Thinking Teaching Creating

Thoughts, Tips, Ideas, and Projects from a Creative Teacher Mama

Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop + 6-Trait Writing: First Rubric Complete!

I’ve been planning to attempt to put together the Lucy Calkins units for writing workshop with 6-trait writing for quite awhile now.  I love how Lucy’s units are organized and have a focus of getting kids to write about things that are interesting and meaningful to them, but sometimes have difficulty scoring them.  Another thing I feel like they lack is definite links to grammar rules, so I need to be really careful to add in those lessons.  Since many of the workshop units have fewer minilessons than necessary to fill a month, those “extra” days are where I plan to do specific grammar lessons.

But back to the rubrics.  The versions of the writing workshop units I have do not include any rubrics at all; I don’t have copies of the book, I have essentially “cheat sheet” versions of each unit from my district that were developed from the books.  Because of that, I started with the 6-trait writing rubrics, which are available online for free at Education Northwest’s website.  There are different versions for K-2 and grades 3-12, along with different point scales.  I created an editable version of the condensed grades 3-12 rubric by copying and pasting, and added another page from the 5-point grades 3-12 rubric by copying and pasting the publishing section (not included on the condensed rubric).

From there, I made a copy of the editable version, and highlighted each letter in the 5-point section that seemed to be a goal in the Lucy Calkins unit I created a rubric for (4th grade, unit 1).  Next, I went back and deleted the letters that weren’t included in the unit.  The way the rubric is structured, each section has several items that are looked for, and they are formatted in a lettered list.  When I deleted criteria, I deleted the words, but not the letter it was beside.  I want my students to know that other criteria will be expected later, and if I put a coded note on a student’s paper to show they did something particularly well, or that they should specifically work on improving one skill (WC-B would mean Word Choice, criteria B), I want the code to mean the same thing all year long.  I’m also keeping a copy of my rubric where I did the highlighting so the next unit’s rubric already has a starting point.  If I’ve already taught a skill in the rubric, I’m going to expect students to continue to use it in the next unit.

Here are my resources so far:

To edit the resources above, click them, go to file, and make a copy in your Google Drive, or go to file, download as Microsoft Word (docx.).  To use them as-is, just click the link you want and print, or download as a pdf.  

When I create the rubrics for further units, I’ll probably put newly added skills in bold or otherwise show which skills are new to the rubric and which ones students have been working on for more than one unit.  I think that will be helpful for myself, my students, and their parents.  If a skill has been on the rubric for more than one unit and a student is earning only 1 point in that area, that’s a red flag that we need to do something differently for that child.  Maybe we need to have small group or individual instruction on that particular skill, it needs to be a conference focus, etc.  Either way, the student can’t fix it if they a) don’t know it’s a problem and b) aren’t given help to improve.

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Calling All 4th Grade Teachers!

The other day I asked #4thchat on Twitter for suggestions for read alouds for my class this year, and I got a great list started, but I know it’s just the beginning.  When another teacher requested that I share the list, it occurred to me that we can make it even better by collaborating on a Google Doc.  I’ve created one and put the list from the other day in it.  I’ve included fields for title, author, synopsis, theme, and CCSS ELA standards, but at the moment it’s mostly just titles.  I put the CCSS field in case there are standards that are really easy to tie in when you’re reading the story.  If you have books you use for book clubs rather than read alouds, feel free to add those as well.

If you have a great book to share, don’t feel as though you need to fill in every field.  That’s information I thought would be helpful, but whatever you add is great!  Thanks to everyone who has already contributed and everyone who adds more to this resource along the way!

#4thchat Read Aloud/Book Club Recommendations


Big Changes Ahead

I’ve been a teacher for 10 years.

For 9 of those years, I’ve taught 1st or 2nd grade.

The last 6 of those years have been in the same school.

Next month, I will do something I haven’t done for quite some time.  I’ll start teaching at a new school, in a grade I’ve never before taught.  I’ll be teaching gifted fourth graders.  For the most part, I’m super excited!  But I’m also a little bit terrified.  Some of the content is unfamiliar, I don’t know anyone there (I’m super shy, especially when I’m in a group), nearly my entire classroom library is going to be way too easy and immature for them, and I’m pretty sure some of them will be taller than me (something I never worried about teaching 1st and 2nd grade).

However, this is an excellent opportunity to broaden my experiences.  One of the reasons for this move is that I’ve been in a charter school for a long while, and I eventually want to be an academic facilitator/instructional coach…but that isn’t a job that there’s usually funding for outside of your typical public school districts.  I also think that most school systems are going to be more likely to hire someone for that type of job from within the system; someone who has proven themselves in the district (one of the principals I interviewed with recently agreed on that point, by the way).  Keeping in mind the goal of being an instructional coach, it’s going to be helpful to have taught a range of grade levels and become familiar with what real kids are like at different grade/age levels.  

One of the things that makes me really excited about fourth grade is that the kids are old enough to be a lot more independent that I’ve grown accustomed to, and they’ll already have a lot of basic knowledge that we can work with.  For the past two years, I’ve done National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) with my first graders.  While it was amazingly rewarding and fun with them, I can’t wait to see how that pans out with older kids.  Last year I did Quadblogging with first graders. (Don’t know what Quadblogging is? Check out my post here!)  Again, a stellar experience that I’m interested to see in action with older students.  

I’m in the midst of researching interactive notebooks, which I had planned on attempting this year regardless of the grade level placement, but I think it’ll be more effective (not to mention easier) with fourth graders than it would be with firsties.  I also just heard about Genius Hour on Twitter, and want to learn more about ideas for structuring that.  

Needless to say, this year will be anything but boring!

If you use interactive notebooks or do Genius Hour with your class, I’d love to pick your brain or get links to sites you’ve found helpful!