Reading Workshop Unit 5: Series Reading and Cross-Genre Reading Clubs

Click this image to start at the beginning of our book study.

Hi everyone!

This summer I teamed up with some fellow second grade bloggers to review Lucy Calkins’ A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop: Grade 2 (2011). We each took one unit. I was assigned the task of reviewing Unit 5: Series Reading and Cross-Genre Reading Clubs. If you’d like to read through our entire book review, click the image at the top to start from the beginning. Click 3rd Grade Pad's button at the bottom to jump to the next unit’s review.

I hope our book review inspires ideas for your literacy teaching!


Unit 5 in Calkins’ A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop; Grade 2 talks about the benefits of using series reading and reading clubs in our teaching bag o' tricks. She begins by saying that students benefit from reading series books because of the familiar characters, places, and similar events that occur (p. 82). When students read about familiar characters, and often similar plots, their prediction skills strengthen, and thus their reading comprehension skills. She also says that reading multiple books in a series sets students up for reading longer, multichapter novels which lends to increased reading stamina. She claims that these factors together will provide the support and practice necessary to increase a student’s independent reading level.

Calkins suggests using reading clubs with reading series. She says that in a group of, say, 6 students, two students could read one book from a series, while another student reads a different book, and 3 others read yet another book – all from the same series. She says that students do not need to read the same book at the same time to have a fruitful discussion about the characters, events, and the series as a whole.

One suggestion of hers raises concern for me. She suggests that students use Sticky Notes to jot down questions about the characters and plot as they read, and this is simply too much for some second graders, especially beginning-of-year second graders. I recommend a lot of work leading up to this requirement: like minilessons that model questioning, that model writing questions about books, and that model saving questions for a later time; minilessons that model an answer that’s been found, and minilessons that discuss how the new information changes what was once believed about a book or character. It would be too much to ask some second graders to write down questions about a character or book as they read it without the proper preteaching and modeling. With proper modeling, this is a wonderful requirement to implement! Since Calkins recommends using the first book in a series as a read-aloud to scaffold beginners, it would be prudent to include character trait analysis, questioning, and question recording as minilessons during that time.

Regarding character traits, during this scaffolding read-aloud time, teach students to look for patterns in character traits. For example, Junie B. Jones dislikes Meaning Jim very much. Meanie Jim is not very nice to her. Students should look for character trait patterns to learn who their character is for the most part. Once students feel that they know a character, they should look for inconsistencies that they encounter about that character. This is where the rich comprehension work will be done. Students should avoid making sweeping generalizations about a character because people are not the same all of the time. For example, to say that Meanie Jim is mean to Junie B all the time would be false – he isn’t mean to her all of the time. In fact, on Valentine’s Day, Meanie Jim is strangely nice to Junie B, which is really unexpected! Inconsistencies like these should raise questions in students, who should then persevere in their reading and group discussion, exploring the reasons behind the inconsistencies that they encounter. Why is Meanie Jim being nice to Junie B on Valentine’s Day? This is a discussion I’d love to be apart of!

These recommendations summarize the main points of Unit 5. In this unit, Calkins suggests a genre-oriented approach to book clubs as well, to help readers find patterns and inconsistencies among books of the same genre. She covers this point very briefly, however, and focuses most of her points on the benefits and justification of series reading with book clubs.

I hope this glimpse into Unit 5 of Lucy Calkins’ A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop; Grade 2 has left you thinking about your literacy block. Do you emphasize series reading? Book clubs? What are some shining Aha! moments that you’ve witnessed once students became questioners of inconsistencies?

Please click the link below to read the review of Unit 6 by Debbie Watson from 3rd Grade Pad! Coming to you on Friday, July 10th.



  1. I love your thoughts about the sticky notes. I agree, some second graders have a hard time with this or their questions and thoughts are very basic. It can be a struggle to encourage students to ask more meaningful questions. I love using book clubs in my classroom - they are great for discussion and kids love reading books in a series! They get so attached to the characters and begin to love to read. Thanks for sharing! :]

  2. I think second graders could mark places in the text with sticky notes, maybe even illustrate the note to help them remember why they marked that place. This unit ties right in with unit 8, where there is further character study happening! I'm glad you mentioned series reading. Reading a familiar series really builds skills and confidence in second graders!
    Burke's Special Kids