Topic outline

  • General

    Calkins' Units of Study

    TCAPS' writing curriculum is based on Calkins' Units of Study. Each school has both K-2 and 3-5 units.

    This course is available for credit through CMU or SBE-CEUs through TBAISD. You can also participate in the course without enrolling for credit.

    In order to fully participate, you will need to be able to:

    • create and  upload a Word document,
    • use e-mail,
    • use a digital camera and  upload the picture(s),
    • access Calkins' Units of Study materials at your site, and  
    • videotape and  upload short segments from your own classroom.
    • Topic 2

      Throughout this course  you will both explore and implement your Writers' Workshop and develop  your own personal narrative using the process outlined in Units of Study.

      Your personal narrative can be one to actually use with students, but does not need to be.   For example, the one I  wrote was for  the adult audience with whom I was working; I would not use this one with students.

      The course  will start with a very general overview of Writers' Workshop, and proceed to writing your  own personal narrative  interspersed with more detailed looks at each component of the workshop.    

      This course will not cover every unit of the materials, but rather is intended as a starting point to implementing the units.  

    • Topic 3

      Bottom lines about Writing from Lucy Calkins:

      Writing is a basic

      • enabling skill that let's all else be possible
      • we have a responsibility to teach writing every day - no one can say 'I am not going to teach math this year'
      • needs curriculum - these units are exactly what has been asked for by both principals and teachers as it is explicit, ordered instruction
      • think about writing instruction and math instruction - don't ask students to just go off and 'do' some math; therefore do not ask students to go off and "write" without providing instruction

      Students write during writing time EVERY day

      • should produce about 10 pages per week when using Writer's Workshop model with a 40 minute writing period (this does not include the time for mini-lesson or sharing)

      Teach writing using explicit instruction

      • explicit instruction shows improvement in writing immediately
      • teach strategies to develop skills
      • strategies are disposable - can use any of them to get to a skill ex. to become skillful at writing effective introductions, can use the strategies of beginning with dialogue, setting, action, quote etc.

      Writers must be interested in their writing

      • difference has everything to do with what you are writing
      • kids must choose their own subjects
      • they need to be able to write about what matters and then grow meaning from that

      Writers need to write in different genre

      • ex. song, narrative, memoir, recipe, poetry etc.

      Writers need readers!

      • and not too far away!
        publish 8-12 x/yr - about once a month
        need readers to respond as readers not critics
    • Topic 4

      Celebrations of student writing happen at the end of each unit.

      Each Unit of Study gives suggestions of how to format celebrations so they are not always the same.  

    • Topic 5

      Organization of room:

      Area  to gather for direct instruction:

      • call it 'library' or 'meeting area'
      • rug, chart paper and books around
      • tables in clusters
      • scheduled for AM because writing is hard to do
      • show chart of day 'flow of the day' (schedule)
      • principals expect teachers to follow - visit and see

      Strategy for getting attention: 'Writers?'

      • freeze, stop, look - want eyes
      • say things once, 'words matter!'
      • must teach explicitly at beginning of year - takes long time, but wait until complete silence so it is known as the expectation

      Strategy to get to meeting area:

      • must be the SAME every day
      • say/show what to bring
      • teach students to walk directly to area - no wandering

      Have assigned seats in meeting area:

      • assign partners of mixed ability and gender
      • partners last for at least a month

      For a list of Resource Materials, see Resources for Teaching Writing Grades 3-5 DVD (purchased for your builidng) under Launching the Writing Workshop.

    • Topic 6

      Structure of Workshop

      Mini-lesson (10 minutes - only!)

      • students dismissed to write after having been taught strategy on how to leave and get started immediately

      Teacher confers (20 - 30  minutes)  

      • begin with 'table conferences' until writers 'settle'
      • find and report on someone doing something well and share at table (ex. at beginning of year, say 'Look how quickly John got to work; let's all do that.')
      • table conferences become opportunities for 'strategy lessons' (guided writing) later in the year
      • conduct 2 - 3 table conferences each day

      Mid-Workshop Teaching Point

      • usually based on what you have seen someone do (although examples are given for each day of every unit)
      • gives kids a break
      • conduct 20 more minutes of conferences, this time with individuals, every day

      Teaching Share (10 - 15 minutes)

      • share focus of mini-lesson
      • share with your partner the surprising details you included today
            • OR
      • show examples of student work that demonstrated focus - all students will not necessarily use the strategy taught that day; it is available to them from that day forward (and recorded on class chart to be accessible)
    • Topic 7

      As you continue to implement Writers' Workshop and Units of Study in your classroom, you will now spend some time experiencing the workshop from  the viewpoint of a student.  

