Units of Study: A Classroom Teacher’s Perspective

Mary Anne left a comment earlier this evening, in which she asked some questions about the units of study:

“Can you talk a little about your experience with Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study? I am using it for the first time and, although I have lots of experience teaching writing, I would love to hear your feedback/tips about using it.”

I have a few pieces of advice for using the Units of Study, which I’ve used, and adapted, since they came out in May 2006.

First, you can read and re-read the units, but you have to make them your own. And I don’t just mean changing the demonstrations. It helps to take the language and massage it so that you’re using your own words when you teach the lessons to your students. When you deliver any lesson, it has to sound like you. Therefore, just use the books as a guide to help you along.

Second, make use of the homework on the CD-Rom. This will help your students continue the work they did in Workshop at home. However, the homework assignments should be adapted for both language and examples so that it fits the needs of your students.

Third, use the charts on the CD-Rom as anchor charts in your classroom. You might want to turn them into mini-charts (i.e., for the kids to glue into their notebooks) so that they don’t spend time copying them over by hand.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to use other resources. Sometimes the scope and sequence of one of the books isn’t working for your class. (This often happens to me when I get to the revision and editing lessons.) Consult other books on the teaching of writing that you love and trust. (One of my personal favorites is The Revision Toolbox by Georgia Heard.)

Finally, you need to do the same writing that you’re asking your students to do. Follow the same process as the books lay out for you. If you do, you can tailor your teaching since you’ll be doing the same work your kids are doing. If you struggle when doing the writing, after you read the minilesson, then you can alter your lesson so that your students won’t struggle in the same way (you did).