Fitting It All In: How to Schedule a Balanced Literacy Block for Second Grade

**Looking for 1st grade literacy block schedules? Click HEREOr for Kindergarten literacy block schedules, click HERE.**

When I began teaching second grade, I was moving up from Kindergarten. In my Kindergarten world, teaching literacy meant big books and alphabet songs and magnetic letters. I certainly knew that wouldn’t be the case in second grade. But I was still a little unsure about how to construct an effective balanced literacy block for these “big kids!”

After some trial and error, I figured out how to structure my literacy block in a way that worked for my kiddos and me. And really, even though I was no longer using big books and magnetic letters, the core goals of my literacy block were almost the same as they had been in Kinder. In this post, I’ll share with you the components of my second grade literacy block and some sample schedules.

Before I get started, I do want to say that there’s no one “correct” way to set up your balanced literacy block. The best schedule is the one that meets the needs of you and your students. Also, I love hearing about how other teachers schedule their days, so please comment at the end of the post!

This post has ideas for creating your balanced literacy block in 2nd grade, and some sample schedules to try out!

Components of a Balanced Literacy Block for Second Grade

Literacy can and should be integrated into all subject areas – it doesn’t have to be restricted to a few hours in the morning! Even so, I did reserve time in our schedule for a dedicated literacy block. Here were the components of the block:

Shared Reading (20 minutes): This is when I read aloud a text that students could all see clearly and follow along with. Most of the time I used a grade level appropriate picture book and projected it under the document camera. Students sat on the rug so that they could clearly see the words. Other times, I used a story from the old basal reading series, and students each had a copy of the textbook in front of them. We typically didn’t get through an entire text in a single shared reading lesson. I paused frequently to discuss ideas, comprehension strategies, and vocabulary with students, and I tried to include lots of “turn and talk” opportunities. Click here to read more about the shared reading lessons I taught.

Guided Reading and Independent Work (40 minutes):  During this block of time, I met with students for guided reading (2 groups total) while the other students worked independently. For my guided reading instruction, I provided students with scaffolding so that they could read texts at their instructional levels (slightly harder than what they could read independently). The students who were not meeting with me responded to the shared reading text in writing. They read or worked on other seat work when they were finished.

Readaloud (10-15 minutes):  Typically, I read aloud part of a chapter book (or sometimes a picture book) to my students. They usually ate their snack and listened quietly during the readaloud, because we discussed the text in more depth during our reading workshop minilesson.

Reading Workshop Minilesson (10-15 minutes): I taught a decoding, fluency, or comprehension strategy (just one per lesson) that students could apply as they read independently. This was a very brief, focused lesson. I used the book from the readaloud to teach the day’s strategy, so that students would already be familiar with the text. Click here to find reading workshop minilessons that are done for you.

Independent Reading (25 minutes +5 for sharing time): Students read independently, while I conferred with kids individually. Sometimes, I met with a small group of readers who had similar needs. After independent reading time, we came back together as a group, so the students could share about their reading with a partner or the class.

Writing Workshop Minilesson (15 minutes): I taught a brief, focused lesson on a writing (or grammar / language arts) skill that students could use in their own writing. I structured my writing units by genre, so whatever skill I taught was related to that genre.

Independent Writing (30 minutes + 5 for sharing time): Students wrote independently, and I conferred with kids individually. After independent writing time, we came back together as a group so students could share their writing with a partner or the class.

Word Study (15-20 minutes):  I taught Words Their Way in small groups. I typically met with 1 group per day to introduce a phonics/spelling pattern. At the same time, other students worked independently with their assigned words. It takes some time to set up, but differentiating word study has been super effective with my kids in the past.

Sample Schedules for a Second Grade Classroom

So what would this look like in practice? Below are some sample schedules:

Second Grade Sample Schedule A

This is one sample schedule for second grade with a balanced literacy block - the post has 3 other sample schedules to check out!

This is one sample schedule for second grade with a balanced literacy block - the post has 3 other sample schedules to check out!

Even though I generally followed one of these schedules, our school day didn’t always look like this throughout the entire year. I love to teach integrated thematic units that engage kids in learning content area material through literacy activities (i.e. reading about and writing about insects). At the beginning of the year, it’s great to establish a routine that provides kids with consistency. But as the year goes on, I think it’s completely fine to deviate from that schedule. Literacy learning doesn’t always fit nicely and neatly into a box!

