4th Grade Writer’s Workshop Unit 5 3-5 Book 6 Memoir: The Art of Writing Well The heart of the CSISD Writers Workshop Units of Study stem directly from Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Primary Writing and Units of Study for Teaching Writing 3-5. Based on the needs of students and teachers in CSISD as well as the demands of the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) at each grade level, additional suggestions for mini-lessons and resources have been added.
Session 1: Uncovering Life Topics Teaching Point: Writers have several themes that surface in our writing again and again. Writers need to uncover these topics by rereading entries in notebooks by looking for connections. Materials: chart paper, Writer’s Notebooks Connect: page 2 Show writers that you’ve thought hard about this unit, deciding to aim toward helping each child learn to compose a writing life. Tell children they will create a memoir using their own process and choosing their own genre. Remind them to draw on their repertoires of strategies for gathering entries and finding Life Topics. Teach (Model): page3 Teach children that most writers have only a few Life Topics that they revisit often, and writers reread what they’ve written in order to name those Life Topics. Tell children that a writer once told you that most of us have a few topics we revisit repeatedly, and explain this has been true for your writing. Explain that when writers want to find Life Topics, they reread their writing looking for the few topics or patterns that underlie their entries. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 5 Ask children to reread their first few entries looking for underlying Life Topics and to write an entry about what they find. Link: page 6 Remind children that in this unit, each child will be expected to compose his/her own writing process. Remind children that today they will invent ways to find their Life Topics.
They can draw on any strategy that they have learned this year or they can invent new strategies. Try: page 6 Have children think about the topics that matter so much to them that they may want to write about them in their final memoir. Share: page 8 Celebrate the choices children have made. Ask them to record their self-assignments beside their entries. That is, during this whole unit, have the children jot down a strategy that you will be using or the goal you are aiming toward. Ask children to share their work with a partner, noticing especially the strategies each chose to use today. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 2: Writing Small about Big Topics Teaching Point: Writers often write about important topics and big ideas. Writers use writing strategies to focus stories and illustrate them. Materials: chart paper, mentor text showing details to convey bigger message or topic Connect: page 14 Remind children that they learned that writers do not write about big watermelon topics but instead about small seed stories. Their Life Topics will resemble watermelon topics. Teach (Model): page 15 Tell children that the bigger the topic, the smaller we will need to write. Writers need to write topics that are both big…and small. Share a text in which the writer uses tiny details to convey a life topic. (An excellent example for this is shared on page 16 in Book 6.) Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 16 Invite children to think of and to collect examples of texts where the writer has used tiny details to convey a big Life Topic. Link: page 17 Send children off to write with generalizations and particulars. Tell them ways they can use strategies they’ve learned across the year to generate writing that is both gigantic and tiny. Try: page 18 “Writers I am going to show you how to grow provocative ideas. You will want to try out a sequence of Life Topics; you can begin by writing either small moment stories or entries in which you can grow big ideas; take an entry or observation or mental picture and write long about it; then use the list of conversational prompts that we used earlier this year.” Share: page 20 Use a poem, anecdote, or metaphor to celebrate the writing intensity in the room. Point out a problem you are noticing, suggest a reason and propose a solution. Tell children you think the
desire to write about something important may be luring them into giving up on potential topics too early. Remind them that they too can look to see what’s happening in their writing, figuring out the problems and making solutions. Point out that from now on, children can analyze what’s working and what’s not working in their writing and revise their processes accordingly. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 3: Expecting Depth from Our Writing Teaching Point: Memoir writers dive deep into their topics. Writers use strategies to write with greater depth than ever before. Materials: chart paper Connect: page 28 Tell children they are ready to graduate from focusing on strategies for generating writing to focusing on strategies for writing with depth. Teach (Model): page 28 Teach children to write what they don’t know about what they know. Share an example of a child who has taken a Life Topic he or she knows well, generated questions about that Life Topic, and used writing to entertain those questions. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 29 Invite students to join you in reading one child’s writing in order to ascertain the strategies that writers use to write with depth. Ask children to tell partners the strategies they observed the writer using in order to write in depth. Link: page 31 Remind children that their goal is to generate thoughtful writing. Encourage them to draw from their full repertoire of strategies for doing this. Try: page 33 “Writers, would you reread what you have written today and see if you made a deep dive? Find a place in your writing where you suddenly took a deep dive and look what you did as a writer. Did you ask questions of your subject? Did you invent another strategy? What specifically did you do to get yourself to go deep? We can work together to invent our own repertoire of strategies for writing with depth and share them with each other. Share: page 35 Offer one student’s writing up for study. Ask children to find, with a partner, something in the writing they could all try to do as well. Collect observations from the class and add some to the class chart.
Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 4: Reading Literature to Inspire Writing Teaching Point: Writers read literature and let its power help us write in depth about our own topics. Materials: chart paper, mentor texts Connect: page 44 Celebrate that writers have begun finding ways to think about and reveal the mysteries and depth in their writing. Teach (Model): page 44 Tell children that a strategy that writers use to dive deeper in writing is to write in the wake of reading great stories. Tell children that reading can be a way for us to get in touch with our deepest thoughts and feelings. Show an example of a text you read and wrote off from. Debrief, pointing out that you didn’t write about the text, or even about the subject in the text. Highlight the fact that you wrote free. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 46 Set children up to try this: read a text aloud and ask them to free write in the wake of that text. For example, read aloud a passage from the class read aloud book, then in silence after you finish reading, pick up your pen and write off from the story you just read. Don’t write about the story-write off-from it. Share the writing on one child for whom this strategy seems to have worked well. Link: page 47 Send children off to write, reminding them of their options and alerting them to the short texts on their tables in case they want to continue to read and write off from literature. Try: page 49 Say-“Writers, can I stop you?”Celebrate how some of the students have found themselves in the texts they are reading. Remind them to combine strategies that work for them. They may layer one kind of writing and thinking right on top of another and another and see where it takes them in their own writing! Share: page 52 Ask children to reflect on what the writing process has been like for them thus far in the unit and then share that thinking with a partner. Ask them also to plan for their future writing with a partner. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 5: Choosing and Developing a Seed Idea Teaching Point: Writers use certain strategies (much like they did in previous units) to focus in on an idea to develop their writing. Materials: chart paper Connect: page 58 Celebrate the fact that your children already anticipate that they’ll soon shift from collecting entries to selecting a seed idea. Teach (Model): page 59 Tell students that writers rely on lots of different strategies and possible ways to generate a seed idea. Remind them that the goal of the unit will be to write a memoir. Suggest that writers prefer to zoom in on a seed idea, or focus, early; others prefer to establish a general direction and focus gradually. Interview an adult who will demonstrate strategies that writers use to generate ideas. Select and highlight certain strategies that writers can use often. Debrief by listing what you saw the writer doing to select her seed idea. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 61 Ask children to think about what the writer has done that they might do also. Ask partners to tell each other what they observed the writer doing in order to select her seed idea. Link: page 62 Encourage students to draw on the various strategies they have learned to select a seed idea. Highlight that what works for one child, or one piece of writing, may not work for another. Celebrate their independence. Try: page 63 “Writers, some of you are beginning to define your idea and are using lots of words to write your current best-draft idea for your seed.” Share: page 67 Share an observation with students about the work they’ve been doing. Share a strategy to make the work stronger. In this case, point out that writing evolves more quickly if the writer asks and responds to probing questions. Share the work of a writer who used the strategy. In this case, share the work of a writer who asked herself questions about her evolving seed idea. Ask students to review their writing, asking “Am I reaching toward new depth?” Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 6: Studying Memoir Structures Teaching Point: Writers study published texts to get ideas for ways to structure their own writing. Materials: chart paper, mentor texts that show possible structures of memoirs Connect: page 74 Remind children of the ways they have learned to structure texts. They can learn a variety of ways to structure a memoir by studying the structures in published memoirs. Teach (Model): page 74 Tell children that finding patterns in writing is much like seeing patterns in the land from an airplane, since you need to take in more than what’s right in front of you to discern the patterns. Demonstrate this with an excerpt from a memoir that has been organized like a list. Point out the structure of the text. In this case, the memoir excerpt is a list, with each part linked to it by a repeated line. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 76 Set children up to read a text to notice its structure and jot down their observations of it. Give them a text that includes both sections of exposition and sections containing narratives. Explain how a text is a combination of an essay and a narrative. Chart some ways to structure a memoir. Link: page 77 Remind children that they are the authors of their writing lives, that they have options in the work they do of structuring, planning, and writing memoirs. Try: page 78 “Writers, as you continue to work, think not only about various ways in which you may end up stretching whatever you write…but will you think about ways in which your writing is a memoir…how does your writing reveal you?” Share: page 81 Remind children that earlier they read memoirs noting the structure of those texts. Ask them to read one of their own memoir entries, looking again at structure. Ask them to box out component parts and share those with a partner. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 7: Being Our Own Teachers Teaching Point: Writers confer with themselves by asking important questions in order to make writing goals. Materials: chart paper, question stems Connect: page 90 Tell children that your one-to-one conferences have been slow and ask if they’d be willing to take over your job, becoming teachers for themselves. Teach (Model): page 90 Teach children that good writing teachers listen and reread before generating new goals and plans. Confer with one child in front of the class, first asking children to note what you do and to consider ways to confer with themselves in similar ways. Start your conference by researching what the writer has aimed to do and has already done. Shift from researching the writer to giving a compliment and teaching. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 93 Set children up to debrief, to name what they saw you do that they could also do in a conference with themselves. Listen in on what they say, and use it to compile a list of questions writing teachers ask. Link: page 93 Suggest that writers take time to reflect on what they have done and to give themselves assignments. Encourage writers to notice what has worked well in their writing so as to do more of that. Try: page 94 Writers can revise a seed idea by gathering more entries that pertain to the seed idea. These entries become part of the eventual draft, or they may just give more options to choose from when writing the final draft. Share: page 96 Share with writers that we can deliberately choose to care deeply about our subjects. Ask children to write about their commitment to their subject. Then, invite them to share their thinking with the children at their table, helping each other become invested in the writing. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 8: Finding Inspiration before Drafting Teaching Point: Writers use certain techniques to get inspired to write better than ever as they begin drafting. Materials: chart paper Connect: page 102 Remind children that because they are the authors of their own writing lives, they’ll decide when they are ready to write a first draft. Specifically, encourage children to find ways to inspire themselves before they embark on a first draft. Teach (Model): page 102 Tell a story about a published writer who has found ways to lift the level of her first draft writing. Specifically, teach children that the writer needs to feel an emotion towards a subject before the writer can make readers feel that emotion. Set children up to use the boxes-and-bullet format to take notes as you talk about strategies writers can use to raise the level of first draft writing. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 103 Set children up to use their notes as a prop to help them recall and re-create your little lecture. Then ask them to talk with a partner about your talk, adding their ideas to yours. Link: page 104 Use the story of one child to caution writers against clinging too tightly to the one best entry they’ve written thus far. Encourage writers to risk embarking on a draft that doesn’t rely upon a previous entry. Try: page 105 Check over the content of your Writer’s Notebook and decide what you want to continue to write about. Share: page 109 Tell the story of one writer who collected an excess of entries and drafts and then paused to ask, “What do I really want to say?” and used that question to lead him to start an entirely new draft. Ask children to respond to the writer’s work, offering an opinion. Celebrate the support writers have offered one another and ask students to share further thoughtful suggestions about the draft presented. Ask partners to offer each other the same kind of supportive, thoughtful feedback they’ve just offered the writer in the spotlight. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 9: The Internal and External Journey of a Story Teaching Point: Writers can craft their memoirs by including their internal journals, much like an internal timeline of events. Materials: chart paper, mentor texts Connect: page 116 Reiterate all the options your children have as memoirists, and then tell them they have no option when writing a memoir but to reveal themselves throughout. Tell children that the internal, as well as the external, story line needs to evolve over time, and that as points on the external story line affect us, the internal story line is created. Teach (Model): page 117 Reiterate the teaching point in different words, emphasizing that writers approach the narrative section of a memoir thinking, “What feeling do I want to show in the beginning? Which one in the middle? Which in the end?” Illustrate your point by reading aloud a short text and showing children the external and internal story lines in it. Highlight the fact that the external events move the story forward. The character’s responses to those events constitute the internal story line, conveying the impact the events have on the person or on the relationships. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 119 Tell students about a child who deliberately shifted between external and the internal story and whose internal story line follows a clear sequence. Ask children to mark a copy of the child’s text to track the journey of feelings it shows. Link: page 120 Remind writers that when they work on the narrative sections of the memoir, they need to plan for a journey of feelings, and to remember that the external storyline is intertwined with the internal one. Try: page 121 Convey the internal story by using very specific actions that show how you were feeling. The internal story isn’t just telling your feelings, you can also show them. You can use external actions to convey feelings in the internal story. Share: page 124 Contrast the way in which novice writers describe feelings-usually summarizing the generic feeling in a single word-with the way that skilled writers capture feelings. Share examples of the latter. Ask children to share with their partner instances in which they captured their feelings in print, or to help each other do this if they haven’t yet had a chance to do it. Ask children to read a particular section of their writing in a symphony fashion. In this case, ask them to choose sections where they’ve captured a feeling in words. