Impossible that two days have literally buzzed past in the lightning round of learning. Time . . . that enemy of teachers everywhere.
What have I learned?
The learning curve is high.
There is always more to learn.
My blog posts this summer are going to be a bit different than previous years. “Different how?” you might ask. “Well, more of a focus on application and less focus on ‘reporting’!”
I am completely blown away by the new “Up the Ladder” units available from Heinemann that look like this because I haven’t just read them or watched the videos. I’ve actually “mucked around” with them and tried out some new work as well as experienced the sequence in the Information book in Shana Frazin’s session.
For the record, there is one set of 3 books available that could be used for students in grades 3-8. (And yes, the cover says 3-6 so keep reading please!) In my five years of attendance at #TCRWP, I have had the great privilege of learning from six of the seven listed authors.
(Any errors in this post will be re-posted in another color with accompanying tweets or highly visible corrections. Unfortunately it would be the fault of the operator of this Chromebook, NOT the technology itself.)
August Writing Institute attendees received a copy of the Information “Up the Ladder” spiral bound book. All participants have had an opportunity to review the hard copy.
What follows is an opportunity for you to learn more about WHY these units were written, the responses to the “Aha’s” that have been built into these units. the special features that are included, and how you might consider using these units.
Why did the folks at Teachers College write these units?
- To give students who had never had writing workshop an opportunity to “grow into” this work. For example, fifth graders new to writing workshop were struggling with writing an argument-based essay when they had not written essays before.
- To support teachers who have not done writing workshop before. Using the unit in professional development would provide common language for teachers unfamiliar with writing workshop and the Units of Study in Writing. A new to the district third grade teacher could learn a bit about paper choices and “Small Moments” from the learning opportunities in primary grades.
- So students who are struggling writers who have had difficulty accessing writing can accelerate their writing. This can include English Learners or students with IEPs when provided with explicit instruction.
What has been built into these units?
Staff Developer and one of the authors, Alicia Luick shared these “Ahas” in a closing workshop on Monday, Day 1, of the August 2017 Writing Institute.
The “Up the Ladder” units provide additional support because:
- The writing process matters.
- Organization must be specifically “taught” (and no, completing a graphic organizer is NOT teaching! – my emphasis)
- Teaching into Revision and Student Set Goals is critical.
- Writing volume matters. The use of writing booklets pumped up the volume exponentially for students in grades 3-8!
What are some special features that a teacher will find in the “Up the Ladder” Units?
- In each session “Teacher Goals and then Student Goals” are side-by-side.
- QR Code with video models exist for each session. An author models the lesson (minus students) in 6 -10 minutes.
- Language is clear, concise and easy to follow with a 6 page maximum length.
- The end of every unit has ENL’s – English Language Learner suggestions
- (and added by this author – The post its for the charts are included.)
How might teachers use this new resource? Some Possibilities Include . . .
There are several options. For a district that is new to the Writing Units of Study for grades 3-8, teachers may decide to start the year with all three “Up the Ladder” units before cycling back to grade level units.
Another option might be for a new third grade teacher (for example), to teach the “Up the Ladder” Narrative and then the grade three narrative. The instructional cycle might continue with “Up the Ladder” Information and then grade 3 information and “Up the Ladder” Opinion and then grade 3 Opinion.
A third option might be more of a “Choose Your Own Adventure”. A teacher might decide to use the data from the class “pre-on-demands” to determine WHICH (if any) units or bends to teach based on information gathered directly from the students at the beginning of the year.
Are there other possibilities?
However, a few words of caution.
“Danger, Will Robinson!”
Go back and reread the section about WHY Teachers College (AKA Lucy and Colleagues) wrote these units.
High Expectations lead to High Results.
Students don’t hit targets that they have never seen. Simply slowing down the writing instruction so that all students are progressing at a “slower pace” because the units are “too hard” in a district that has been using the Writing Units of Study for multiple years is NOT a viable goal nor the purpose of this resource. Providing additional support for students or teachers who need INSTRUCTION or PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT is appropriate.
This week there is a great series at Two Writing Teachers about “Writing Workshop Fundamentals“. Check out your beliefs and knowledge there!
Thank you #TCRWP, Shana, and Alicia! So helpful for students and teachers!