Skip to content

Unit of Study Phases

In preparing to talk with teachers about planning a unit of study, I created this chart to help show how I encourage students to individualize the writing process instead of forcing a lockstep approach to the writing process throughout a unit of study. Here are a couple of slides from my presentation:

How I think through planning a unit of study.

Many units of study I plan (especially those that are genre studies) are usually around 20 days. You can see the timeline along the bottom of the image. Now this isn’t a hard and fast, set in stone, no deviation time schedule. I use the term around very loosely. It’s about following the needs of the writers in our classrooms. Usually for younger writers we publish twice during the unit of study.

Here’s a slide where I attempt to explain (very briefly) what I mean by each of the phases in a unit of study.

An attempt to explain each of the phases of a unit of study.

I like the cyclical nature of collecting and drafting, collecting and drafting, collecting and drafting. So often young writers write a draft and say, “I’m done.” You know, I’ve come to believe sometimes they are. We don’t revise, edit, and publish everything we write. We select the drafts which are worthy of the time, energy, and hard work needed to get our work ready to go public. In order for kids to learn to write well, they need to draft more than they revise. They need to draft way more than they publish.  At some point, though, we select the work that is worth our time and we spend time polishing it — revising, editing, and then going public.

At the end of the unit I allow a few days for assessment. It is during this time that students engage in self-reflection, as well as a writing prompt. I think it is critical for each unit of study to see what students can do over time with plenty of support and scaffolding, as well as what they can do on demand in a limited environment…limiting choice, genre, and/or audience, as well as time. This helps us understand our writers more completely.

Does this make sense? I’d love to hear your thoughts as this is the first I’ve attempted to put my thinking about planning a unit of study in my own terms.

Of course it is all followed up with a writing celebration…but that is a post for another day. 🙂


units of study

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

10 thoughts on “Unit of Study Phases Leave a comment

  1. I liked the fact that you incorporated a “write on demand” as part of the assessment. I call it a “turn around and do” piece – the idea being that we’ve worked on the process together, now let’s see what you can do on your own. This is where I can see the work that still needs to be done along with this writer – it actually helps to assess in a much more authentic way than only viewing that final writing processed piece.


  2. I love the collect and draft, collect and draft process. This makes total sense. I also love that you have included a balance of choice writing and writing on demand. They both feel different and unfortunately, it is the on demand writing that will probably be used to evaluate student achievement as well as teacher effectiveness. I also look forward to more of your thinking about celebrations. 🙂


  3. This makes perfect sense to me. I think it will help teachers who struggle with having kids at different stages at different times. Time for assessment (both self assessment by the kids and that done by the teacher are so important) as well as the writing celebration! I’m getting ready for our first celebration on Friday and I can’t wait! Thanks for sharing your slides.


  4. I love the overlap. Students are writing in different stages, and I think students often forget that writing is more than a draft. We live in a fast paced world. If kids think about it, video games kind of follow the writing process. They begin by planning to go one way with an adventure but through obstacles, they have to revise and restart their journey. I really never thought about it that way until seeing your visual. The overlap is key. MHG


%d bloggers like this: