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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Lucy Calkins + 6 Trait Writing = Writing Teacher Heaven…Probably

Ok, so I know that neither Lucy Calkins’ Writer’s Workshop nor 6+1 Trait writing are particularly new, so I’m sure others have come to this conclusion long before I did. Several years ago I was trained in writer’s workshop, but I’ve felt for awhile now that something was missing. It’s an excellent concept: write every day, learn to stretch out small events to write about details, and everyone has stories to tell (and not every story needs to be a major event like a birthday or getting a new pet).  The thing is, I noticed that I was giving the same compliments and the same suggestions all the time, and wasn’t really sure what to do with the kids who were already pretty good writers…in first and second grade.  They had their story in sequence, details, capital letters and punctuation in the right places, strong words…I was at a loss for what to suggest.

At the very end of the school year, I read 6+1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide for the Primary Grades by Ruth Culham, and it clicked.  This is what I’ve been looking for to give me more ideas for what lessons my students needed to continue to improve, and to help me give clear and focused comments and instruction to support them.  I’d heard about 6+1 Trait here and there, and noticed books and materials in the local teacher store, but never looked at them closely.  I really wish I had.

The beauty of this match is that both are primarily philosophies about teaching writing, rather than ironclad units that must be followed page by page.  I love that you look at your students’ work to determine what to do next.  While that’s way more time consuming than, say, a quick quiz on a skill, it is so much more authentic and gives a clearer view of what a student actually does when s/he writes, rather than when they know you’re looking for a specific skill. For those teachers (like me) who sometimes feel like they’re not sure what a good next step would be for a student or the class as a whole, both of these will work together very well in terms of organizing what makes writing good, and how to break those qualities down into individual skills.  I can determine which skills my students need instruction in, and which skills are beyond the requirements for the grade, but I should keep them waiting in the wings for any students who are ready for them anyway.

I fully intend to marry these two writing philosophies together in my classroom this year.  Now I just need to find or create a rubric that combines Common Core, Lucy Calkins, and 6+1 Trait writing together.

If you have or know of a rubric that combines any of those three together, please share!  I’d love to see how others have put everything together.