      You will be going through the process of creating a personal narrative.   This narrative may be used in your classroom as a model, but does not need to be.  

      In order to begin, click on the link below and complete the assignment.

    • Topic 8

      Now that you have listed times in your life when writing mattered, complete the assignment below.

    • Topic 9

      What trend do you see in your list?   Complete the "Trends" activity on the link at the bottom of this box.

      Mine: writing has been done primarily to document in order to remember and it has involved a meaningful, important audience

      What does this tell us about the writing we should ask kids to do?

      Click here to see what Lucy Calkins believes. (I agree!big grin)

    • Topic 10

      Have you been writing in your journal on a regular basis? For me it was a very difficult habit to establish. However, I noticed I began to identify so many everyday instances that could, even should, become pieces of writing in my notebook.

      Your previous assignments have not been completed in your notebook.

      Notebooks are a tool to 'hold' stuff - a collection of entries that perhaps one day may turn into  published pieces.

      Notebooks are a "place to think."   Drafts will not be completed in notebooks - drafts are completely separate documents that need to be kept in a writing folder.

      As a place to think, entries in a Writer's Notebook can include, but are not limited to:  

      • narrative pieces
      • lists of ideas
      • lists of interesting words, phrases etc.  
      • descriptions/traits of  potential characters
      • attempts at interesting/effective leads and  conclusions
      • entries that expand on a piece of another entry
    • Topic 11

      Choosing Seed Ideas

      Did you have any difficulty thinking of ideas for entries in your notebook?     One strategy to generate ideas for entries is to think about an interest such as a hobby, a person, some aspect of yourself (body weight, hair etc.)

      Then, choose ONE interest from the list by thinking about:

      • one that gives you the most to say,
      • one that shows how you changed or learned something,
      • one that is most important to you,
      • one you are willing to share publicly,
      • one you remember most clearly,
      • one that will match a particular audience, or
      • one that has the makings of a great story.

      Next, make a timeline of events connected to your choice.   Always start with "The time I..." so thoughts are written in complete sentences.   You may want students to write timelines vertically so they can use the lines of the paper.

      Finally, choose ONE piece of your timeline to expand on through writing.   This will be the piece you carry out for the remainder of the course.

    • Topic 12

      Story Mountain

       A variation of a timeline is a Story Mountain.   A Story Mountain may help a student to determine the "heart" of his story - that which he wants the reader to take away.  

      To create a Story Mountain, ask yourself, "What do  I  want my  readers to know?"   Write approximately 7 sentences for this.   This becomes the middle dot on your story mountain.   This is the "heart" of your narrative.

      After you have determined the heart, work out from there.    

      As I indicated in Module 10, I did not end up choosing any of the seed ideas listed there for my narrative.   Instead, I decided to write about the time I broke my leg as I had been intending to write about it.   I had actually even started, but never finished.

      Click here to see photos of the seed entry that started me on my narrative and the Story Mountain that came from that narrative.

      Then click here to see the actual script taken directly from my notebook.

    • Topic 13

      Developing Leads

      Students need to be taught how to write interesting leads.   However, these are not written immediately.   Several leads are "tried" after choosing and beginning to develop the seed idea.   The following strategies can be used to develop leads.  






      I tried:

      dialogue:   "Mom, Mom! Get up! Mom!"   Lizzie yelled.

      action:   I walked into the tiny fitting room by myself.   It was  odd to be in there on my own with the girls each in their own as well.

      setting:   A huge outlet mall and all the time in the world! What to do first?

    • Topic 14


      Drafts are written outside of notebooks. Notebooks are for entries and rehearsals (timelines, story mountains, setting, study of mentor text, lists, character development etc.)

      After choosing an entry to draft, students probably won't use all of the writing exactly as it appears in the notebook; they probably will use one of the leads they wrote.

      Drafts should be written ALL in one day. It is fast writing knowing there will be plenty of time for revision.

      On drafting day, tell students, "Today is the day we are going to write literature."

      Use the following strategy to help those who need it (and only those!). This strategy will prevent students from writing  a whole story in a half page.   It will  help to  organize their writing adding length and detail.

