Adventures in UoS

In a few weeks I will launch into the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP)’s Reading Units of Study (UoS).  And to say that I am tentative would be an understatement.

I have twice attended Lucy’s workshops and twice been–in a word–disenchanted, not with the intent of her work, but with the feeling that the units are exactly the kind of program that turns teachers and students into those who do what they’re told instead of design what they desire.

Each time I attended a TCRWP workshop, I left feeling like Dorothy who, at first, paid no attention to the man behind the curtain. I remember thinking–as many of you probably are, too–but this is Lucy Calkins.  I remember feeling blasphemous even as I squirmed in my chair and listened to her coach us in a thinly disguised five-paragraph essay formula, and more recently, in how to read a script and then say it so “you’d never know we are reading a script at all.”

I talked about it with friends and colleagues who I knew would be as surprised as I was at the parts I shared.  I ranted through a graduate-level essay that applauded me for “not drinking the Kool-aid.” I stewed about it until a month’s- or even a year’s-worth of reading and learning and trying things on made me feel like I was back in Kansas.  But I couldn’t unsee what I had seen behind the curtain.

And now, here I am, returning–after a year teaching fourth grade–to the role of instructional coach.  And now OZ–or in this case UoS–has made the library where the boxes landed look like a cyclone hit.  Here I am, preparing for a year of adopting and implementing TCRWP’s Reading UoS.  To say that I am tentative would be an understatement.

Wading through the disequilibrium that has washed over me since my most recent time with Lucy in April, I started my summer, not with the units themselves, but with Kylene Beers’ and Bob Probst’s Disrupting Thinking.  They helped me realize–or at least stop denying–that I have a responsibility.

A responsibility not just to the teachers alongside whom I will stand as we implement this program together.  Not just to the students who will receive daily doses of the Units and who will, no doubt, then work as hard as they can to apply what they are learning and who will, no doubt, become better readers for it (**more on this in the next post**).

Not just to my administrators who work tirelessly to change the tide for our students and our school in the hopes of–at the very least–keeping our doors open and–at the most–setting our students on a journey that cultivates and culminates in choices for their futures.

Not just to my teammates who have already expressed their own thoughts along a continuum from excitement to hesitation in starting the year with scripted lessons that are–in the very least–not designed with our students in mind.

I have a responsibility to myself and to my profession, to ask questions and–as the Twitterverse brought me back to a page in Kylene and Bob’s book that I read over too quickly the first time–to approach these questions in a way that grows me:


I have a responsibility to be authentic and I give myself permission (and space) to let this experience change me, reshape me. But in no way will I go passively into this program. I have a responsibility to engage, to transact not just extract, to ask questions like:

  • What surprised me?
  • What did the authors think I already knew?
  • What challenged, changed, or confirmed what I already knew?  (Thanks Kylene and Bob once again!)

In short, my aim is now to be disrupted.  I am tentative, to say the least.  And I am brave.

It begins here, as I crack the spine on “A Guide to the Reading Workshop: Primary Grades” and read the opening “A Note to My Readers.”

Won’t you connect with me and help me make sense of this as I go?


As we begin the 2017-2018 school year, I will capture my experiences in implementing TCRWP’s Reading Units of Study.  This is the first in a series of posts that you can follow simply by using the TCRWP category on the screen as a filter. As one of the ways we transact with a text, I am anxious to hear how you reacted to this section in the opening pages.  Won’t you join in the conversation in the comments below?


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Sharon says:

    Having tackled my first year with Reading Units of Study this past year, I understand your hesitations. I understand this because I know the precise expertise you bring to both reading and writing instruction. This year we are attempting to connect the Reading and Writing Units of Study. Your words will resonate in my ears as we plan for instruction each day. I will remember to be brave and to stay away from the Kool-Aid.


    1. Morgan says:

      Thank you. And stay tuned. I’m still reading, learning, and living this journey.


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