Creating a Reading Unit Toolkit

My last post (which you can view here) detailed how I first familiarized myself with the Teachers College A Deep Study of Character middle school reading unit by Lucy Calkins and colleagues.  After creating my demonstration notebook, my mind began to drift toward a tool that teachers could use while conducting small groups and conferences.  Since all of the teaching session are so clearly laid out for teachers, I knew they needed minimal scaffolding and would easily be brought to life in the classroom.  Our district focus this year has been small groups and conferring, so  I wanted something that teachers could keep at their fingertips to make the teaching of the unit more clear during this segment of their workshop.

And so my A Deep Study of Character Toolkit was born!

toolkit feature image

I decided to do a separate kit for each bend.  This way the final product would not get too cumbersome.  Remember, I want to be able to walk around with this easily, while students are independently reading.  At the front of the kit I put a copy of the Bend I anchor chart, To Think Deeply About Characters…, as well as the anchor text, “Popularity” by Adam Bagdasarian.

Toolkit Anchor Text

For each session, I included the same three things:

  1. The anchor chart component
    • Provided with the unit.
  2. A strategy chart
    • These are charts that I’ve created based on the work of individual sessions.  Usually, they break the work taught in each minilesson into easy-to-follow steps.
  3. Any materials needed to teach the recommended small groups and/or conferences.

Here are images of the anchor component and strategy chart for session one and the small group and conferring materials for session two.


So, now that you have an understanding of what the toolkit entails, here is my process for making it…

Pulling Resources

Toolkit minichart

For some of your materials, you can access the unit’s online resources available through the Heinemann website.  These resources are included with the purchase of your unit book.  This is where I pulled the anchor chart, anchor text, and various other teaching charts included for each session (including mini-versions to hand out to students after a small group or conference- see image at right).


Creating Materials

Although some resources are provided in the online resources, I did make quite a few myself.  While the Units of Study are GREAT at providing the necessary resources to teach each individual session (or minilesson), the material for the suggested small group and conferring work is usually not included.  So, this is where I had to do a lot of creating.  Please note, that all of the content for my self-created materials was inspired or born directly from the A Deep Study of Character unit book.

Strategy Charts

To create the individual session strategy charts, I skim the lesson for a “how-to”.  Usually, at some point, it is suggested that you name out the steps you took during your demonstration.  This is your money-shot for finding components of a strategy chart!  Look for words like debrief, summarize, recap and review. Then read the scripted text that follows, and pull out the steps.  Last, let your inner Kate and Maggie Roberts (authors of DIY Literacy and former TC developers) go and get crafty!  This is my favorite part!

As an example, this (from Session 2)…


…became this…

toolkit strategy chart

So fun!

Small Group and Conferring Materials

I use a similar process when creating the necessary resources for the suggested small group and conferring work.  I carefully read and think through each Conferring and Small-Group section of the session.  Often, the unit will name out specific small groups you could plan, like this example from Session 6:


I use the information in each section to develop and write a small group lesson plan; creating or pulling strategy charts, exemplars and resources as needed.


Sometimes, the unit suggests that you do some lean-in comments to support repertoire work.  Think of this as a way to guide students toward the work you are teaching as well as toward more sophisticated thinking.  Often the unit will provide some examples and Session One of the online resources has a print-out as well.  However, to make this resource teacher-friendly I put the suggested comments into an If/Then chart.

For session five I create the following,

toolkit comments if then

This chart includes all of the work done thus far in the unit from session one to four.  With a chart like this, teachers can use the visuals to easily see what type of student work to be on the lookout for, and what to say when they see it.


All of the pages are housed in sheet protectors.  Single pages are organized back-to-back.  However, to keep organized I only put one small group lesson including materials in each plastic protector.  So when it is time to teach that lesson, you can easily pull out all the materials and go.


