Approaching ELA with the Open Access Common Core Course Collection

The Routines and Subroutines that Promote Deep Learning in ELA

Routines and subroutines are the core of the lesson structure in Open Access Common Core Course Collection. Teachers use these routines repeatedly, so they become habits for students. In this way, teachers are able to spend less time on classroom management and more time on learning.

Students establish and practice routines and subroutines, such as:

  • Guided Reading
  • Whole Group Discussion
  • Whole Group Share
  • Whole Class Review
  • Read Aloud
  • Think Aloud
  • Turn and Talk
  • Partner Reading
  • Partner Share
  • Peer Conference
  • Quick Write
  • Cold Read (Assessment)
  • Cold Write (Assessment)

Routine Descriptions


The Opening sets the focus for the day. Students are immediately engaged in the work, sharing homework, responding to questions, or reading a text or watching a video.

Students respond to initial teacher prompts, but the students’ role is to take responsibility for their own thinking and initiate their own learning.

In reading instruction, the Opening gives students the opportunity to read the same text with a variety of scaffolding. Students read them more than once—a method for building comprehension and also for learning to write well. To meet the speaking and listening standards, students sometimes study media such as video or audio.

In writing instruction, the Opening allows students to write for different purposes depending on the learning goals. When students write in response to commonly read or assigned texts, they may weigh evidence, analyze meaning, or offer opinions. Students may also revise the texts, which helps them with clarity of expression. All of these tasks help them organize their thinking. During this Opening routine, they develop a repertoire of writing strategies and the ability to express themselves in different genres.

Work Time

Work Time during both reading and writing instruction helps the student to focus on a particular task independently (without requiring continual direct support of the teacher). Some students will work individually, others with partners or in small groups, while still others will work directly with the teacher.


The Closing is led by the teacher, who often quotes student work and consolidates the content; the purpose of the lesson is revisited in light of what has transpired during the class time. It is about synthesizing the learning while helping learners store it in their memories, so that they can build on it in the future.

In addition to routines, there are several subroutines in reading and writing.

Subroutines in Reading and Writing

Quick Write

Students are prompted to write on a topic for a short period of time—usually no more than 5 minutes. The purpose of the Quick Write is for students to record their thinking on a topic without self-editing for spelling and punctuation. A Quick Write usually has no correct answer. However, what students write should make sense to a reader.

Quick Writes occur frequently in lessons. They may occur in the Opening to focus students on the lesson; during Work Time to help them capture initial thinking about a task, access prior knowledge about a topic, or prepare ideas to contribute to a discussion; and in the Closing of the lesson to reflect on the learning of the day.

Quick Writes are beneficial because they:

  • Require students to engage actively in the lesson at key points of instruction.
  • Slow down the pace of instruction to allow students space to think and reflect.
  • Establish an expectation that frequent writing is required in the class.

Students grow in writing fluency over time because of the daily practice of writing.

The teacher scaffolds students who need extra time to get their ideas together before participating in a group activity or whole class discussion. This is particularly important for ELLs, who can participate more fully in whole class and group activities if they have just a little time to rehearse what they will say.

Partner Share

Partner Share involves two or more students talking quietly with each other to share their writing or their thinking about a topic. Frequently, Partner Share follows a Quick Write when partners share their writing with each other. It may also occur in preparation for a class or small group discussion so that students can try out their ideas with one person before offering them to the larger group. After annotating a text, students might be asked to compare their annotations with a partner’s to see if they both have the same understanding of a text.

Frequent partner sharing establishes the expectation that “in this classroom we learn with and from each other.” Talking with a partner allows students to develop their own thinking and learn from their partner’s thinking. It also provides an opportunity for 100-percent participation in a task, because both members of the partnership are engaged during the sharing. Partner sharing scaffolds ELLs by giving them the opportunity to talk with one person before participating in the whole class discussion.

Whole Group Discussion

During Whole Group Discussion, students talk to each other about an issue or topic suggested by their reading, viewing, or writing. It is designed to be more like a volleyball game than a ping-pong match. Discussions often occur after reading a text, because talking about a text and listening to others discuss a text enhances comprehension. Discussions may occur in the Opening, the Work Time, or the Closing. Most discussions are oral and occur during class, but students also are engaged in virtual discussions using the Sharing tool.

Whole Group Discussion supports the goals of the CCSS, which describe a college- and career-ready individual as able to “prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.” In addition, discussion enhances comprehension, fosters engagement, and supports collaboration. Since each student brings a different perspective and prior knowledge to any text, discussion enhances everyone’s comprehension.

Small Group Work

Small groups consist of four or more students working collaboratively on a task. Usually each member of the group is held accountable for his or her own contributions to the group’s work. Group work usually occurs in the Work Time.

Small group work helps students meet the Speaking and Listening Standards and promotes active engagement of students. Collaboration skills must be developed through challenging and meaningful activities. Participating in diverse groups supports the learning and participation of ELLs and SWDs.

Text Annotation

Annotating texts includes underlining, highlighting, and making margin notes, all ways of fostering better comprehension of a complex text.

Annotation is used frequently in the reading lessons as a way to encourage close reading—usually when students are reading independently in class or for homework.

Annotation provides key benefits by:

  • Helping promote comprehension.
  • Giving students a purpose for reading and rereading a complex text.
  • Slowing the reading down. 

Students sometimes think that reading well means reading fast, but complex informational and literary texts require them to slow down and sometimes reread.

Students also share their annotations with a partner to help them check their comprehension.

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