      • Beginning in 3rd grade - fold paper in half. First half refers to first dot on timeline or story mountain: beginning - going toward top of mountain. Open paper. Top half of paper refers to 2nd dot, bottom half 3rd dot, fold paper again and  writing for 4th dot goes on that half.
      • Each event on a timeline ends up as a paragraph.

      Here is my first draft.

    • Topic 15


      To revise is to "go back and look again" to see your writing in a different way.  

      To improve your draft, find the heart of your story - what is it you want your readers to know?

      Find that spot and s-l-o-w it down  using another sheet of paper, perhaps a different color.

      Cut apart your draft to add the revisions; if you are only adding a sentence or part of a sentence, use a "spider leg" off to the side.   This makes revised parts easy to see and the legs can be folded in in order to fit in students' folders.   See "Draft Revision with Spider Legs" below.

      What else is it you would like to revise in your writing?    Choose no more than 3  strategies and  name them at the top of your revised piece that will be turned in  for a later module.

      I wanted to do the following:

      • stretch the heart of my story - (I thought I was writing about breaking my leg when I was really writing about my relationship with my daughters),
      • use more precise words, and
      • have a balance of internal vs. external (in K-2 it is referred to as show vs. tell).
    • Topic 16

      This and That

      I want to share some management information from Lucy Calkins' presentations during the 2007 Teachers College Writing Institute.  

      In May or June - plan a half day with all teachers for the upcoming year (could do this at any point of the year prior to starting the units).
      It is essential to stick to the curricular calendar you mapped out so you stay on track and teachers can reflect together when they meet.   One unit of study should take one month - 20 days.   See the links below for a map of writing across the year.   Lucy Calkins believes we are doing a disservice to our students if we dwell on a unit longer than this.   The strategies presented in mini-lessons are not "assignments," rather they are strategies that students are expected to use always.  
      The first two units are always narrative - this is NON-NEGOTIABLE; after this you can move to informational or expository reading (my suggestion:   follow the units as Lucy Calkins has them set up your first time through).
      At the beginning of each unit, decide the minimum number of entries  students will produce.   Calkins suggests: K  produce 15, 1st 10, 2nd 6 or 7.   Older grades will have fewer than this as they are spending more time revising. Do NOT expect students to write ONLY one entry each day - they should be writing several.
      In  September, have  students take 2 seed entries to drafts and then pick the best one to revise (revision is what you do to good writing) and take to publishing.   (Again, they will have many more entries that will not go to publication.)
      Spend ONLY 20 days per unit.
      The first piece to teach in  any unit is the strategy for generating the particular type of writing in that unit.    
      • ex.   think of a person who is special to you then write small moments in complete sentences (the more words you write, the more focused that small moment will be)
      •             My dad is special to me because he taught me to ride my bike.
      •              My dad is special to me because he makes me laugh.
      •             My dad is special to me because he taught me to be my own person.

      *This only takes 3-5 minutes (students would be writing these in their notebooks as you are gathered in whole group).


    • Topic 17

      Timetable of a Unit:   Days 1-7

      On the FIRST day of class, have students write a narrative in 45 minutes (can adjust the length, but should still be a good chunk of time.)   Score this piece on the rubric you will be using throughout the year.   Find the appropriate rubric in the "green book."   Do this same formative assessment 2 months later to gauge progress.   Also score published work; published work should only be 1-2 levels above independent work (an analogy would be the difference between guided  and independent reading levels).

      DAY 1-2:   Generate entries in writer's notebook - students CHOOSE what to  write about!!

      DAY 3:   Teach how to write well in this particular unit.

      • ex. first qualities of writing that are easy and have big payoff:   focus (going from watermelon story to seed idea) and detail.   Need to teach the difference between summary and storytelling -this is complicated.   Teach students to write a story across only 20 minutes of time.   This avoids the "bed to bed" and "Fiddler on the Roof" (sunrise/sunset) stories.

      DAY 4:   Have students choose one seed idea from their collection of entries - note: all students are writing on topic of choice as they chose from their own entries.  

      DAY 5:   Help students rehearse the strategies you are focusing on in that unit such as timelines, leads, internal vs. external etc.   Students "try out" these strategies in their notebooks.

      DAY 6:   Spend ONE WHOLE day to draft.   Remember drafts should be written ALL in one day. It is fast writing knowing there will be plenty of time for revision.   This  helps writing to be more cohesive.   It also prepares students for standardized testing situations when they have to compose a piece in a certain amount of time.   Drafts are written outside the notebook on lined paper.

