Units of Study: Implementing Rigorous, Coherent Writing Curriculum, K-2
Lucy Calkins Conference/Orlando, FL
On Friday, February 28th, 2015, a group of teachers from Chets Creek Elementary School attended the above referenced writing conference hosted by Lucy Calkins and Shanna Schwartz from Teachers College/Columbia University. Included in the presentation was:
* The Architecture of Effective Writing Minilessons
* Tools for Supporting and Effective Writing Workshop
* Units Overviews and Contents from Units of Study
Teachers were grouped by primary (Shanna Schwartz) and intermediate (Lucy Calkins). The following are the notes taken by the primary teachers who attended the conference.
Work of Writing Workshop
-it used to be that writing was part of a subject – Science/Social Studies, etc. or it was a “Fun Day” of writing – every once in a while.
-Big red marks on papers – but no content was talked about.
-Nobody taught us “how” to write.
What makes writing great?
In WW classroom we are about grammar/spelling and content.
Feedback is about the writing.
The Writing Workshop Bill of Rights
A. 1) Time to Write - Provide children the time to write. Meet children where they are. In Kindergarten they can grow from 12 minutes one day to 13 the next. All writing starts from assessment. (In NY, the school year goes from year to year – December 31st for kindergarten for 5 year olds – so they have lots of children that are 4 ½ starting K).
2) All writing starts with assessment
3) All of my teaching will go to build their stamina. (Use timer to see how long they write until 1/3 are off task. This is a good time to stop the workshop. Write the time on the board and say something like “Wow” we have been writing for 17 minutes and “We will try to beat that time tomorrow.”
Stop when students are still “on task”. They will remember it as an “on task” time – and an “off task” activity.
Start Day 1 – in K – Draw and Write – All can do it.
B. 1) Units based on authentic genres
2) This is authentic writing – not made up writing – used in the real world
3) Acrostic poems – not used that much (few authors) – come April – time for the acrostic poems.
4) Old Journal Entries – “Today is Tuesday.” “We will go to Art today.” – Not writing for an audience. This is writing not meant to be published.
C. Knowledge of Conventions
1) Spelling, punctuation, and grammar – we see where they are and take them to where they need to go. Approximations are good until they are ready for conventional. When your son learned to talk did he say “Can you get me some water?” or “WaWa?”
2) Take approximations or they will write nothing if perfection is expected. (Story – A child in class wrote the same story every day because during a conference I said it was good. Student was too afraid to writing something wrong. Then she told her “If you take risks with your writing, I will confer with you every day” and that worked. “Best work is the work that stretches us.”
D. Skills and Strategies Writing
1) As we teach genre, craft, and skills, we work hard not only to name the skill but to give them multiple strategies:
“Strong Lead” - Now give ‘How’ strategy –
- moment of action
- character taking
“Spaces” - Place a finger after each word
- Lucy’s – “Listen for the sounds of a word, when you don’t hear any more sounds – then put a space for the silent space.”
- Making lines to become their words (Planning their work).
2) Teaching Strategies in addition to skills.
E. Understanding the Writing Process
1) Writers don’t make writing just to make writing.
2) Collaboration (Sharing with other people).
3) Partnership – to make writing better
4) Needs to be comfortable – sharing writing with others
5) Supporting a growth mindset.
What is the Writing Process?
Idea (booklet) - Story
Draft (words) -
Edit (making it better) (word wall)
Start another story.
What about the writing?
Less sophisticated the writer – the more the writing.
WW is about students going through writing independently.
- Confer – to help with a little bit more
- Not to do something 10 steps harder (Zone of Proximal Development)
Example – 5 papers for degree - 1 paper (30 pages for Masters) – The point is to get lots of writing right away – then as student gets better, the writing will become more sophisticated.
Cheerleader – beginning of Unit “My job is to get them fluid at the beginning – then they will get better.
What she says while children are progressing “Oh – do the best you can and keep going.”
Conferences help to make the piece better – but for students who have a hard time in writing – it is to make the next piece better. It is harder to make the current piece better. It is better to just start a new piece of writing.
For instance – “Here I see…” (Just 3 stick people).
Maybe your next piece you can have them talk and tell where they are (at the park).
Layer the next piece with more sophistication.
Process: Get an idea this is a focused story. (no bed to bed stories – take one part and focus one point.)
1) We do not want 17 page stories. Encourage more pieces of writing – not longer. The longer stories tend to get worse.
2) Multiple pieces work for choice (when it comes to editing/publishing).
Gather all pieces and pick one for publishing. Remembering to pick your best piece of writing…Patricia Polacco didn’t pick her worse books to publish.
“Revision is the compliment you give to your best writing.” L. Calkins
Lucy lives by this saying. At Teacher’s College, everyone gets a color (blue, green, etc.) for their writing (lessons, etc.) Lucy’s color is red. (When she wants to be nice, she’ll use pink.) If you get your submission back with no red editing you know it was not worth her time to try to “fix it up.” You look for those red marks.
