There are a few more school weeks left before summer vacation. If you use the TCRWP Units of Study kits, you’ve probably finished all four of them. So what will you teach in the final weeks of the school year?
Some of the teachers I’ve worked with this year have found the If… Then… Curriculum book (that comes with the Units of Study books) overwhelming. Here are some tips to help make the If… Then… Curriculum book feel like the valuable resource it is.
If you have the writing units of study published in 2013, most of the work is done for you. You still have to customize the minilessons, but there’s a lot of information there that you can work with. (For help on how to plan a minilesson from scratch, click here to read a comprehensive post written by Beth Moore.) However, the If… Then… Curriculum book is different. You have to go through it to figure out exactly what you’re going to teach. Here’s a peek at how I advised a fifth-grade teacher to make the Journalism unit of study from the Grade 5 If… Then… Curriculum work for her.
- Read through the additional unit (in this case, the Journalism unit) without a pen in-hand.
- Re-read the summary of the bends in the road. In the margins, jot down the skills you foresee yourself teaching students in this unit of study.
Study each bend carefully. There are subheadings for the majority of bends in the unit. Sometimes the subheadings might help you plan what to do during one writing workshop session (e.g., “Channel students to write about the incident,” on pages 70-71 of the 5th grade If… Then… Curriculum book is something that will happen in one workshop session.) Other times the subheadings are laden with teaching points, which means there are multiple things you might teach students to help them obtain a skill (e.g., generate news stories).
- Jot notes in the margins after you read each paragraph. Craft teaching points based on what you’ve read.
- Rinse and repeat. Go through this process with each bend in the road for the unit of study. By the end of the additional unit, you should have lots of notes in the margins.
- Create a list of teaching points for the unit of study once you flesh-out the teaching points from each of the bends in the road. Revise the teaching points you jotted in the margins of your book so they are strategies you will teach your students to master the skills you wish to teach them in the unit. Make sure you’re teaching your students things that will help them as writers (not just for use on one piece of writing).
- Be sure the teaching point names the strategy and explains how to do it. Don’t keep what you’re teaching students a secret. It’s okay for your teaching point to be two – three sentences long.
- Think about what kind of minilesson you want to teach (i.e., demonstration, explanation with example, guided practice, or inquiry) for each teaching point you craft.
- Click here for more information about the different types of minilessons.
- Write your minilessons. Do the same kind of writing you’re asking your students to do as you’re crafting your minilessons. This will help you anticipate problems as you draft your minilessons.
- Remember to refer back to the If… Then… book. There are lots of tips and ideas you can infuse into your minilessons.
- Build in buffer days to your unit of study. (These are essentially one to three days where you don’t plan for a teaching point. This will allow you to be responsive to your students needs by reteaching something or adding-in a teaching point that will advance the majority of your students as writers.)
- If you’re using the demonstration format, you can use this planning template.
- Find news stories you hope your students’ articles will resemble. If you can’t find exactly what you want, write your own. Having lots of articles on-hand, on varying levels, will help you use the right mentor texts for your minilessons, conferences, and small group lessons.
- Think about how you’ll celebrate your students’ writing at the end of the unit.
- Begin teaching the lessons!
Some additional resources:
- Check out Annemarie Johnson’s blog for help on breaking skills into strategies.
- Click here for some quick tips on writing your own teaching points.
- Thinking about launching independent writing projects instead of doing one of the units from the If… Then… book? Here are some past blog posts we’ve written about independent writing projects.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).