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Reading & Writing Workshop

This year we are continuing to use the Reading and Writing Workshop approach to language arts instruction. Developed by researchers at Columbia University Teachers’ College, this approach includes whole class, small group, and individual instruction, which is designed to differentiate for each student and move them forward at an appropriate pace. Over the years, researchers at the Reading and Writing Project have “developed state-of-the-art tools and methods for teaching of reading and writing, for using performance assessments and learning progressions to accelerate progress, and for literacy-rich content-area instruction.” Although Colebrook School has been using this approach for many years, it has been recently redesigned to follow the Common Core State Standards.

Based on long-term goals of college and career readiness for all students, as well as global readiness, the Common Core State Standards call for a general ramping-up of expectations for students at all levels, and specifically an attention to higher-level thinking skills as they play out in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. -Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project


  • Although our instructional approach has not changed, expectations have increased for all grade levels. As parents, you can help your fifth grader by supporting them as they learn to read text closely and with high volume and independence. In sixth grade, students are expected to read with increased stamina and move toward more interpretation of their reading. In order to reach the high standards of the CCSS, all students must have lots of time to read books of their choosing and that they can read with fluency, accuracy and comprehension.
  • Fifth and sixth graders are responsible for at least 30 minutes of reading nightly during the week, and 60 minutes on the weekends. Written reading responses are also an important component of reading in upper-elementary school and middle school. Fifth graders are responsible for two written reflections each week, while sixth graders write three responses.
  • Over the course of the year, students at both grade levels will be exposed to many genres and styles of literature including; fictional character studies, fantasy, realistic fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and informational text. Students will be spending time both in the language arts classroom and in the content areas (science and social studies), learning how to read and interpret non-fiction, or informational, text structures.


  • As in reading instruction, the approach is the same as it has been in the past at Colebrook School, but the Common Core State Standards have brought a greater emphasis to informational and argument writing. Writing units of study tend to be six-weeks in duration and offer instruction for both fifth and sixth graders in narrative, informational, and argument writing. Units could include memoir, informational essay, research-based argument essay, poetry, fantasy, historical fiction, literary essay, and research reports.
  • Parents can help their child by asking to read their writing and asking questions like; “What are you trying to say here?” “Can you say more about that?” or “Can you say that in a way that in a way that helps readers picture the story?” As always, in the last stage of the writing process, students must edit their work. Parents can also help at this stage, by editing and discussing errors with their child.
  • Daily editing and revising and weekly word work is an important component to the balanced approach to literacy that Reading and Writing Workshop entails. Depending on their spelling ability, fifth and sixth graders may either have weekly spelling words or a vocabulary packet. Spellers will receive words based on their individual needs and will complete activities throughout the week to practice. Vocabulary students will receive a packet with activities to comlete with a set of 10 vocabulary words to learn. All students will have a test on Friday to assess their ability to spell the 10 words correctly. In addition, vocabulary students will be assessed on their ability to use each word correctly in a sentence.
  • Fifth and sixth graders are also responsible for keeping a Writer's’ Notebook. This will be collected weekly and expectations for each grade level are written on the first page. Essentially, fifth and sixth graders are responsible for writing and editing one full page each week.