To make pages reusable year after year, I stuck Post-its to the outside of the sheet protectors.  This way teachers can jot observations down without having to reprint the page each year.  For example,

Toolkit Sheet Saver Postits

The blue tabs indicate each session of the bend.  I labeled each by number, but then also put one word to remind myself what the content of that session is. (I didn’t have the words at first, and although I’m getting pretty good at naming the content off-hand, I would sometimes be a session off.  With the goal of making this as simple and teacher-friendly as possible–why work harder than necessary?!)

Putting this together was really a rewarding task.  Like doing the demonstration notebook, this work helped to crystallize the concepts taught in the unit.  Time-consuming, yes.  But, well worth it- a labor of love!

What do you think?  Is this something you would find useful in your classroom?  What does your toolkit look like?

Let’s keep the conversation going-


19 thoughts on “Creating a Reading Unit Toolkit

  1. This is wonderful! As a teacher who has taught the RWUOS for several years now, I wish I had this tool. My colleagues and I saw one used while training at TCRWP last summer, but haven’t had the time to create this yet. I really like the idea of creating one for specific units and bends. We were trying to create one for reading and one for writing, which is probably too cumbersome to carry around.


    1. Lisa,
      I’m glad you found this post helpful, and that you like the idea of specific units and bends. However, I must say I can also see the benefit of your idea of a more universal kit for reading and writing–this way you would be prepared for whatever may arise as you research a student during a conference. 🙂 There’s just so much to do, in so little time!


    1. Hi Melodie- While I would love to (and I appreciate the compliment), much of this thinking work was produced by the beautiful minds at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Although I did a lot of reimagining, reworking, and thinking of my own to make it accessible, the work really belongs to them and therefore I cannot take credit and offer it. I hope that by showing the steps I took you will be able to create your own without too much trouble. Again, thank you for your kind words!


  2. Lindsay, I saw this on Twitter and was immediately intrigued. You’ve done an amazing, inspiring job curating all these materials. One of my goals as a coach is to support teachers in building these types of kits, and this will serve as an outstanding “mentor text”! Thank you for being willing to share not on the product, but your process!


    1. You are more than welcome. We share the same goal! My fellow coach and I have this idea to “not teach empty-handed” and this is one way we are helping teachers do just that. As a coach it’s important to encourage teachers to share in the process of building this tool- it teaches so much!!!! Let me know how you make out!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your work and the clear way in which you shared your process are inspiring! Not only do I want to create these kinds of tools to use in conferring and small group work, I think that doing this will deepen and enrich my understanding of each unit.


  4. Thank you for sharing! Where did you get the report booklet that fits sheet protectors? The one’s I am finding leave the sheet protectors sticking out of the side and it’s driving me crazy;)

    Thank you!


    1. So embarrassing- but it’s an old one that I just had in a drawer from Lord knows when…I couldn’t even tell you what the brand is. You know how we teachers are: We. Save. EVERYTHING!!


  5. Lindsey
    Love Your post. New to UOS. I am very interested creating my own toolkit. However, I need more detail information about how you structured your “ A Deep Study Of Character Toolkit.” How can I pm you?



  6. This is amazing! I am actually doing a demo lesson for a job next week on session 11 in bend 2! Would you be able to share more of the if/then resource? I would love this when I am conferring with the students!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You have done some amazing work! I am a reading teacher in one of our middle schools this year!! Loving it for sure!! I love your experience with TCRWP. we have the units of study for writing at our school, but not the reading ones. Anyhow, we are starting book clubs about overcoming adversity and I think theres a unit about social issues in the reading units of study. Any tidbits, advice, goodies you may be able to give??
    Our book selections are: Wonder, Fish in a tree, Fever, Out of the dust, and one other I forgot the name of.
    I’m excited to be following your blog 😊😁❤


    1. Thank you! I’m so happy that you’ve found my work helpful. You also inspired me to get back in the swing of things. Check out my latest post! I think you’ll find it particularly useful! 🙂 I appreciate your readership. There is more to come!


  8. AMAzing!!!, I was so glad to happen upon this as I continue to try to build tools and helps teachers to think about how to build their own.Thank you! I wonder if you would be willing to share more?


  9. Would you be willing you share the strategy templates you use? I tried to open the picture but it isn’t as clear. These would be great for coaching.


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