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Literacy Block Schedules

 Literacy block schedules are critical, and as a reading teacher, you know that better than anyone! With all the strands of literacy and reading skills that must be addressed, even a good literacy block schedule struggles to fit it all in! That’s why we’re sharing these literacy block schedules with you to use in your reading block.

They will help make planning easier.

So we’re going to share three literacy block schedules, plus you can download four more schedules for free right here!

Download the 4 Bonus Literacy Block Schedules

Not Enough Time for a Full Literacy Block

There are so many demands on your time as a reading/writing teacher. Especially if you’re in a tested grade level or if any significant portion of your students come to you a little below grade level. So let’s look at literacy block scheduling that fits the priorities and gets results.

WARNING: If you are a die-hard believer in one literacy theory vs. another, this post is not for you!

This post is for any literacy teacher serious about prioritizing time in ways that get results!

We might slay a few sacred cows here because we’re not following any specific “religion of reading” (i.e. Lucy Calkins, Fountas & Pinnell, Heinemann, the Daily 5, Richard C. Owen, etc…). Each of these approaches brings valuable insights to the classroom and the teaching craft, but let’s face it – no one has the full 150-200 minutes required to fit all of their components!

…At least not in real life.

Some reading block schedules are just fantasy.

Components of a Balanced Literacy Block

We know from experience, best-practice, and research, students need a balance of instructional activities. These include:

  • Read Aloud
  • Shared Reading
  • Guided Reading
  • Independent Reading
  • Writing Workshop (Guided and Independent Practice)
  • Direct Instruction
  • Word Work (Phonics, Spelling, Vocabulary)

Yes, I know that’s what all the teaching books say. And I know there’s no one schedule to fit all of that in and also teach math, science, social studies, check planners, pass out papers, fire drills, recess, lunch, lining up…

But let’s make a schedule of these instructional activities into several large blocks. One recommendation is:

  • Phonological & Phonemic Awareness (10 minutes)
  • Phonics (30 minutes)
  • Comprehension Instruction (30 minutes)
  • Fluency (20 minutes)

We have other detailed schedules such as these 120-minute literacy block schedules, but you might also try something like this:

2023 Update: Science of Reading vs Balanced Literacy

It’s all the buzz…

As most things in education every 2-4 years a new word of ideas swings through the ranks telling us how to do things, telling us what’s wrong with classrooms, and asking us to change. “We need to reform our practice” they say. But the science of reading trend is actually not bad. It’s the same research base as we have at Spiral WarmUps, so that’s cool. And really, it’s the same as balanced literacy. Here’s the subtle difference.

Balanced literacy (or structured literacy blocks) was a way to think about how we organized the reading time block. Science of reading is the concept that before students love to read, they need some skills/confidence. But the layout in your reading block can still be a balanced literacy block. This is because you’re still going to focus on the same basic reading skills and the same reading comprehension strategies.

These free literacy block schedules are amazing!

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A Simplified 2-Hour Schedule for Literacy Block

I’d love to say there’s one schedule that fits every day, but there’s not! Unless you ignore the needs of your students, you can’t just plug-and-play the same routine every single day. So let’s look at a simplified schedule that can work for most days.

9 am
Interactive Read Aloud (Student-Driven Questioning & Discussion)
Focused Mini-Lesson (Reading Concept, Strategy, or Skill)
Shared Reading (Application of the Mini-Lesson)
Independent Reading / Guided Reading
Word Work
Writing (Mini-Lesson, Shared Writing, Independent Writing)
11 am

This simplified lesson format is heavy on the shared reading. That’s because shared reading is a great place for guided practice of ELA standards. The teacher shares the load of reading the text with the students and then allows them to work on comprehension strategies and skills in supported formats.

Ideas for Getting the Most Out of Shared Reading

Shared reading can be used with an authentic text projected onto the board. It can also be done in segmented texts such as task cards or mentor texts.