* Children need to be able to work independently
* They need to have access to the materials
* Do not be the holder of all things.
* Students will be off-task while you dole out paper, etc.
* Just-right writing paper
* Should match the development of the writer – e.g. plain white paper for the beginning writer.
Booklets are used as a graphic organizer – a plan for writing. With one sheet you get a story on one page. Multiple pages teach the child that we plan and write more.
“I can see you are outgrowing your paper. You need sentence paper.” When students are adding multiple editing strips, they have outgrown their paper choice.
“Just right paper” is paper that has 2 lines left on the page. If I use a new page for the story (plan) you are teaching paragraphs.
* Mini lessons
Use the document camera to share – students need to see the writing close up.
Charts on display of what you are working on.
Most students are productive with children at their tables.
* Vocalizing is a way to keep us focused.
* Not expecting WW to be silent.
* They should be reading their writing to themselves and others.
* Also, have places for students to go who need it to be quiet.
* Students should be rewarded for knowing what kind of writers they are.
* Some may need offices
* Give kids what they need to be successful.
Writing Workshop is the same everyday:
Routine: 4-10 minutes – The students need to be doing the work. “Who is talking is doing the learning.” The lessons need to be done quickly so that the students can write. Analogy: “How can I learn to swim if I’m on the sidelines all the time.” If you want to learn how to write, you need to write.
Beginning of a Unit:
* Move about the room as the children write “butterfly around the classroom.” “quick and light”
* Get the energy going
* Tell them what’s going well
* Specific compliments
As the unit continues:
* Slow down
* Have more meaningful conferences
* More feedback – longer and stronger
* Small group (and editing group, great beginnings)
Mid Workshop Teaching Point
* Rally energy “I want to let you know about…” or remind children about something, or “It’s getting a little itchy in here – remember we are going to 25 minutes.”
* (2nd grade) Let’s take a one minute editing break, check word wall, check punctuation – see what you need.
* It lets kids know that editing doesn’t just happen at the end.
* (K-1st) – may have some children ready to edit – check handwriting – reread- pick small things to look for.
Share (Different kinds of...)
* “Teaching Share” – the time for doing more teaching.
* Follow up on the mini lesson
* “Let me read you the 1st intro pages of these books.”
* “Follow up”
* “Goal setting”
* Problem solving time – e.g. Problem at writing center.
* Sneak peeks – “Look at these – tomorrow we will…”
* Review shares – “Last month we talked about looking at the word wall…”
* Research shares – “What makes this a great piece of writing?”
* Interview a child – They need to talk about their writing.
* Interactive/Shared Writing – Make a piece of writing together ..how should I start it?”
* Celebrating Shares – celebrate what we have done…”Writer’s the most amazing thing happened today - let me read the first sentence of each of these stories (sitting in a circle).
What are the components of Balanced Literacy?
Word Study – 10/15 minutes – phonics/phonemic awareness
Read Aloud – They need to hear great writing in order to write (exposure).
Interactive/Shared Writing – 10-15 minutes – the class makes writing together – teacher holds the pen. They get to see authentic writing (whole class). Writing in the genre they are in at the time.
* Did they write a story?
* Start with “on grade level” column –
* Check the higher level
* “iffy” go to the middle column
The rubric helps to score and what to teach the child.
Look at the writing and see if there is a sense of “moving across pages.” Teaching the kids to plot their stories across pages – every time they say “and then” – turn the page. So when you are assessing, you will look for this.
* Get child to talk about his/her writing
* Continue to say “tell me more”
* Big feelings
* Not just for this piece of writing but for all.
We are teaching the writer not the writing.
The kids have to do the talking not the teacher.
Skill – Big Feelings Strategy – Have character talk “big feelings.”
Have them go back and do in all previous writing. The repeated practice makes it stick with students.
What Can We Do?
Use writing folders with metal tabs in the middle. Paper in the middle titled "Strategies to Habits"
Remember to put spaces. Drawing characters differently (instead of all looking the same.
Wrote more on each pageOnly 4 things at a time. Reteach if they are there for a long time. Make teacher note and one for child.
When “spaces” are mastered – move over to habits side.
Idea – Have library pockets “Look What We Learned” – Pull out sticky notes for accomplishments and place in pocket charts.
When you confer – have your own writing folder. Use it to help with conferences (one for each genre).
3-4 minutes per conference.
Her “Beyonce Days” - the perfect day
7-minute mini lesson
5 (3-4 minute conferences)
1 small group
By the end of the week, you will see most of the kids in either small group or conferencing.
Tip: Timer – carry it with you (4 minutes per conference). Much better at shorter conferences – kids know that the time is short and they are more prepared.
Give yourself one day a week to read through children’s writing (time for 45 minutes). This is about one table per night and then you will be more prepared for the next day’s conferences.
* Author’s Craft is so important.
* As the children progress, have them work on what is working well – write more.
