Monday, August 5, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen Vincent and Kellee Moye co-host It's Monday! What Are You Reading weekly on their blogs. Some of my best book recommendations come from seeing what others are reading each week. To see what others are recommending or to participate, be sure to check out their blogs Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers on Mondays.

Over the summer, I have been reading several of the new Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing that Lucy Calkins and several of her colleagues developed. Each grade, K-5, has a set of four spiral-bound books, as well as resources about assessment and samples of student work. Each spiral bound book describes a writing workshop unit of study, detailing about twenty sessions for each unit.

This weekend, I have been reading the Grade 5 Narrative Craft by Lucy Calkins and Alexandra Marron. I had initially planned that this post would contain snippets from sessions throughout the entire 187-page book, but just the introduction, the authors' Welcome to the Unit, is so full of important thinking, that I am just focusing on this part of the book. Suffice it to say that the following twenty sessions are full of powerful teaching points, reflective thinking, meaningful student work, and honest struggles.

Within the four-and-a-half pages, Calkin and Marron have written several passages that I have already read several times, and am looking forward to discussing with colleagues. Some lines that I have highlighted include:
  • "it is especially important for your students to be clear why they are telling a story so they make craft decisions with purposes in mind."
  • "for students' levels to increase dramatically, they need to be engaged in a cycle of goal-setting, strategic work, self-assessment, and feedback."
  • "the work that writers do each day is certainly not determined merely by that day's minilesson."
  • "craft and revision are always driven by an effort to communicate meaning."
  • "By keeping on-demand writing close on hand, you can help writers hold themselves to the job of making sure all their subsequent writing is progressively better."
  • "The baseline assessment is not assessing you. It is assessing the background your children have when they enter your classroom."
And my favorite:
  • "the goal of any writing instruction is not to produce strong writing. It is to produce strong writers. If we teach in ways the lift the level of today's piece of writing but that does not leave writers able to do better work another day, then the teaching is for naught."
Sometimes, the Common Core State Standards feel overwhelming to me, as I try to really understand what they mean across various types of writing throughout the elementary grades. However, all of the new Units of Study have increased my confidence to help teachers make the standards accessible to their students.  If you are able to get your hands on copies of any unit, you will not be disappointed.

Have a great week,


  1. I love reading these highlighted quotes that you share from your professional reading. It sounds like this book is giving you lots to think about and apply with your work with students.

  2. I love the thinking that all the TCRWP work makes me do! I wish I could afford the new third grade Units of Study.

  3. I am so glad that #IMWAYR brought me to your blog. I love all things TCRWP - always very inspiring. I am a second grade teacher and use the primary units of study.

  4. Just back from TC and the Summer Writing Institute - we are digging deep into the new units and I find so much to take back to my classroom come Fall!