I hope this post gave you some ideas about how to schedule your literacy block in second grade! If you’re looking for literacy lesson plans to cut down on your planning and prep time, click on any of the following images to find out more:

SecondGradeReadingBundleCover.001

SecondGradeWritingWorkshopBundleCover.001     Shared Reading Cover.001     Second Grade Reading Workshop Bundle.001  

Happy teaching!

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Annamarie

Thanks for this info. I’m moving from 5th to 2nd and feel overwhelmed when it comes to our literacy block. These are great ideas that I plan on using.

Take care and have a great school year,
Annamarie

Donna

Thank you. YOur post was vey helpful. Could you share how you write out your plans? What does your lesson plan look like?

Jordan

I love your blog and these sample schedules are wonderful. My school has been implementing RTI for the past two years and that is such a big part of our day, 1 hour! Our school uses a “walk to” model where the entire grade level switches classes during the time our Tier 2 and Tier 3 students are receiving their intervention. Because this takes up such a big portion of our day, we are having a hard time getting in all of these critical components of reading. Do you have any suggestions for creating a schedule? We have from 1:35pm-3:25pm… Read more »

Solson

I was asked at an interview: “if we had a 20 minute interruption of the school day during your literacy block, what would you eliminate and why?” It’s been eating at me ever since…how would you answer that one? Just curious about others’ thoughts!

Christina

Hello! Thanks for the great info. You mentioned that your word study activities were effective but hard to set up. What activities were these?

Theresa

Hi Alison! I love your breakdown of each of the components of the literacy block. I wish I could do all of it every day! We went to departmentalization last year with 3 teachers; so as the ELA teacher with three 90-minute classes, that doesn’t leave enough time for everything! Can I pick your brain for a schedule that would work in my situation? This of course means that I would not do everything, every day. I should also let you know that I am Orton Gillingham-trained and love doing that as a whole group lesson. I also love the… Read more »

Kendra

Thank up for this. I am moving to second grade this year and feel a little overwhelmed. The only major thing I struggle with is that we have 30 of mandated intervention time and it seems that some things have to be pushed out due to this. We switch kiddos between classes and by the time we are all back together we have lost almost an hour total.

Mikayla Moua

What are your suggestions for independent work that is done while working with guided reading groups?

Caitlin

Hey , I wanted to say how much I absolutely love you lessons and tips. I am first year teacher and have been struggling to get my literacy block sorted out! I am having a bit of difficulty with shared reading however.. I would love to implement the methods you use however my school asks that we stick to the basal readers for shared reading and I cannot always apply the lessons to them. What would you recommend so that I can keep shared reading concise, but effective using the system they have?

Kristy

I was moved to a magnet program within our public school that is language immersion as soley the reading teacher. I am only allowed to teach 90 minutes of ELA (me)and the other 90 min must be in the target language (french/spanish teacher) and have 2 reading programs (one phonics and one is a state mandated read aloud curriculum) and am required to do small groups and see every group, every day. I am struggling with fitting it all in!!! I used to see just 3 groups a day for 15-20 minutes each and now its daily for 12 minutes… Read more »

Kristin

I only have 90 minutes per day for L.A. in a grade 2 class. Any suggestions for scheduling?

Kayla

Where do your literacy centers fit in which this schedule?

Abby

We are required to have at least 9 summative grades each quarter for language arts and reading. With your shared reading, reading workshop, and writing workshop, how would you do that? I am having a hard time. Thanks!!

Natalie Jackson

Hi there! This looks great! As a 3rd grade teacher who struggles with fitting it all in, would you say this type of system could work with 3rd grade? I only noticed you had k-2. What suggestions do you have for the higher elem. grades?

Erika

Hi Alison!

My school tries to incorporate 70 minute small group time (this includes 30 minutes of mandated RTI)…technically this leaves me with only about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get in reading, word study, and writing whole group. Would you consider alternating reading and writing weekly? I feel students need at least 45 minutes of writing time but trying to squeeze both reading and writing every day makes lessons seem short and unproductive. Thoughts?

Rebecca Franz

In our building (a priority school) we have designated times to do each of the components. The areas and times are very similar to yours. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to keep to such a rigid schedule. Sometimes students have meltdowns, some come in late, interruptions from the office. It is frustrating at times.

Kathleen

Alison,
Are the shared reading, read-aloud, minilesson, and word study conducting in a whole group setting? Wondering how your Balanced Literacy Block would work with our schedule …

Our “reading block” is to be 90 minutes meeting with intervention/below level small groups every day; staggering on-level and exceeding groups every other day. While groups are meeting with me, Daily 5 is happening with the rest of the class and they move through 5 centers.