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Writing Workshop Intermediate Grades August 30, 2008



Focus Lesson C2: Generating Ideas (sketching)



This lesson begins to teach students how writers use their notebooks and helps them begin to gather ideas. It can be taught several times with different topics, books, authors, etc. so students have many opportunities to consider stories they may choose to tell (or write…soon).


Telling stories and listening to stories spoken and read aloud prepare students
to read and write narratives later in school. The standards expect students
to develop more and more detailed oral narratives—and more like written stories as they grow older.



  • book by Patricia Polacco (I would use the same one as yesterday so that you have already read it and don’t need to use that time for reading aloud)
  • Teacher and student writer’s notebooks
  • “Ideas to Write About” list

Other books you could  use: When I Was Young in the Mountainsby Cynthia Rylant, A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams


Intended Learning Statement

“As we continue with our Writer’s Workshop, we got ready to write yesterday by listening to a story of one of our favorite authors, listening to some of my stories, and working together as we listen and share our own stories. Today I am going to teach you another strategy for coming up with ideas to write about.


Whole Group Instruction

  • Modeling: Hold up yesterday’s picture book, think aloud by saying something, such as “Wow, Patricia Polacco’s story really helped me have a picture of where the story took place. Of course her wonderful illustrations painted the picture for me, but I could have closed my eyes and been able to imagine where the story took place…” then relate an interesting personal story about a place from your life where many of your personal stories could have taken place for students. As you talk through your place, sketch it on chart paper for students to see (mine was my grandparent’s house, yard, and neighborhood). Yours could have been your bedroom, your backyard as a child, the playground at your elementary, etc.  Share that there are many places you could have listed to pick from, but for today you selected the one that came to mind first. Explain how the place could be used to think of many different ideas for stories. Remember, you are not expected to be an artist-this is a sketch! Don’t be self-conscious.
    Be sure to think about your comments ahead of time.


  • Active Involvement: “Close your eyes and think about a place that  is important to you..” Allow actual “think” time. “Now turn to your partner and share your place.” Call on one or two students to orally share their stories and extend these stories with open-ended questions, such as “That’s interesting; tell me more about…”


Work Period

Say, “Today, I shared a sketch of a place that was important to me ________________  and we shared our own stories. While sharing, I hope you found at least one or several ideas about a place that is  important to  you that you might write about in the future. Before the end of our workshop time today, let’s sketch our place.”  Then students complete the sketch in their writer’s notebooks to make a picture. Sketching is added to the chart of “Ideas to Write About” list (see below). Allow students time to work on their first idea/story from yesterday or if they are finished start a story based on today’s sketch. Don’t allow anyone to say they are finished (CRITICAL). Encourage them to go back to yesterday’s list of people and write another story about that person or another story based on the sketch they drew.


During the work period, confer with several students (probably still in table groups). Also this might be a good day to teach them/reinforce the signal that you are going to use to get their attention if you need it during their writing work time.


Share Time


Ideas to Write About

·         Think of a person who matters to you, the list small moments you remember with him or her. Choose one to write the story that goes with it.

·         Sketch a place that is important to you and write one of the stories that took place there.







·         Example: grandparent’s house/yard sketch


 Choose students to share some of their sketches, based on the writing conferences that took place during the work period (these are probably table group conferences still at this point in the year) . After sharing, ask, “What is something you learned as writers today?” Reinforce that the chart will be there for them to look at so there is no reason to not have something to write about during work time.


Don’t forget that these are personal narratives. If a child starts going down the imaginary place/person path, try to redirect and explain that these are TRUE stories.










Intermediate Writing Workshop with read alouds

Earlier in this blog I put up a schedule of implementing the first Unit of Study for the intermediate aged classroom. I added a couple new lessons that I felt were missing from the original plan and thought I would share them here as well.

Focus Lesson C2: Generating More Stories



This lesson uses a book to wake up stories in students’ minds. It can be taught several times with different books and authors so students have many opportunities to consider stories they may choose to write about.


A common lament heard from students is “I have nothing to write about.”
This lesson generates excitement for writing by getting students to orally tell
their own stories, propelled by the storytelling of favorite authors and their teacher. It builds structure for the notion that “writing floats on a sea of talk.”



When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

Chart, “Ideas to Write About”

Other books to use: The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola, Ticky, Tacky Dollby Cynthia Rylant, many Patricia Polacco books


Intended Learning Statement

“As writers, we have been experiencing where authors get their ideas. Today we’ll analyze how Cynthia Rylant (or another author of your choice) gets her writing ideas.”


