Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Poetry UOS grade 4 Writing Lesson 1 March 29, 2010

Filed under: Poetry,units of study,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:44 pm
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Writing Lesson 1: Using Notebook Entries to Inspire Poems


Overheads and/or student copies of “Figure 10-8A. Belinda’s notebook entry” and “Figure 10-8B. Belinda’s first draft (The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing by Davis & Hill)

Intended Learning

• Students use entries in their writing notebooks as seeds for writing poems, so they can expand on topics interesting to them or consider them in new ways.

Standards (Benchmarks)

  • Write responses to literature that summarize main ideas and significant details and support interpretations with references to the text.
  • Use full range of strategies to comprehend a variety of texts, such as nonfiction, poems, and stories.
  • Generate writing ideas through discussions with others and from printed materials.
  • Plan, draft, revise, and edit writing.
  • Produce informal writings (e.g., messages, journals, notes, and poems) for various purposes.

Big Ideas

• Use techniques to craft poetry, including line breaks, literary language, and imagery.

• Select language carefully to create images, mood, and impressions.

• Develop awareness of sounds of words and rhythm of phrases.



Tell students they can use entries from their writing notebooks to write poems. Today they create poetry from previous entries.


Tell students rereading previously written notebook entries can provide inspiration for writing poems. Sometimes a topic, a line, or a description can give them ideas for writing poems.

Show students “Figure 10-8A. Belinda’s notebook entry,” page 162. Read the entry to students. Show them “Figure 10-8B. Belinda’s first draft,” page 162. Read the poem aloud.

Facilitate a discussion with students about how Belinda used her notebook entry to inspire a poem. Point out words or phrases she lifted from her notebook entry and included in the poem as well as how she rephrased ideas and feelings.

Active Engagement

Ask students to work with partners to look through their notebooks to find entries they could use to inspire poems. Students might want to circle words or phrases they might use in their poems.


Have students continue the work they started with their partners. After searching through entries, students should try to write poems inspired by these entries. Encourage students to experiment with writing poetry just for the fun of it.

Independent and Small Group Time

• Students write poetry independently in their writing notebooks.

• Confers individually or with small groups.


• Two or three students share their poems or pieces of poems and tell why they chose these entries as inspiration


At the end of this unit, students revise and edit three to five poems to publish in take-home books.


Welcome Spring March 20, 2010

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you know I’ve been silent for a while. Thanks to those who didn’t give up, but kept coming back to see if I was talking yet.

I moved in mid-January (which has been wonderful), had four ‘extra’ snow days to unpack, but the rest has been hard.It’s not even been “my” hardness that has been hard, but our small town has been suffering through immense sadness.

I’ve spent many days plotting a trip to TCRWP for their March Reunion weekend. I figured if a shot of Jerry Spinelli, Lucy Calkins, Katherine Bomer, Alfred Tatum, and Jim Trelease mixed with the TC energy couldn’t fix my funk, I might need to seek professional help! Unfortunately (or fortunately from my husband’s point of view), I could not find anyone who thought NYC was ‘just a road trip’ from Columbus.

If I was there I’d be getting ready to walk into Riverside Church to hear Jerry Spinelli’s ‘Failure, Fried Chicken, Fiction’ keynote. I would then be trying to decide if I was going to hear Mary Enrenworth’s talk on “Reading Historical Fiction: The Project’s Latest Thinking on the Intersection Between Deep Comprehension, Interpretation, and Book Clubs” or Jen Serravallo’s “Reading Conferring and Small Group Work in a Classroom of Accountability”. I would then skip off to see Jerry Maraia, who was my TC staff developer last summer, talk, “My Students Just Retell! Getting Readers to Think Deeply About Their Books by Supporting Inference and Synthesis”. After lunch I would have been hard pressed to pick between Tiffany Nealy’s “Unit of Study on Mystery Book Clubs”, “The Intersection of RtI and Reading Workshop” (not because it makes my heart go pitty-pat, but because I have to think, talk, and advocate about the topic endlessly, or “Grammar Instruction on the Go! Creating Demonstrations Sketchbooks to Support Small Group Instruction in Writing”. (I will admit that I just flipped over to Expedia to see if a magical plane ticket for cheap had just appeared. I know I am nutty, but I’m a good nut). I will now make myself stop looking at the Workshop Schedule.

I haven’t been able to make myself read and finish a book. I’ve started several, but after a chapter I’ve put them down. Today, I vow that I will pick one up and finish it. It’s not good for me not to read.

