Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing Units of Study

Here is our list of writing units of study. Our district relies on Lucy Calkins' Units of Study as a basis of some curricular units, but some units rely on other resources. Because writing units often end with a celebration or end product, I'll list those also. I'm wondering if we should start doing end of unit celebrations in reading also...hmm..something to think about over the summer!
  • Quick Write Week - (1 week) - Students follow the steps in the writing process with minimal teacher prompting to choose a topic, draft, revise/edit and publish within one week. This is a simple task designed to let you see where your kids are and begin to observe strengths and weaknesses in kids.
    • End of Unit Product: Simple story written on notebook paper. 
  • Using a Writer's Notebook - (3 weeks) - This unit is designed to help kids become familiar with the writer's notebook and its purpose. We use this unit to help kids develop strategies to find a topic (like the heart map, questioning, describing items, etc.) and draft during this unit. They learn how to use a writer's notebook and what it is used for.
    • End of Unit Product: Because we spend most of our time on generating ideas and drafting in this unit, there is no formal end of unit product.
  • Writing Personal Narrative - (5 weeks) - This unit is based on one of the books from Lucy Calkins' Units of Study. Students learn the characteristics of personal narrative and write a personal narrative story.
    • End of Unit Product: We keep this one simple and have the kids write a draft on special lined paper and add a color illustration. This is a big deal because we often don't have time for illustrating during workshop time.
  • Writing to Persuade - (3 weeks) - In this unit students learn about how to take a position, generate reasons to support that position, and the format of a letter. They have to decide who the audience of the letter should be as well. This is also a great unit to integrate fact and opinion because strong arguments are built of facts, not opinions! 
    • End of Unit Product: Kids write or type their letter and mail it.
  • Writing Fiction - (4 weeks) - Students create a character and draft a story that features that character. We try to keep it simple and stick with realistic fiction.
    • End of Unit Product:  Students write their story as a picture book with illustrations at the top of each page.
  • Bringing Words to Life With Poetry - (4 weeks) - Students learn about the various "doors of poetry" that poets use to find inspiration and write poetry. This is a unit that always goes particularly well.
    • End of Unit Product: Students choose five or six of their favorite poems to publish in a poetry anthology. We let them add an illustration to each poem and then create a cover and title for their anthology before spiral binding the pages together.
  • Writing to Inform - (4 weeks) - This is our nonfiction writing unit. Kids choose a topic they are experts on and then write what they know about the topic. Afterwards, they categorize the information and plan the text features that would help their reader understand.
    • End of Unit Product: Students publish a "hardback book" that features sewn pages and endpapers. Kids write an "about the author" blurb on the back cover.
  • Writing About Reading - (4 weeks) - This unit is all about book reviews. Kids choose a book and then give a short summary (without giving away all of the plot!) and comment on the quality of the book. This is a great unit to kickstart reluctant readers. The kids love reading book reviews by their peers!
    • End of Unit Product: Students write book reviews on small paper and paste inside the book reviewed. You could also have them publish on or the Spaghetti Book Club website. 
  • Writing Personal Narratives - (4 weeks) - Students again revisit personal narrative but this time the goal is to raise the quality of the story by focusing on telling the story with extra action, dialogue and details. We want the kids to focus on ways to keep your reader engaged in the story.
    • End of Unit Product: Students publish a picture book featuring extra illustrations.
  • Writing to Share Research - (5 weeks) - This unit is combined with the reading research unit. Kids choose a topic and then research it. After researching, kids take that new learning and create a product to show what they learned. 
    • End of Unit Product: Kids have a menu of choices to demonstrate what they learned during research: create a game; draw and illustrate a comic strip; or write a play, news report, song, rap, or magazine. 


  1. I just happened across your blog through Pinterest. Wow! So many great ideas for me to think about! Thank you for sharing your teaching talents on your blog!

  2. Thank you for sharing your ideas/teaching with us all on your blog. I am a high school teacher that teaches at a small school and was asked to help bring our grade 5 & 6 Language Arts up to par, but was somewhat lost in how I should do this...your blog has been great to gather ideas and inspire planning. Thank you!