Whole Group Instruction

  • Modeling: Read aloud from the book When I Was Young in the Mountains  by Cynthia Rylant. Say, “Wow, this book makes me think of several stories I might tell. I could tell you about the time when my grandma made a chocolate cake that I called “The Soggy Chocolate Cake”-I loved that cake! and how I always wanted to eat at her house because she made spaghetti out of a can. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out she didn’t know how to cook.Or, I could tell you about the time I was catching crawdads with my neighbor  when one of my friends lost their shoe in the mud (we were convinced it was quicksand!).Then share a special personal story.


  • Active Involvement: Say, “Now I’d like you to talk with your partner about a story—or stories—this story helped you think about.”
    After students talk with their partners, they share an idea their partner came up with. Allow several pairs to share their responses.

“Be sure to write any new ideas down in your writer’s notebook during the work period.”


Work Period

Students add a few ideas to a brainstorm list to write about in the future. During the work period, confer with students by asking, “After hearing When I Was Young in the Mountains, what new ideas did you come up with to write about?” “Why would you like to write about that idea?” and/or “I’d love to hear more about why it’s special to you.”


Share Time

Choose students to share some of their ideas based on the writing conferences that took place during the work period. Ask, “What is something Cynthia Rylant can teach us as writers about getting ideas?” and/or “Where else might you get ideas for your writing now?”
































Starting the Writing Workshop-Intermediate Grades August 18, 2008

Filed under: Calkins,school,units of study,writing — bestbookihavenotread @ 12:07 pm
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This is a Unit Plan I helped create to facilitate the use of Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study program that many teachers found too overwhelming. (Sorry Lucy, I think you are fabulous!)


Focus for the Week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Week 1

Focus Lesson A: Coming to the Meeting Area    



Focus Lesson B: Listening and Responding to Each Other    



Focus Lesson C: Generating Ideas About a Person-select one person from list and brainstorm small moments with that person.Group Share-people and small moments Group Shares ~5 minutes (not everyone every day)  


Focus Lesson D: Seed Story lesson (Calkins Units of Study p. 27) Watermelon vs. Seed graphic
Group Share-seed stories   
Focus Lesson E1:
Teach building stories step-by-step (Calkins Units of Study p. 56) as a pre-write for narrative
templateFocus Lesson E2: Personalizing Our Writers’ Notebooks
(becomes homework)

Group Share- stories 

Week 2

*Procedural Mini-Lesson: Setting Up Pages in Notebooks  

Focus Lesson F: The Importance of Keeping a Writer’s Notebook

Group Share-writer’s notebook covers


*Procedural Mini-Lesson: Settling Down to a Quiet Work Period, Routines Regarding No Interruptions, etc.  

Focus Lesson G: Including True and Exact Details (teacher uses own personal story or mentor text for grade level)

Group Share- favorite new detail


*Procedural Mini-Lesson: Continue Focus on Necessary Routines to Sustain Workshop

Focus Lesson H1: Use template to write story

Assessment #1-assess story for seed idea, details, and sequencing (rubric to follow)

Group Share- stories 




*Procedural Mini-Lesson: Responding Meaningfully to Your Partner (asking focused questions, etc.)  


Focus Lesson I: Qualities of Leads taught with mentor texts

Group Share- stories

Homework-leads worksheet  

*Procedural Mini-Lesson: Continue Focus on Necessary Routines to Sustain WorkshopFocus Lesson J: Writing leads-students write three different leads for their story. Group Share-favorite leads  

Assessment #2-completition of writing leads

Group Share- favorite lead 


Week 3

*Procedural Lessons as needed for individual classroom.Focus Lesson K: Using quotations (mid-workshop teaching point p.    




Focus Lesson L: Qualities of Endings taught with mentor texts (Calkins p. 93) Group Share-   

Homework-endings worksheet



Focus Lesson M: Writing endings-students write three different leads for their story.Group Share-favorite ending Homework-  


Lesson N: Conventions mini-lesson as neededGroup Share-favorite ending Homework-as needed if progress is not far enough  


Focus Lesson O: Publish story with revised lead and ending.Group Share-favorite ending Homework-as needed   


Week 4

Publishing Party Assessment #3-assess final piece for seed idea, specific details, lead, ending, and general mechanics (rubric to follow)

At this point, fifth grade moves to Raising the Quality of Narrative Writing and fourth grade works with Timeline Strategy



* Suggested topics for procedural mini-lessons

Resource: Lucy Calkins-Units of Study for Teaching Writing Grades 3-5


Yahoo has a user group for teachers that use Units of Study