Here’s the positive I’m going to focus on-

  • It’s the first day of Spring!
  • My kids and hubby are healthy and happy!
  • Not only am I going to attend a week of the July Summer Reading Institute, but I will have a teacher from the elementary school there as well! The August Reading Institute has another elementary teacher and two intermediate teachers! We have two on wait list for July! This is huge for us!
  • I have a huge TBR pile!
  • Four days until spring break!
  • I love walking two blocks to get a coffee, an ice cream cone, or a drink!

It’s That Time of Year February 20, 2010

It’s the time of year when teachers need to start planning their professional development for the summer. Applications for the Reading and Writing Institutes at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project are now open! I am drooling! I don’t know if the fates will line up for me to travel to New York for the “best professional development” ever, but I can dream! I would really like to attend an advanced section of the Reading Institute, especially with the highly anticipated, upcoming release of the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3-5 (At least highly anticipated by me-you can now pre-order it on Heinemann but it doesn’t list the ship date. Since she was still finishing the writing when I saw Lucy Calkins in Indianapolis in the end of January, the date is probably a little up in the air.)

If you can figure out a way to get yourself to New York for five days this summer, or have a nice friend who will let you crash, it will be the best pd experience you can have  and you’ll be wishing you did it for yourself years ago.


Lucy Calkins…here I come! January 24, 2010

Filed under: Calkins — bestbookihavenotread @ 2:47 pm
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Headed off to hear all about the new Units of Study Across the Year for Upper Grade Reading. Will blog about all the new and exciting things coming from Lucy Calkins and Heinemann.


Units of Study Across the Year in Upper Grade Reading, Grades 3-5 November 18, 2009

“Years from today, if you were to gather close around you the children you teach now and ask them about their reading lives, would they name your teaching of reading as a turning point? Would you like it to be? Does your teaching of reading have the potential to change not only your students’ lives but also your own life? It could, if you let your teaching be a course for you, and not just for your kids. Your life as a teacher, as a reader, and as a person, could be changed in big and important ways, if you let it.” —Lucy Calkins

I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Units of Study for Teaching Reading: A Workshop Curriculum (Grades 3-5) by Lucy Calkins and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Originally the predicted release date was Winter 2010. Now it’s Spring 2010. I want it now!

I’m trying to decide if the Heinemann one-day workshop by Lucy Calkins on UOS in Upper Grade Reading will be beneficial to attend in January even though I won’t be able to have my hands on those books. Will it be beneficial to hear Lucy Calkins explain the UOS ahead of time? OR Will it be frustrating because the books aren’t available for purchase yet?

I’ve never attended a non-beneficial Heinemann Professional Development session and certainly LOVE Lucy, so I’m leaning towards attending.

Oohhh-I did just find that at the Units of Study website, there is an audio of Lucy Calkins giving an overview of the new Teaching Reading series. If you have never seen her speak, you should listen to this. Just hearing her voice makes me want to be a better teacher!

Here’s the transcript:

Units of Study for Teaching Reading: A Series Overview

A transcript of remarks by Lucy Calkins

Founding Director, Teachers College Reading & Writing Project

Teacher’s Guide

I’m excited to be able to tell you about Units of Study in Teaching Reading and to walk you through all

that’s there for you. The first thing is a book called “A Guide to Reading Workshop”, an overview of the

reading workshop. It describes the essential methods that will inform your teaching. In this guide to the

reading workshop, there is a chapter on conferring and small group work to support readers. There’s a

chapter on assessing readers and tracking their development and using data to inform your instruction.

There’s a chapter on the methods that are important to leading effective minilessons that explains how you

can explicitly teach the skills of powerful reading. There are chapters on the skills of powerful reading that

identify what it is that proficient readers do that we need to be able to teach all kids. All of the other main

questions that you’ll ask about methods of teaching reading are there in the guidebook, including what do I

do to support struggling readers. The guidebook is deliberately lean and meant not to overwhelm you but to

enable you to get the essence of all of these methods and this content, because in fact, the unit books

themselves illustrate them. So, there’s the guide and then there are four units of study books.

Unit of Study Book 1

If you know the series The Units of Study in Teaching Writing, the Units of Study in Teaching Reading are

patterned exactly after the units in writing. The first unit is a book which really helps you to launch the

reading workshop and to teach readers those essential skills that are so foundational that you really need to

address them in September. The first book teaches readers how to read with stamina, how to monitor for

sense, how to do the kind of retelling that shows a basic level comprehension. It helps you to assess all your

readers, to match them to books, to teach them the rituals of taking books between home and school, of

keeping logs of their reading. All of that is contained in book one. But I think the challenge of book one is

that there’s a lot of really essential work that you as a teacher have to accomplish. Of course, you want to

do it in a way that inspires kids and makes them see themselves as readers. You want them to feel that they

are authoring lives as readers and that their whole community of practice this year is going to be different

than any other year. This year, reading may in fact be the best thing that they’ve ever done. This book has a

whole lot of very practical work in terms of helping you with classroom management and getting your

methods going: getting the kids assessed, getting all of them going on their trajectory as readers, and then it

also does this inspirational work.

Unit of Study Book 2

The next unit of study book is a book on character. And of course character is one of the most important

things for a reader of a fiction text to be thinking about. All of us when we read fiction are thinking about

character. So it’s a book on character, but, for you as a teacher, what you know is that you’re really

following character into higher level comprehension. That’s really what this second book is about.

Specifically, you’ll see that it helps you to teach three different main reading skills. First of all, it helps you

to teach envisionment, and as sort of an extension of envisionment, prediction. What I have come to believe

is that so often we think that some kids are born as readers. Those are the kids that are sort of nose-in-the-

book readers and you can’t take them away from books. As teachers, we sometimes think that that’s in their

DNA or something, that they just come to us that way. What this book sets out to do is to help you as a

teacher challenge that notion, that some kids are born readers and some aren’t, so that you can do

everything you possibly can to help all of your readers be nose-in-the-book readers, who read, envisioning

and on the edge of their seat predicting. The other thing that it does is take envisionment and prediction and

talk about these as skills that unroll across a trajectory. There are ways of being a novice predictor, an

intermediate predictor, and an advanced predictor. You’ll see prediction and envisionment concretely laid

out so that you have a sense of what are the real specifics that you can be teaching to move kids from where

they are to where you want to take them. So the first half of the character book begins with teaching

envisionment and prediction. And then the book makes a real turn and tackles, instead of nose-in-the-book

reading, kind of lost-in-the-story reading; it aims to help readers grow theories as they read. You could

almost say that the second half teaches how to read a little bit like a professor with literary theories that you

can support with evidence. It’s helpful to think about that as teaching readers to have a different kind of

relationship to characters. So in the first half of the book, they almost are the characters. In the second half,

it’s a more expository relationship to characters where they’re looking at characters and thinking, “What

kind of person is this? What are the character’s traits? What are my theories for the character? What is my

evidence for those theories?” All of that work is supported in the second book.

Unit of Study Book 3

The third unit is a book on navigating nonfiction. It’s hard to choose a favorite book, like it’s hard to

choose a favorite son, but at least at this moment, it may be my favorite because I think it does such

important work on the entire field of thinking about nonfiction reading. Essentially, what Kathleen and I try

to do in this book is to help readers read nonfiction. I argue that a lot of times our instruction in nonfiction

has helped readers generate some questions and shown them how to open up a nonfiction book so that they

can skim and scan it to find answers to questions. Although I think that kind of nonfiction reading is really

important, we also need to teach kids to read nonfiction; to give themselves over to a nonfiction text and to

comprehend it. To take in what a nonfiction author has said in its entirety, not just finding cool facts.

Instead of, “When the Egyptians built the pyramids they didn’t wear underwear. Isn’t that cool?”,  we want

them to comprehend the main ideas that an author’s putting forth. So the book on nonfiction forwards the

role of structure and suggests that when we’re reading nonfiction texts that are organized as expository

texts, we need to be able to use the expository structure to help us to find big ideas, to find the specifics that

support big ideas. And that when we’re reading narrative nonfiction, or nonfiction that’s written like a

story, as for example biography is, that we can actually bring all that we know from reading stories, to bear

on reading that kind of nonfiction. We can read it in a way where we synthesize the whole text by bringing

that structure to bear on it.

Unit of Study Book 4

Then the fourth book, the last of the units of study books, is a book on reading historic fiction and doing so

in book clubs. The kids will think of it as a book on reading historic fiction, and you will as well, but the

real work of this book is that it’s teaching you to help kids tackle more complex texts and to read with

higher level comprehension. In fact, the main skill work in this last book in the series is that of teaching

interpretation and critical reading. And with it, teaching kids to write about their reading. So the historic

fiction book has a lot of work to do, because it’s teaching kids to tackle more complex texts, to read with a

more literary consciousness. To take their skills and ratchet them up even higher, to specifically read,

thinking, “What is this text really about?”, to try to figure out what the theme is in a text, and to be able to

talk and write about that in ways that are powerful and compelling. All of this is done while the kids are

working not with partners, which is the social structure that supports the first three books, but instead in

book clubs, where four kids are reading shared books. And, of course, the nonfiction book has added power

because it helps students think about nonfiction in relation to historic fiction. So that kids are also learning

that you not only read a couple historic fiction books that are set in a particular era, and think across and

among those books, but also bring in nonfiction texts that relate to those books. The other work of this unit

is helping with this intertextuality, looking across books including both fiction and nonfiction texts. Those

are the main elements in the units of study series.

Resources for Teaching Reading CD-ROM

Those of you who know the CD-ROM full of resource materials in writing won’t be surprised that there’s

resource materials in reading as well. But this time we really felt, because of having listened to teachers and

their requests, that we needed to provide extra resources.

Alternative Units of Study

So we’ve got a whole other book which is designed to help teachers tailor their teaching to kids. This book

supports teachers in developing alternate units of study. It lays out in a slightly more abbreviated form, but

still with all the minilessons there, four or five other units and then in yet more abbreviated form, another

half dozen units. This final book is one that helps you not just have minilessons that you can draw on as

you author your own curriculum, but also whole units of study that you can draw on as you author

curriculum in response to your kids and in conversation with your colleagues.


Make My Day September 13, 2009

Sometimes I worry about Facebook.

Is it mentally healthy to be able to stay connected to your childhood friends especially when you live in your childhood town?

Do I really want everyone who is my Facebook friend to be able to read my blog when that is not the audience I intend it for?

All kinds of other silly worries… I know I shouldn’t worry, but…I am me.

But on the other hand I recently received a message from a friend that I haven’t seen nearly enough in the past year (names changed for privacy). That is a positive of Facebook!

Subject: good feedback…

“I’ve been wanting to share with you…  last week I was asking the girls what their favorite part of the first week of school was.  Sally said that your writing time was her favorite, as she proceeded to tell me all about three stories that she started writing (along with a story that you had shared with them).  I didn’t even have to coax her beyond recess!  Thanks for your dedication to all of our kids and their education!  We are so fortunate to have educators and friends like you!”

How much do I LOVE that!

Not that I was her favorite part of her first week of school, but that WRITING was her favorite part! Presentation and storytelling is so important in inspiring young writers! Getting to kick off writing workshop in multiple classroom over multiple weeks has been a blast! It doesn’t matter what the age, their stories are so great, and the ability for kids to learn quickly how to shape words to pull their reader in is darn amazing. I’ve gotten to hear/read during writing conferences with students about how the wind blows your hair back from your face as you go up the incline of a roller coaster and how to feels to pull back the string (so not the actual word) on the bow of your first deer hunt while your dad whispers in your ear and lets you take the first shot (I hate hunting but was able to marvel at his words.).

Pretty amazing. I love my job and I love that most every work day includes a happy, waist-high hug, and enthusiastic silent waves from students on their way from one part of the building to the next.


Launching Writing Workshop in Third Grade again, and again, and again… August 29, 2009

I haven’t been in an elementary school for the first week of school in eight years; I had forgotten what a magical time of year it is to be there! My first week of school for the past eight years has been in an intermediate school-grades four through six. I, of course, love the first week of school no matter where I am located, but there is just something indescribable about the aura younger children walk into to school with. Wide-eyed, ready to love anyone who is kind to them, elementary students radiate what schools should try to be all about-excitement over whatever lies just up ahead….

I advised a friend recently, when she worried about sending her youngest off to school next year-how hard that first day alone would be for her, to ask the principal to be a greeter at the school her oldest attend. Standing in a school hallway that first day (not having to worry about your first lesson or the growing pile of paperwork demanding attention on your desk), directing students the right way to a classroom, assisting a new student nervously trying to negotiate the building, is guaranteed to snap anyone (maybe not the Grinch, pre-Cindy Loo Who) into a happy place. Even if no student needs help, I know that just greeting familiar student faces after a summer away, is a happy thing.

We are trying to continue to grow our writing instruction and ourselves as teachers of writers. I know from personal experience, how nerve-wracking it can be for a teacher to jump with both feet into something new. While I think Lucy Calkins is absolutely brilliant, I believe the Units of Study for Teaching Writing books are a little hard to read and then process what they would look in your classroom. I still use them, recommend them, buy them, but I want to share a couple things I have learned about “using” them over the past years.

Let me tell you how it went for me the first time I tried one of the lessons from Units of Study for Teaching Writing, grades 3-6.

I read the lesson, and re-read the lesson and decided a little note card would help me remember all the key points I wanted to make sure I hit. After all, the first lesson in the book does span more than ten pages.

I did the connection. I told them what I was going to teach them. I demonstrated using my writing on chart paper what I wanted them to do.

I kept demonstrating.

My mini-lesson stretched out to 25 minutes. Realizing that I was out of time, I skipped the active engagement section, and sent them off to write.

For about six minutes.

I congratulated myself mentally on getting through the mini-lesson during those six minutes and got myself ready for the share portion of the lesson. I skipped the conferring part of the lesson.

I called them back to the gathering area and congratulated them on the work they had done as writers. Then I proceed to do a share-

letting every child share one thing (the only way I knew how to do a share) while watching the clock tick by for my read-aloud time.

Next day-

Had reviewed the lesson and my “cheat sheet” notecard. Realized that I hadn’t done the part of the lesson where I showed the students how an author had done what I was teaching them. Read the picture book aloud to them-highlighting the parts that illustrated my point. Realized that once again, the time was almost gone, sent them back to try it in their writing,

For about six minutes.

I think it took me three days to get through all the parts mentioned in the first lesson. Needless to say, my first unit of study lasted ten weeks instead of the suggested month.

You get the idea.

I didn’t realize that of all the things I was trying to do, the independent writing time and the conferring (that I usually skipped) was the most important part of all those lessons. I could see my students growing as writers in front of my eyes, but didn’t realize how much more they could have done if I had just stopped talking sooner and provided them with more time to work independently while I met with individuals and small groups to teach the writer, just what they needed. You don’t get much more differentiation than that!

I had known for years the power of individual reading conferences to help students grow as readers-I hadn’t realized that the same thing held true for helping students grow as writers.

So, if you are new to Calkins’ Units of Study, learn from my mistakes. No matter how long you think it will take to get through one lesson, discipline yourself to give the students writing time that grows in length as they grow in stamina that first week. Get through the first four mini-lessons in four days (or five if you really can’t bear it) and move on.

You’ll be glad you did…


Narrative Writing-Launching the Writing Workshop grades 3, 4, 5 August 19, 2009

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August & September  [Black # = Mini-lesson)

Materials=Units of Study for Teaching Writng grades 3-5; Book1-Launching the Writing Workshop = Launching; Book 2-Raising the Quality of Narrative Writing=Raising






On-demand Writing Piece (see prompt directions) 1 Mini-Lesson Starting the Writing Workshop-(session I Launching) 2

Mini-Lesson Generating More Writing- (session I or II, Launching)

3 Mini-Lesson Qualities of Good Writing-focus, detail, and structure (session III, Launching) 4; Mini-Lesson Nurturing/Rehearsing- The Writer’s Job in a Conference (session IV, Launching)

7 Mini-Lesson

Buidling Stories-Step by Step (session V, Launching)

8 Mini-Lesson –Choosing a Seed Idea (session VI, Launching) 9; Mini-Lesson-revising-

Studying and Creating Leads (session VII, Raising the Quality of Narrative Writing)

10; Mini-Lesson Writing Discovery Drafts (session VIII, Launching 11 ; Mini-Lesson Revising Developing the Heart of the Story (session XV, Launching)
14 Mini-Lesson

Revising Endings: Learning from Published Writing (session IX, Launching)

15 Mini-Lesson Taking Charge of Our Writing-Starting a Second Piece (session X, Launching) 16 Mini-Lesson Timelines and Tools for Planning and Developing Stories (session XI and XII, Launching) 17 Mini-Lesson Yesterday’s Revisons Become Today’s Standard Practice (session IV, Raising) 18 Mini-Lesson Ending Stories (session XII, Raising)
21 Mini-Lesson Using Editing Checklists (session XVI, Launching)


Shared Curricular Calendars July 17, 2009

Filed under: TCRWP — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:22 pm
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Units of Study for Reading, Units os Study for Writing, and Shared Curricular Calendars seems to be  hot topics of thought and discussion among teachers.

Here are a couple links to sites I had found this spring when I was looking for resources.

Calkins Graduate Students reading units of study

 Denver City Schools curriculum site-they aren’t really “TC”, but a modified version with a strong ELL component/support (Scroll to the bottom-they are by grade level and unit).

Heinemann writing supports for units of study


Lucy Calkins post May 3, 2009

Filed under: Calkins,units of study,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:01 am
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Angela Bunyi (What a fun last name!) has a great post over on her Scholastic Blog about the Heinemann Units of Study for Writing Workshop. Her fabulous husband surprised her with a present-a conference see Lucy Calkins in Memphsis (What a GREAT husband! I love him even though I don’t know him!).

She is a fourth grade teacher that uses Units of Study. She has also posted about the Essay unit, one that makes many teachers a little nervous. Check it out!

P.S.-This is one of the few blogs I can access from school and always has great information!