      DAY 7:   Begin revision - students need to determine the "heart" of their story and stretch it out.   You may need to "interrogate" students to help them figure out what they really want readers to know and bring out details.   For example if a student wrote, We celebrated my sister's birthday.   You can ask:   what is your sister's name?   Include that!   How old is your sister now?   Include that!  etc.  Teach students that if they don't remember every detail, make it up!   Your readers will not know.   Also teach students to balance both the internal and external story - use words such as "I wonder," "I remember," "I noticed" etc.  Students tend to remember (or want to make up) dialogue so they tend to include too much.   Help them to create a balance.

      AFTER THESE 7 DAYS, complete the entire process again with another seed idea students choose from their notebooks.

      THEN, have students choose ONE of these pieces to take to publication to be used for Celebration!

      FOR FINAL PUBLICATION:   teach each student ONE point (what is MOST important for that writer at that time?) to carry in to his final draft.   TEACHER corrects all other errors!   You can say, "Pay attention to the parts I help you with and make sure you do it that way."   (Of course, students will not catch everything you are doing, but you are holding them accountable as you edit.)   Remember:   published pieces need to be perfect, but students can only learn one thing at a time.   The teacher then, as the more capable other, edits to perfection!

      • Topic 18

        5 Kinds of Writing

        see p. 24 in A Guide to the Writing Workshop


        • personal narratives, narrative memoir, short stories, biography, narrative nonfiction  


        • procedural or "how to" -  should be taught in 4th and 5th grade content areas


        • pamphlets, reports, brochures, all about books  - teach to 3rd graders instead of essays (which are taught in grades 4 and 5)


        • teach in 4th and 5th grade


        • needs to be taught in all grades

        • Topic 19

          Volume of Writing

          Students need to write LOTS in order to become proficient writers - just as basketball players need to shoot LOTS of free throws in order to become proficient.

          Calkins says, "Volume matters. There are many reasons to worry about the volume of writing students do" including:

          • volume is needed on standardized tests,
          • more skilled writers write more quickly,
          • to tell a story well, it needs to be long,
          • voice is related to velocity of writing, and
          • if students are writing a lot, they are not doing "other things".

          So, how do you encourage volume? Try the strategies listed below.

          • Cheerlead volume in the beginning of  the year.
          • Place check in margin and say, 'nice job, you've written a half a page'.
          • Doesn't matter right now if writing isn't good, the focus is on volume.
          • Could stop writers and ask to count lines written and then encourage them to set a goal for the rest of the period.
          • After a week and a half, look back to see if entries are getting longer.
          • Tell students to think of a whole sentence and write it without stopping in order to increase speed of writing.
          • Do not allow students to write word by word just as we don't want them to read word by word.
          • Make a plan with class; say, 'it looks as though we can all say we will all write at least a page a day'.
          • Have consequences if students don't meet goal for the day (wouldn't accept that it is ok to not complete math).
          • Can say, 'you didn't get a whole page today? That's ok, you can finish during recess/free time etc.'.
          • Differentiate by allowing struggling writers to skip lines (although Calkins does not believe skipping lines is a good idea - get rid of this as soon as possible).
          • Do not have to push volume all year - once they are used to producing, they may spend lots of time on any day revising.
        • Topic 20

          Architecture of Mini-Lessons

          • Remind students what they have already been learning either recently or in past months so they continue to use it - be specific!
          Teaching point
          • Be explicit!! Chart it.
          • Should not have 'how' in teaching point; rather than 'Today I'm going to teach you 'how to' - this connotes an assignment,  SAY, 'Today I want to teach you that sometimes writers...(ex. can write good leads by…')
          • Use step-by-step demonstration.
          • Do some things wrong so you can show how to fix that.
          • "Tuck' tips in along the way.
          • Finally, re-cap the steps using the language, "Today and for the rest of your lives, remember you can..."
          Active Engagement
          • Most often use familiar text as opposed to having students open notebooks and find one.
          • Use an example from your entries that matches your teaching point, BUT take those pieces out to demonstrate how it looks at the beginning.
          • Your entry must be one your audience can relate to - ex. 11 and 12 year olds cannot relate to a disagreement with a spouse, but could relate to a time you felt left out.   When writing for kids, write about times when you were their age and of what is important to them such as fitting in.
          • Ask students to "write in the air" as opposed to "turn and  talk."   The first asks the students to dictate what they would write rather than discuss.
          • Crystallize the lesson.
          • Generalize the question.
          • Make the transitions smooth.
          • Boost the children's writing energy.
        • Topic 21

          Architecture of a Conference

          When traveling the room to conference, carry your writer's notebook, a mentor text and any other record-keeping materials you will use.

