New Grade Level…New LC Units of Study

I am moving to fifth grade after three years in third and I couldn’t be more excited!  However, it does require some extra preparation this summer.  It’s nothing that I haven’t done already:  My district adopted LC Units of Study for Writing the summer before my first year as a classroom teacher and I spent that summer reading the third grade units.

Since I know I’m not the only one needing to prepare for a new grade level, I thought I would share how I approach the Units of Study for a new grade level.

1.  I read each Unit of Study book, taking notes on each session.

Yes, I know Lucy is wordy and goes on and on.  The very first unit I read, I read EVERYTHING, which I would recommend if you have never used Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 10.35.31 PM.pngthem before.  However, after that it isn’t really necessary to read each word on each page.  Within each session, the main points are in bold, it isn’t necessary to read all of the dialogue/text after that unless you don’t understand what is being said.

When I take notes, I try not to put my own thoughts or take out what I know won’t work.  I try my best to keep it as it is.  These notes come in so useful because I can copy, paste, and adjust into my plans during the school year.  This has really been a time saver in the long run.  Plus, I am a big picture person and I am more effective if I know what is coming.

2.  I read in the genre, looking for mentor texts appropriate for the grade level.

The units name some mentor texts, but there are so many more out there.  I read as much as I can, after all I need to be ready to write with the kids!

A few additional thoughts…download

  • During the year, as I am teaching a unit, I read the dialogue that LC includes for each session before I teach it.
  • I put in a lot of my own lessons into the LC units, more each year as I get to know the kids, standards, and units better.
  • I’m finding that the fifth grade writing units, especially the Memoir one I am working through now, is more “fluffy” than the third grade ones.  Anyone else?
  • Don’t be scared of LC or the Units of Study!
  • My dog snores…

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MAGIC

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I was sitting on the floor next to some of my third graders during writing workshop, acting as scribe for one of them.  There were whispers from students, two other teachers conferring with our writers.  Then I heard a voice.  “Ms. Bless, can I share my fairy tale?”

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This is a magical moment coming from a third grade student in the process of drafting.  He wanted to share his work in progress with the class after getting some ideas from them during the mini-lesson about magic.

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The credit for this magical moment goes to Lucy Calkins Units of Study, our fabulous ELL teacher (who taught the mini-lesson), and the amazing third grade writers of 3AB.  Here is how it came to be…

We (my co-teacher and I)  are lucky enough to have our ELL teacher/Bilingual Interventionist push in for writing workshop.  We rotate who teaches the mini-lesson between the three of us.  Friday it was her turn.  The lesson:  Once Upon a Time – Session 17.

After the explicit teaching, she used a student example that already included magic.   Then, she asked for a volunteer who needed help with ideas for adding magic to his/her draft.

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He ended up using a combination of the ideas and shared this fairy tale draft with the class:

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MAGIC!

Fairy Tale Adaptaions in Progress

We are in the first bend of Lucy Calkin’s Once Upon a Time Fairy Tale unit.  Students are rehearsing and drafting their adaptations of either Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood.  Boy are they creative!

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One student asked for help and this is how our conversation went…

“I’m not sure what to write next,”  she told me.

“Tell me about your adaptation so far.”

“Well, I’m adapting Red Riding Hood.  Red Riding Hood has a sister, Nancy.  And Nancy is dating Bill, but she is secretly in love with Juan.  And then Little Red Riding Hood finds out that Nancy is cheating on Bill with Juan and she slaps Juan. And that’s where I stopped yesterday.”  There were more details in here and I may have mixed up some of the events, but I don’t have her notebook with me to reference.

“O.K….Do you know how it is going to end?”  I ask, trying not to laugh too much.

“Yes.  Bill is going to kill Nancy.”

At this point I feel that it is very important for you to know that this student is one of the sweetest, most empathetic girls in the world.  She doesn’t understand why everyone isn’t nice to everyone else.  She often brings up the cruelty she sees on the news from presidential candidates.  She can not fathom how people can possible be racist.  She is THE LAST student that I would ever expect to write this ending…Ok…here’s how the rest of the conversation went…

Pause.  “Um…Where does that happen?”

“At a bridge.”  She replies, without needing to think.

“Alright..How does that happen?”  I ask, more shocked at each response.

“Bill invites Nancy on a date at the bridge, but then he drowns her.”

At this point you may be thinking that I should have put a stop to this very violent conversation and fairy tale adaptation, but I needed to know where it was going.   

“Why does he kill her?”

“Because he found out that she was cheating on him with Juan. But, he didn’t tell anyone.  He just planned the fake date and murder.”

And then I had a thought, “X…do you watch Telenovelas?”

“Yes.  Yes I do.”  She replied.