 6 text features, text structures, fix-up strategies, and Frontloading for the big ideas in science and social studies.  (Science and Social Studies content is taught in the reading block due to time constraints and the fact that textbooks are written above the most students' reading level.) During mini-lessons, Anchor Charts are created to anchor student learning.  These are hung on the wall for student reference. This show the teacher's trail of teaching and the students' trail of learning. When an anchor chart is retired from the wall, students copy the chart in their mini lesson section of their Reading Response Journal.
  • After the mini-lesson, students either choose activities from a work-board or meet with the teacher in a StrategicGuided Reading groups or  Lit. circles. Students are placed in these groups according to their independent reading levels. The teacher usually meets with three groups a day.  (See sample schedules)  If they are only meeting with two, the other twenty minute slot is used for individual conferencing with students. Teachers keep anecdotal records of students' reading behaviors that are noted during group time as well as individual conferencing.
  • The last five to ten minutes, the students come back to the meeting place and discuss what they learned about themselves as readers. This is called "share time" and brings closure to the workshop.

Materials students use during the Reader's Workshop are a book box or bag that has at least three independent level books and their Reading Response Journal or RRJ.  Students are required to make three responses each week.  They make a personal response, a strategic response based on mini lessons and a MAP  Stem  response. Responses will be graded using the appropriate correlated  Rubric (scoring guide).

Teachers move students up the levels to more complex text by scaffolding  instruction. Third Grade teachers must teach two fiction pieces and three non-fiction pieces at each level. Fourth and Fifth Grade Teachers must teach three non-fiction and 2 fiction pieces.  Then, the teacher uses responses in the RRJ and Running Records to determine if the student(s) are ready to move up a level. Groups are not stagnant.  Groups change depending on students' needs and  progress. We will also use the DRA2 Progress Monitoring Assessment to assess student growth between the beginning of the year DRA and the end of the year DRA.

At the Murray, we use the Fountas and Pinnell leveling system. This system is on a gradient scale from A-Z. Readers move from easier to more complex texts through four stages. These stages are emergent, early, transition and fluent.


Writing at the Murray follows the Writer's Workshop Model.  Writer's workshop is a 50 minute block of time.  During this time the teachers begin by presenting a mini-lesson based on the needs of the class. Then, the students spend the rest of the time working on one or multiple pieces of writing and the teachers is either engaged with small group instruction based on student need or individual conferences.

The First Days of Writer's Workshop are spent developing routines and procedures.  Writers put together their Seeds notebook. This is where students' prewriting takes place. Students will develop topic lists and then pull from the topic lists to develop seeds. Seeds are the ideas that they will turn into a draft. Students will also be taught the five good beginnings. This lasts for approximately 3 to 4 weeks.

Once 8 to 10 seeds have been developed, teachers then begin teaching about the modes of writing the students will be doing. Students will work on the following modes of writing: Personal NarrativeExpositoryPersuasive,  and Story Narrative.

The writing process students take their writing through is as follows:

For narrative writing

Before We Draft

  1. Pick 3 Seeds
  2. Choose 1 that you reeeally want to write about
  3. 5 W's (who, what, where, why, when) and Problem/Complication/Dilemma
  4. Good Beginnings (Hook)
  5. Draft

After We Draft

  1. My draft if done!
  2. Peer Revise/ Edit on the run Grid
    1. Does this make sense?
    2. Was there a confusing part?
    3. Does my beginning hook the reader?
    4. Do you see a part that you can help with?
  3. Sign-up for formal revision Conference (work on another piece while waiting)
  4. Formal revision conference sets a teacher goal and a student goal.

Through the Writing Process

  1. The student revises
  2. Sign-up for Editing Conference (work on another piece while waiting)
  3. Editing Conference T & Ss check revision goals then set 2 editing goals
  4. Student edits piece
  5. If they publish, sign up for a publishing conference
  6. Publishing Conference, Check Editing Goals, set two publishing goals
  1. Student publishes completed project (Students must publish at least one piece for each mode of writing.)

For Expository

Before We Draft

  1. Pick 3 seeds
  2. Choose 1 that you reeeally want to write about
  3. Research topic-facts to present
  4. Choice of format (investigation, report, essay, how to or compare / contrast)
  5. Create a plan for communicating topic and facts
  6. Research Conference with Teacher (explain your plan and show your research for the plan)
  7. Draft

After We Draft

  1. My draft if done!
  2. Peer Revise/ Edit on the runGrid (will not be used with investigations)
    1. Does this make sense?
    2. Was there a confusing part?
    3. Does my beginning hook the reader?
    4. Do you see a part that you can help with?
    5. Does my ending wrap up my writing?

From here it is just like the narrative process.

Each student has a Writing binder with multiple plastic pockets in which they keep their pieces of writing.  A separate folder can be kept for each student in which they keep pieces of writing that are not going through the entire writing process.

Mini-lessons are based on the modes of writing,6 TraitsMechanics grammar, Spelling, word work, capitalization and punctuation. The teacher differentiates instruction  as she/he sees needed in the small groups or individual conferences. These areas of concern will be taught as mini lessons or in the small group sessions.