Here are a few key factors in making shared reading a success for learning:

  • Text complexity should be above the current level of your students, but not as far above as you would use for a read aloud.
  • Shared reading should always have a focus on comprehension skills and/or strategies.
  • Shared reading can also be a place to increase reading fluency through choral or group cloze procedures.
“When read-alouds are understood as powerful tools for teaching literary elements, building analytical ability, and addressing the standards, they can bring both joy and accelerated learning into the lives of our students.” -Linda Hoyt

Variations on the 2-Hour Literacy Block

Sometimes your lesson time is really built around practicing a specific skill or set of skills within a genre. In these cases, you might want to change it up from the standard “read to, read with, read by” approach.

Take for example, scavenger hunts or task card games. These are great ways to have highly engaging and supported practice session to really boost reading comprehension.

Skill-Focused Literacy Block

9 am
Interactive Read Aloud (Student-Driven Questioning & Discussion)
Scavenger Hunts, Escape Rooms, Discover Chests, Task Card Games
Independent Reading / Guided Reading
Word Work
Writing (Mini-Lesson, Shared Writing, Independent Writing)
11 am

Other times, and hopefully more and more frequently, we’re teaching reading through the medium of technology. With the changes in reading technology, it makes more sense to have students use their reading skills to create content rather than to intake content.

Not only are technology-driven lessons highly engaging, but they also help model the real-life applications of reading for 2020, 2025, and 2030.

Here’s a literacy block schedule that makes room for ample technology usage.

Technology-Focused Literacy Block Schedule

9 am
Interactive Read Aloud with Google Classroom, Padlet, or Other Discussion-Rich Platform
Research, Webquests, and Question-Driven Reading
Content Creation: Blogging, Reading Response (Flipgrid, Forums, etc.)
Skills-Lessons with Formative Assessment such as EdPuzzle or Escape Rooms
Independent Reading / Guided Reading
Word Work
11 am
Here are three literacy block schedules: 1) Simplified 2-Hour Block 2) Skills-Focused 3) Technology-DrivenClick To Tweet

Key Points: Literacy Block Schedule

None of these schedules, or any schedule for that matter, are perfect! But you already know that.

As students change, scheduling often needs to change. Students at the beginning of the year aren’t the same at the start of semester 2. Testing season changes things and district initiatives change things. Here are a few points to consider no matter what literacy block schedule you choose.

  • Minimize teacher talk. We all know teacher talk is the least memorable part of any lesson – even if we like to hear ourselves talk – kids typically don’t.
  • Maximize practice time. Not worksheets. Not kill-and-drill sheets with 50 questions. But authentic reading and thinking that really challenges students. Sometimes it’s multiple choices, most of the time it’s peer talk and open-ended.
  • Use tough questions, then scaffold up. The best tool you can have is not a schedule, but tough and rigorous questions. Then use easier questions that guide students to the tougher thinking.
  • Alternate silent time and action time. As much as possible energize the students with active talking and reading and movement, then get them into focused silent reading and writing. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

I hope this post gave you some ideas for scheduling your balanced literacy block and even some ideas that push your current instructional strategies!

Four Key Points in Literacy Block Scheduling: Minimize teacher talk, Maximize practice, Plan for tough questions, Alternate. #literacy #ellchat #elachat

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Four More Literacy Block Schedules!

You can also find the four new literacy block schedules here. They’re special because they integrate spiral warm-ups into the daily routine, and they account for four different balanced literacy setups!


The four literacy block schedules are free to download as a PDF, so grab them by clicking the button below or view the full description here.

Get the 4 Bonus Literacy Schedules!

Download Now!





5 responses to “Literacy Block Schedules”

  1. Elena

    I wonder what you would recommend for using literature circles? How much time?

    1. Time-wise I think you can work literature circles in as little as 15 minutes for upper elementary and middle school. A full-discussion with reading might need 25-40 minutes. Past 45 minutes, it gets a little tricky to keep all students engaged in text-based conversations.

  2. Pneilson

    I would love to see a sample schedule with 75 minute blocks daily for Literacy. Your schedule has Literacy until lunch. I have to get in Literacy, Math, Snack and Recess between 8:40-11:30.
    Thanks! 🙂

    1. Matt

      That’s a great idea…we plan on updating these schedules for the fall of 2022!

  3. Elite Readers

    Thanks for updating on the science of reading. We spend so much time as educators learning the newest fads, but it’s the same old stuff: phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

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