Mapping Writing Units of Study…GPS Style

by Jessica Sherman, Primary Literacy Collaborative Trainer

9780325041926At our Early Literacy Institute this summer (grades PreK–1), Matt Glover will be spending time discussing his new book Projecting Possibilities for Writers: The How, What, and Why of Designing Units of Study that he wrote with teacher Mary Alice Berry. Those of us who have experience using a writers’ workshop- complete with minilessons, mentor texts, individual writing conferences, and sharing – have seen the multitude of benefits.  We also understand the underlying tension of what Matt and Mary Alice describe in their book as the “flexibility vs. planning dilemma.”

Writers’ Workshop has allowed teachers to meet the needs of the writers in their class by supporting them in whole group, small group, and individual teaching scenarios. Teachers have helped students read like writers. They have helped students notice the craft and conventions of writing used by mentor authors, so that students might begin to see themselves as authors and try to use these techniques in their own writing. They have learned about teaching the writers in their class rather than teaching how to improve the writing.

Navigating a successful writers’ workshop is a student-driven experience, and teachers have come to appreciate the benefits of being able to “follow” their students.  The day-to-day or week-to-week decisions that are part of this responsive path for teaching can feel incredibly freeing.  On any long journey, however, one questions always emerges –  “Are we there yet?” With no destination in mind, this trip can become meandering and endless.

Whether it is considering the proficiencies in The Continuum of Literacy Learning, meeting the demands of The Common Core State Standards or other state standards, fulfilling grade level genre expectations dictated by the district, or trying to coordinate cross-curricular units of study, teachers want to strategically coordinate their plans to take students where they need to go. Yet, they still want to be able to change course at any given moment to meet the needs of the students.

That’s why it’s always nice to have a map – not just a map with one straight line connecting the starting point and ending point through a series of sequenced steps, but one where teachers can “recalculate” at any point and still move towards their ultimate destination. Just like a good GPS provides us with a tentative route, but can reroute us if we need to stray, an effective writing curriculum map provides the same flexible guidance.

With Matt’s guidance, the primary grades faculty at our Center will spend four days taking teachers through a process for creating rigorous, responsive, flexible writing units of study across the year.  During their time at Lesley, teachers will design a (tentative) map for writing across the year and fully project a writing unit of their choosing.  There is still time to register for this exciting learning opportunity. Join us!

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