* How can I get them to add more – to get the writing better?
o Add an example
o Add definition – what words mean.
o Add words that go with a topic (brush, stroke, etc.)
* It is the writing of social change.
* I see an injustice and I go and I write about it.
3 Units in Opinion Writing
Persuasive - K – save for the end of year - signs, songs, letters, petitions
* All of this can help get their opinion across.
Look around the world and see how you can make it better.
This circles back to 3rd grade.
1st grade – writing review of favorite things – movies, food, etc.
* Why do you think that?
* Rating system
A really great piece of Opinion writing also includes Informative Writing.
* Are used for children to help each other (partner groups)
* “Starting to” is a very important part of the rubric.
They should be using the rubric as an emphasis on the things that they haven’t done – not as a check off list.
Celebrate the work – not the writing.
Look how much you have grown.
Use the edited pieces – do not recopy.
Every piece where there is a flap or cross out or correction shows growth. They are stretching themselves.
* Start Writers’ Workshop on the first day of school. Set a timer. Try to write for a longer time each day.
* The Units of Study were written for us to teach authentic writing. Writing that exists in a library or a book store – writing that is written for an audience. This is public, published writing – not personal journal writing.
* Students will gradually develop their knowledge of conventions. First accept their approximations and then correct them.
* Teach students skills and multiple strategies to do them. We need multiple strategies. For example, writing with a strong lead is the skill (what to do).
Strategies to do this (how to do) include setting the scene with weather, starting with a moment of action, starting with the character’s dialogue, etc.
* Writing is a process. The less sophisticated the writer is… the more stories he/she will need to produce. Students will go through the process independently. Kindergarteners will produce a lot more stories than second graders. Students need to go through the process many times and will learn something new each time. As the children have more ideas and develop an understanding on conventions, etc. they will take longer on their writing. (Gather ideas, Draft, Revise, Edit, Gather ideas, Draft, Revise, etc.) Start new writing, instead of making “this” piece better, teach them to make the “next” piece better.
* Students need many pieces of writing, not one long story. They need practice generating lots of ideas. Ask them, Where do you go all the time? What do you see all the time? What do you do all the time?
* Teach the children that we make all these pieces of writing and we make all of them better as we go. Choose your favorite to publish. Fancy it up! Revision is the compliment you give to your best writing. Patricia Polacco doesn’t publish her worst story in a book.
* Children need to write independently and be able to work through the process. Have a writing center in your classroom. Release your control and allow children access to what they need. Your just right paper should have a few more lines than you can fill up in your first go around. Children will need paper choices. Even second graders should be writing across many pages. Each thought belongs on a page. This is to give them a sense of writing in paragraphs.
* Celebrate the work not just the finished product. For every flap, re-write, edit, cross out, etc. that is a place where you’ve grown as a writer. You’ve made your work better.
* Writers Workshop should have a short mini lesson at the beginning (3-7 minutes). At the start of a new unit the teacher is like a butterfly – a little comment here and there to get everybody going. As the unit continues, conferring gets longer and more in depth as the writing progresses. Conferencing should be 4 minutes and to save time the teacher should read
the student’s writing. Use your time to talk about the writing, not just the piece of work but name some strategies you see in the paper. Try to have the student do most of the talking.
* In a typical workshop there would be a 3-7 minute mini lesson followed by 3 four minute individual conferences, a small strategy or re-teaching group of 7 for about 15-20 minutes, 3 more four minute individual conferences, and a closing teaching share.
* Closing teaching share – don’t spend time just having students read their work. Use this time to showcase work and teach something. Or find part of the child’s writing that will be coming up in a future lesson – a sneak peak at what’s coming next.
* Mid-workshop editing break. As adults, we write and edit as we go. It’s a habit of mind. To help teach this to children, stop during the writing time and tell them you are going to have a 1 minute editing break. Set the timer for 1 minute while everyone reads their work looking for a specific thing to edit – could be capital I, could be punctuation. Make the necessary edits then and there and move on after a minute passes.
* There are three kinds of mini lessons: traditional/guided practice/inquiry.
* The components of balanced literacy: word study/interactive writing à Writing Workshop ß shared writing/read aloud. You should spend 10-20 minutes on this. Shared writing helps children see what a finished piece looks like. Write in the same genre you are teaching. Children help decide the words but the teacher writes.
* Strategies to Habits: put a piece of computer paper in a page protector and divide it into four squares. Each section should have a post it note with an individual writing goal in it. Check these goals during writing conferences. When the strategy has become a habit move to a poster/chart/pocket. No more than four at a time. Look What We’ve Accomplished!
* Informational writing has it’s own sound: a command voice and active verbs that tell what to do.
* When giving on-demand prompts, look and see what the kids do while they’re writing. Take notes. Do they use the word wall? Do they write the whole time.
* Use the checklists to move children and conference with them.
As you can see there was a lot to this one day workshop and we are so glad we had the opportunity to attend and report back to you. Here's to making every minute of Writer's Workshop a learning experience.