          ALL individual conferences should take place using the following format.


          • Study what the writer is already doing -  think of a doctor asking, 'how's it going?' and then asking what particular issues  they are having.
          • Ask the  writer, 'How's it going for you?'   'What are you working on as a writer?'  'Give me an example.'     Students need to be taught how to answer this question.   Do not allow them to tell you what they are writing ABOUT, teach them to talk as a writer.
          • MUST teach students to confer well - give them language to talk as a writer.
          • **As a teacher, keep researching longer than your instinct tells you - don't jump to the first teaching point you find.
          • Teacher reads student text silently (do not have to read all of it) - do not have student read text aloud.
          • Ask student, "What are you planning next?"
          • *MUST have compliment and teaching point in mind before ending research step.


          • Very powerful - may be more powerful than teaching point!
          • It helps a writer to be 'seen.'
          • Be personal and genuine with the compliment.
          • The compliment should be  5 or 6 sentences long, not just one.
          • The compliment should elicit a smile! big grin

          Teaching Point

          • Ask, "Can I give  ONE suggestion?"
          • Asking permission from the writer  prior to the teaching point establishes tone and builds a relationship that will open the child up to suggestions.
          • Teach the point using either a demonstration, coaching, mentor text or inquiry.


          • Prior to leaving, say, "Tell me what you are going to do today."
          • After student has responded, say "Great, I'll be back to admire your work!"
        • Topic 22

          More on conferencing

          2 ways to teach in a conference: coach or demonstrate

          Format during the student writing time of the workshop:

          • 2 small groups - either table conferences or strategy lessons
          • 2 individual conferences
          • Mid-Workshop Teaching Point
          • 2 more either group or individual conferences
          • *this format allows you to get to LOTS of students each day

          *Make use of small group/table conferences - the last 1/3 of any unit may not have made sense to 1/3 of the students so those will need table conferences/small group work.

          Table Conferences

          • Hold 2-3 after mini-lesson.
          • Go to any table.
          • Teach students to keep working while you are "researching.'
          • Research for one minute - glance at work to see if they are applying mini-lesson idea - all may not be as the mini-lesson is a strategy introduced that they may not necessarily use or need that day.
          • Either find one student who is doing it OR work with one who should be.
          • Say 'Writers, (make sure you have ALL eyes) I want to give you a tip' then repeat the language of the mini-lesson.
          • 'Watch me as I work with Henry. Right now ask yourself that question."
          • 'I'm going to stay right here and admire you as you start doing that.'
          • *Even if their next attempt is not perfect, leave it - it is their approximation for that time.

          Strategy Lesson

          • Scan the room to see who needs the same strategy.
          • Gather them at a table.  
          • 'I called you guys together because I noticed you all _____________.'
          • Use same process as for a table conference.
          • 'Stay right here and I'll be back in 5 minutes to admire what you have done.'
          • LC doesn't believe you have to get to every student 'even-handedly.'   Just as in any subject, some students may need more support than others.  
        • Topic 23

          Informational and Expository Writing

          • When switching from narrative to informational or expository writing, remind students to remember everything they have learned about writing narrative.
          • Encourage students to still use dialogue.
          • Remind students they still need to include details.

          • Think of a ladder  when teaching  informational (report) writing:  
          • What would a new writer have to know?
          • Then provide more experience,
          • then more,
          • etc.


          • Earliest writing K does is reports (narratives are more difficult.)
          •       Ex. I love my Mom. Mom Mom Mom Love love love xo
          • Attribute books: My Family - I love my dad. My dog is fat.
          • Teach student to choose one topic and expand on it.   Stay on topic - All About Book - Dad Works, Dad Cooks etc.
          •       Then categorize: Dad cooks breakfast. Dad cooks lunch.
          • Then passages of thought - this develops a paragraph for each sub-topic.
          • There needs to be a rhyme or reason to the order of the writing.
          •         Ex. in a chapter on cat's food; start with breakfast, then lunch then dinner rather than just hodgepodge about eating
          • Then writing about a subject you know.
          • Now you are not only writing about information, but are digesting and musing about it.   The pattern becomes info/ideas, info/ideas.

          Broader subjects are easier to write about, but small topics become more sophisticated.

          • Large topic - sea animals
          • Smaller topic - octopus
          • Then even smaller - octopus body or more sophisticated - octopi bodies are weird


          2nd grade teachers  could teach persuasive letters first (baby essays) such as we need more recess time etc.

          Essay means 'to wander' - it is true this is how essayists write, but Calkins believes students need to learn how to write academic essays.

        • Topic 24

          Writing to think, exploring topics in order to come up with provocative, original, smart ideas.

          Strategies for Generating Ideas

          1)   Think of a person, place, object or issue and list big ideas about it.

          2)   Choose one idea  and 'write long' about it.

          3)   Observe and write what you see.

          Have students write in complete sentences starting with I see, then have students 'write long' by starting with 'The thought I have about this is…'

          Click here to read my writing generated through observation.

          4)  Fly in mind's eye.

          Click here to  read my writing generated as I flew through my mind's eye.

          5)  Re-read an entry from narrative unit and write thoughts about it.   This strategy yields the most.

          Click here to read one of my  narrative entries that turned into an informational text.

          All of the ways listed above should be  mini-lessons over consecutive days.   This would be a (rare) time when you are asking all students to  use the same  strategy during writing time, but they still all choose their own topic.

          After  2 days, stop gathering.

          Look at student writing and figure out how to lift the quality through elaboration:

          1)   Figure out how to write a lot about it - expand your thought. (Narrative is easier because you remember what happened - you are now generating thoughts.)

          2)   Teach kids to grow a thought by  writing - will find you can discover thoughts as your pen flies across the paper.

          3)   Teach elaboration outside Writers' Workshop.   After reading aloud, 'Oh my mind is so full, isn't yours? Turn and talk.'*

          • Then, 'Who can get us started in a conversation?' (ex. I think Gill (or any character) is me.) What do the rest of you think? Do you agree?
          • Teach students to answer:
          • 'I agree with Margaret because…'
          • 'To add on…'
          • 'Another example is…'
          • 'I partly agree and disagree because…'

          *these prompts should be hanging in room

        • Topic 25

          Choose a Seed Idea

          Seed ideas need to be:

          • a statement not a question
          • a claim not a fact
          • have no branches; needs to be clean; focused on one thing (the second sentence in my  writing would be considered a branch)

          Help students to clean  up their writing  - check all writers so they don't go forward without a concise thought.

          Students may be depressed that they had written 5 pages and then have to narrow it down to one thought, but we're building 'writing muscles.' The product is not as important as the process. The narrower the focus, the more sophisticated the writing will be:

          Ex. My dad is important to me. vs. The aggressive nature of my dad's coaching has had a powerful impact on me.

        • Topic 26

          To plan essays, plan categories

          State a claim and then a reason (do this by adding "because".)   Have students restate the claim  each time so they stay on track and think and speak in complete sentences.  

          Allow students to write with repetition at this stage as they are learning the process.

          Boxes and Bullets:

          Bullets need to be distinct (not overlap) because support will be the same if they overlap

          • ex. "My dad loves me" AND "My dad cares for me" are too similar.

          Bullets should be 'equal in size'

          • ex. 'Teachers need patience, wisdom and paper clips,' doesn't work.


          Box: My life has too much order. (from previous session)


          • My life has too much order because I feel the need to stay on track.
          • My life has too much order because I am most comfortable this way.
          • My life has too much order because I worry about getting everything done.
          • My life has too much order because I worry about doing things right.

          See "Box and Bullets"  in the body of this block for a picture of what mine looked like.

          *Have students repeat the  claim each time. It is stilted at first, but in the end, they will combine these to make one thesis statement.

          • Ex. My life has too much order because I feel the need to stay on track, I am most comfortable this way, I worry about getting things done and doing things right.

          For each bullet, collect stories or lists to support the reason.

          Each bullet becomes a folder - each folder then becomes a paragraph.

          See "Box and bullets with one folder open" to see how to collect stories for each bullet.

          Spend 3 or 4 days (total) to collect small stories/evidence/support for each bullet.

