classroom · independent reading projects · independent writing · independent writing projects · management · portfolio · preparation · publishing · writers · writing · writing folder · writing workshop · writing workshop routines

Work Smarter: How To Wrap Up A Unit of Study


This week my colleagues and I are writing posts that we hope will make your life a little easier. We’re sharing some ways to work smarter, not harder.

After a unit of study, there’s a lot to do before you can say, “That’s a wrap.” Here’s a potential end-of-the unit to-do list:

  1. Have a celebration or publishing party, of course!
  2. Display kids’ published pieces somewhere meaningful.
  3. Clean out student writing folders so they can start fresh for the next unit (but wait! See below before you do this!)
  4. Prepare paper choices for the new unit.
  5. Administer a post-unit on-demand writing assessment.
  6. Score those post-unit on-demands!
  7. Administer a pre-unit on-demand writing assessment.
  8. Score those!

Whew! That’s a lot. It will vary, of course, from grade to grade and from school to school. Plus, I probably forgot a few things.

Let’s break this into manageable pieces, so you can work smarter, not harder at the end of a unit of study.


  1. When young kids publish their work, remember that the work they do is not the same as adults who publish. Rather than you taking home a giant stack of their independent writing and fixing it up for them, it’s probably better to teach your kids to do their own editing and publishing as best they can. It’s not really their own work anymore if you mark it all up for them, is it? See this older post for more ideas on publishing with kids.
  2. Start small with your writing celebrations. If you invite families and create an over-the-top experience early in the year, your students will grow to expect this for all your end-of-the-unit celebrations. The point of a writing celebration is to reflect on and celebrate the work kids have done in a meaningful way. Doing something simple, but meaningful, is wise at the start of the year. See this post  for ideas on this.


  1. It’s a smart idea to start fresh for the next unit. But consider this time-saving and very smart idea I’m stealing from some incredibly smart teachers I know. Don’t just clean out the old folder. Give kids a nice new folder for the next unit.
  2. Save the old folder with samples of writing in it in a safe place. A file cabinet or storage container like this works perfectly. Usually, you can save just a few examples of writing and other artifacts from each unit to create a yearlong collection of writing, and send the rest home.
  3. BUT WAIT! Make sure to peek ahead at future units–across the grades, an occasional unit will call on you to give kids their old writing to sort into piles, or to reread for various reasons. Kindergarten teachers, for example, you will launch Writing for Readers by asking kids to sort through all their writing from Launching–so don’t send it all home right away!
  4. It’s also wise to craft a letter to parents to help them understand what they are looking at. It’s probably not a bad idea to send some straight-up spelling or phonics work along with the independent writing, just to make it clear that yes of course we teach spelling too!
A fresh new folder for each unit, ready to go.


  1. Tip #1: Do not wait until the morning that you actually need the paper. For obvious reasons.
  2. Tip #2: Make a TON of the paper. Don’t just make a few measly days’ worth. Make the booklets how you want them, and run off enough for the unit. Use your building’s high volume copier if such a thing exists. Put it this way: if you have 25 kids, and they each use 2-3 booklets a week, that’s about 60 booklets a week x 4 weeks, so you need at LEAST 240 booklets. If you have any left over at the end of the unit, then you can use them in the next unit. There is nothing more annoying than running out of paper, plus it takes less time overall if you just do it all at once. Sometimes one very kind teacher will offer to do it for the entire team, saving everybody the extra trips.
  3. Tip #3: Don’t forget that idea above about giving kids a fresh new folder to start the next unit!
  4. Tip #4: If you want to get REALLY smart. Put a photocopy of last year’s published piece in the new folder, so that when kids open up their folder on the first day of the new unit, they have a tangible reminder of all that they learned last year.


Okay, so you’ve committed to giving a second narrative on-demand at the end of your narrative unit, but information writing is coming and you really want to give an informational on-demand before you dive into it. What do you do? Give two on-demands back-to-back? Hold up. There might be a smarter way…

  1. First of all, try to plan to do the post-assessment for the unit you’ve just finished on a Friday, before a weekend. Then you’ll have all weekend to read those pieces.
  2. Also, plan to leave a few days in between your units. The following Mon, Tues, Weds of writing workshop can be an “open cycle” where your kids finally have a chance to write ANYTHING they want. In the meantime, this also gives you a few more days to finish scoring the post-assessments.
  3. If you have a few days in between units, then you can give your pre-assessment on-demand anytime during those few days. Remember to think about how many days you want to give yourself to score those. I like giving it on a Thursday or Friday, at the end of the open-cycle. Then I’ll have a few days to score over the weekend before the new unit begins.


THURSDAY: Small Moments Unit Publishing Party

FRIDAY: Give Narrative On-Demand (Post-Assessment)


MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY: Open Cycle/Independent Writing: Kids get to write anything they want!

FRIDAY: Give Informational Writing On-Demand (Pre-Assessment)

SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Score (Bonus if it happens to be a long weekend!)

MONDAY: Launch Informational Writing Unit

Now that’s a wrap!

P.S. For even more ideas on ways to work smarter, not harder, don’t forget to join us Monday at 8:30pm EST for our Twitter chat!

12 thoughts on “Work Smarter: How To Wrap Up A Unit of Study

  1. So much of my students’ published work is on our blog, so their really isn’ t a bunch of published work to go home. Their drafts and on demand have always lived in that safe keeping place folder after the unit is over. The units of study folders you use to go home, give me an idea of using a folder sized piece of construction paper to wrap the unit that we file in the “safe keeping file.” Sort of a folder within a folder. I have always had them put everything in one writing file. And of course it gets all mixed up when the next unit comes in! That small thing could make a difference in organization and their understanding of the units’ genre.

    And yes, taking a break between units is essential for my sanity. Love your schedule.

    Thank you Beth! Looking forward to the twitter chat!


  2. Love the idea of using a folder for each genre! I have also encouraged the teachers I work with to have a student selected piece as part of their writing portfolios. This can be part of the final round of conferences in the unit. Here’s where it gets REAL cool…have students take out their seed notebook and write a short entry on why they chose that particular piece of writing to be placed in their portfolio! This is a great opportunity for students to self assess and reflect as writers!


  3. I too love the idea that students have the week between units to write in whatever genre they want! Less confusion and more writing! Brilliant!


  4. Do you give and on-demand for a narrative, informational, and opinion during the first 10 days of school or just before each unit? Or do you do the beginning of the year and before each unit?


  5. This came at the perfect time. This is my first year using the new units and it can be a hit overwhelming, but I am really enjoying the whole process. I just “finished” my personal narrative unit and am transitioning to informational writing next week. I am quite proud that I could pretty much read your post and nod my head in agreement…did that, did this, doing that this week, etc….Thank you for guiding me along with using the units successfully!


  6. So many wonderful tips here, Beth. I think new folders is such a nice way to “think fresh” at the start of a new unit, and I have to confess that I love “open cycle” time. It allows me to start reading their pieces right away, and it gives my kids a sense of freedom and play in their writing, something they need after focusing on a unit of study.


  7. I LOVE the idea of putting a photocopy of last year’s work in kids’ folders – brilliant! What a great way to remind kids to bring forward all they know, and to remind them that the work they do in one year carries over into the next.


  8. Kate Roberts shared a fabulous pre-unit on-demand strategy at our Homegrown Institute in August. She suggested giving the next unit’s on-demand at least 2 weeks prior to the beginning of the unit. This way, you’ll have time to assess the work and use that information to plan the unit. This also alleviates the scenario of back-to-back on-demands.


Comments are closed.