Summer Challenge Update #sol18

Summer Challenge Update #sol18

Reading the Units of Study Through

July 24, 2018

For this summer,  I set myself one main challenge,  to become more knowledgeable about writing instruction.  Was that really the challenge?  Let me not get ahead of the story.  On the last day of school I packed up the book stack I had amassed over this year to read more about writing instruction.  The stack included Joy Write, so beautifully explained at the Heinemann retreat last summer by Ralph Fletcher himself and brought beautifully to life by my Connecticut cyperfriends,  Dawn, jcareyreads, and Standingtall.  Other books in my stack included The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, Enticing Hard to Reach Writers,  and Renew .  I went back for The Writing Strategies Book.   I quickly read through Colleen Cruz’ The Unstoppable Writing Teacher. I was well on my way to a blissful summer reading about writing, but two things happened.

First, another member of my literacy team said reading all of the beginning units of study for the year seems like a good idea.  We had just each taken two units and read them for our summer kick off.  Since everything even literacy comes down to match, I estimated that if I read one unit of study a week,  I could read the remaining four grades of each reading and writing first units in the eight weeks remaining of summer.  We had hear that a unit could be read in approximately two hours cover to cover, but I knew that annotating, birdwalking, mentor text searching, and researching,  most of the units could be read in one day.

Begin at the beginning I say,  so I began with kindergarten reading.  Having spent most of my time in the last four years teaching lessons in third and fourth grade dipping down this year to help out in first,  I was struck immediately with how kindergarten lays the foundation for everything.  EVERYTHING.  So much of what a fourth grade teacher is trying to accomplish with his/her students is directly connected to the foundations that are formed in kindergarten.  I was reminded of the joy of beginnings, of emergent storybooks, and about endless possibilities.  I am hoping that a kindergarten teacher will look kindly upon me this next year and I’ll enjoy some joyful learning in kindergarten first hand.

This is time so well spent.  I listened to Lisa Corbett, podcast last week, but was struck by something she said about the math curriculum she has been using.  I paraphrase.  She said that she had been teaching the lessons but until recently had never read the fore matter.  It changed everything for her.  That’s how I feel about reading the units of study through,  it changed everything for me in many ways.  First,  I see the trajectory of the unit clearly from beginning to end,  the story of the unit as Lucy Calkins says.  Also, as I read up through the grades,  I see how the stories connect year to year.  This opens endless possibilities for cross-grade work,  coaching, and dipping back down when strategies haven’t stuck.  Much like book progressions and learning progressions are helpful to draw students forward,  so will the unit progressions pull students up.  One last thought is that reading straight through eliminates the difficulty of interpreting the Calkins talk.  The units are all designed similarly and as you continue to read you develop an ear for the units.  I highly recommend it for schools using the units of study.

Simple Plan to Digest a Unit of Study Book 

Read the flyleaf overview and the Table of Contents.                                                                     Think about the story of the unit.  What goals will you have for students? What are the standards crosswalks. (In Calkins crosswalks are located at the end of the unit)

If Calkins unit, open online general information for unit and watch video (1st unit only) and look over mentor text list

Read orientation to the unit. (if reading with a group, this is a good place for a jigsaw)

Read first session in each bend.  These set the tone for the bend particularly the connections.

Read through unit.  Possible suggestions:  flag conferring and small group and index.  They can be used separate from session.  Use stickies to summarize multiple step lessons, flag anchor charts, or sessions requiring more set up.

Create a mentor text list inside cover of possible mentors either recommended or from your collection.




#summersusan #sol18

#summersusan #sol18

July 10, 2018

Every summer I make a plan.  The plan is often too ambitious.  The plan has several essential elements:  self-improvement in the form of professional reading and/or workshops, home improvement,  and life improvement.  More fresh air, more exercise, purging closets, reading, reading, reading are key on the agenda.  This year is no exception.

This summer didn’t get started until June 30.  I don’t think I’ll ever quite adjust to a summer that doesn’t start until after the first official start date of summer.  Come on, people!!   I think we can all agree that summer, no matter where you are, is a pretty exceptional time of year.  Restorative, inspiring, spirit-lifting.

Here are some of my professional goals and how they are moving along.

Writing, Writing, Writing

I’ve taken to heart the notion that in order to be better writing teachers we have to write.  To that end, I am enjoying four weeks of summer camp with

Jennifer Serravallo’s  Writing Camp.

IMG_1972.JPG   The first week, narrative had me write a couple of stories about small moments.  I have a list of more ideas for narratives I might write in the company of students in the fall.  The second week, poetry, explored so many ideas including repetition, line breaks, and sounds of poetry.  Just to show I’m brave,  here’s my poem displayed in celebration.  Couldn’t we display so many poems that students (and educators) write so many places?




After studying the first units of reading and writing for the fall with the second grade literacy leaders to kick off my summer, I realized how beneficial it is to read

a unit through from cover to cover.  To that end,  I am trying to reading the beginning units in reading and writing for each of our school’s grades kindergarten through fourth grade.  Last week I read kindergarten and am enchanted by a revisit to Emergent Storybook Reading.  Beth Moore explains it magically here.  I immediately created my bin of storybooks for loving in the fall with any kindergarten that will have me.  Speaking of book bins, thanks to Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligafor continuing to inspire me. Read more in It’s All about the Books, which I read right before school was out.

Finally,  I have a tall stack of reading about writing books which include: The Unstoppable Writing Teacher (reread), Enticing Hard to Reach WritersJoy Write, and The Power of Grammar.  The Unstoppable Writing Teacher encouraged me to explain more to parents about writing workshop, consider carefully celebrating each writing unit with the students, and remembering on frustrating days that there is no such thing as lazy, only fear.  That last idea applies to so much. Especially inspired by my Connecticut friends to read Joy Write after their amazing posts throughout this year following their study of this book last year.

Nothing makes me smile more than a glass of tea and lemonade on my porch or patio with an amazing read filling my head with great thoughts. I know I’ll return to school in the late summer ready for the challenges and successes a new year will bring.  Hope you’re having just the summer you want as well.


Thanks for my encouragers in the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge for always writing alongside.