        • Topic 27

          Ways to Gather Evidence/Support

          1) 'Pop out' story to demonstrate thesis

                        ex. don't storytell about going to learn to skate, but how your dad taught you

          • End of story needs to match beginning - bring back your thesis at the end (ex. "My son is DEVOTED to family." Then again at end, "My son's devotion...")
          • Gather at least one story in each folder each day
          • Active Involvement during whole group time can be writing a story for 1 folder as they would still have at least 2 other folders to collect ideas in during independent writing time

          2) Make lists

          Mine: My life has too much order because I worry about doing everything right. (this would be a folder; below could be the beginnings of "stories" I would use to support that folder - I would need to come up with an actual example for each)

          • I worry about a messy house.
          • I worry about what I wear.
          • I worry about what other people think.

          Lists need to be tight - can use transition words (ex. for example)

          (How ironic it is that I used a list  for this topic??)  smile

          3) Ask and answer questions

          4) Use quotations

          5) So and so once said,…

          After having collected stories, find only what is compelling and get rid of the rest!

          Essays are harder to generate than narrative writing.   Writing essays at this level is the same as the task asked of secondary writers, but elementary students are using personal vignettes for support rather than support from literature.

          In this unit, struggling writers usually rise up and more capable writers fall back - the playing field evens out.

          All of the information above is not about persuasive writing, don't have kids be persuasive, but reflective.

        • Topic 28

          Introductions / Conclusions / Transitions


          Begin globally and come down to something small (your thesis)

          • "Teachers teach throughout the world." and end the paragraph with "My father has been my best teacher." (thesis statement)
          • "I used to think.."   ending with  "Now I think..."
          • "Some people think..." ending with "But I believe..."

          MINE: (formulated from Boxes and Bullets from Module 26) I used to think everything needs its own place, but now I realize some of the best things in life happen/matter from the unplanned.


          • Add a little twist.
          • Show how you will now take a little action as you ponder your thesis.

          Have writers try several introductions and conclusions in one day.



          Collapse the stem

          • My father is my best teacher because he taught me to write, fail and be myself. (This would have originally been 3 sentences.)
          • My father is my best teacher because he taught me to write and to fail, but the most important thing he taught me was to be myself.
        • Topic 29

          Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation and Syntax  


          • All of these are important!
          • Students need to be taught to become competent at it.
          • The world judges people by poor spelling.
          • Parents value spelling.


          Students need to be resourceful - words they know can help them know how to spell other words.

          • Ex. know "sign" then can figure out assign, resign, signal and signature

          Expect students to spell word wall words correctly - this is NOT a COPYING act; students need to learn it.  

          • On writing drafts say, "Oh my goodness, your word wall words are not spelled correctly.   Go and fix that."   You have neither identified the misspelled words nor told them how to spell correctly.

          DEMAND students absolutely have control of punctuation in 3rd grade.

          Students need to punctuate in ALL writing even if it is not totally correct, they need to be paying attention to it.

          By 5th grade, students should spell 90% of words correctly and resourceful enough to figure out the other 10%.

          TCAPS' spelling materials are located at:

          There are also several print resources on the DVDs (purchased for your building) Resources for Primary Writing and Resources for Teaching Writing Grades 3-5 including:

          Resources for Primary Writing DVD:

          Resources for All Year:   "Word Wall Tips" and "High Frequency Word Wall Words for K and 1"

          Writing for Readers:   Teaching Skills and Strategies:   "High Frequency Words"

          Resources for Teaching Writing Grades 3-5 DVD:

          "Mechanics" under Print Resources for each unit

          Spend 10 minutes every day on spelling and more in K and 1

          Students need an increasing bank of words they spell with speed and automaticity.   Methods to accomplish this:

          • Chant it.
          • Determine what is weird about it.
          • See it in your head.
          • Write it fast.
          • Conduct inquiries such as when you use -tion vs. -sion; collect examples
          • Teach spelling and phonics in small group as all students do not need the same thing.   This can be accomplished in "Table Conferences." (refer back to Block 22 for more on Table Conferences)
        • Topic 30

          Final Publication

          As final publications are for public consumption, they MUST be error free.   However, students may not be ready to edit completely; therfore, teach each student ONE point to carry into final draft then teacher corrects ALL others.   As students watch you on the computer,  say, "Pay attention to the parts I am helping you with and make sure you do it that  way next time."

          You do not need to point out each change you make; they will not master the corrections you make, rather it sends the message that they need to pay attention.