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 10: Choosing Emblematic Details Teaching Point: Writers can reveal themselves by bringing forth internal thoughts and spotlighting significant details. Materials: chart paper, mentor texts Connect: page 130 Celebrate the way in which children have created a progression of feelings across the narrative sections of their memoir. Tell about a writer who included details simply because they were true, explaining that writers learn to choose details with care, and selecting ones which are emblematic. Teach (Model): page 131 Teach children that every detail a writer adds into a short text is chosen because it furthers the writer’s message. Tell children that you have realized that the details that are shown in televised mysteries always end up being significant to the solution. Similarly, details included in a memoir always need to be revealing, emblematic ones which convey bigger meanings. Share ways in which the writer you described earlier could have rewritten her writing so as to include revealing details. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 131 Share an example of a writer who used detail to paint a family or a life. Ask children to point to (and to talk with partners about) places in the text where the author used emblematic details. Ask children to imagine that they were writing a narrative about entering their home, and ask them to tell this narrative to each other, weaving in revealing details. Link: page 133 Remind writers of options they have for proceeding. They may need to reflect on what their memoir aims to show. They may decide to rewrite their draft so as to include more revealing details. They may tuck today’s pointers into the recesses of their mind to call upon later, during revision.
Try: page 134 Have students invent details which reveal the truth of their life. Sometimes in our stories we cannot recall every little detail from that particular moment; however, we may remember some details about other moments in our lives. The details may not be true with a small t, but they will be True with a capital T. Share: page 136 Celebrate that children are writing with an awareness that events always have both an external and internal timeline. Teach children that even an event as tiny as a single hug can be stretched out so that it contains a sequence of external events, and a journey of changing feelings. Ask
children to share with their partners places in their own writing where they could learn from the example you just spotlighted. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 11: Writing About Ideas Teaching Point: Writers write about ideas and it’s important to find a structure that allows us to say what we want to say. Materials: chart paper, question stems Connect: page 144 Celebrate the wonderful memories that fill the classroom, but remind children that the goal is not only to remember but also to think. Teach (Model): page 145 Tell children that in order to write reflective paragraphs, writers generate a lot of material and then reread it asking “What am I saying?” and “How will I structure this?” Use an example of one child’s work in order to show the steps a writer can take in order to generate and shape expository sections of a text. Highlight the points you want children to abstract from this example. Show that after the child generated some ideas off her narrative writing, she took those ideas and expanded them. Name the strategies the writer used, but be sure to emphasize that the writer generated lots of material, the selected from the excess. Teach children that when writing ideas, it helps to make a plan for how your writing will go. Expository writing is usually either organized by boxes and bullets or it is a journey-of-thought. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 148 Set children up to examine one student’s draft, looking for the structure in it. Review the steps this student took to structure her writing and timeline her thoughts, steps that you also hope other writers might take. Try: page 150 One thing that writers do when we want to lift the level of our writing is to study what other writers have done. This is called studying mentor texts. Share: page 152 Share the way one child writes a narrative about her life then writes reflectively about that narrative. Highlight what the child did that is replicable. Extrapolate from the one case-in-point whatever it is you hope your students learn from the example.
Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 12: Letting our Pages Lead our Revision Teaching Point: Writers reread their writing intently, in order to learn how to revise it. Materials: chart paper Connect: page 160 Find a way to compliment the students on their involvement in their writing work. Be inventive! Let children know that writers the world over find ourselves surprisingly invested in our emerging writing. Teach (Model): page 161 Tell children that near the end of a writing project, writers shift into becoming readers of their own work, reading with enough careful attentiveness that our pages teach us how to write. Show them how a student in class went about rereading his draft as one kind of reader. Show how the same child shifts into being another kind of reader, approaching the same draft differently. Tell children that writers also read in different ways, summarizing a few. Show the child’s earlier draft and then the revise draft and ask them about the revisions they notice. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 165 Ask children to read the first section of their own draft as an especially responsive reader, noticing when the draft’s potential deserves to be developed. Ask children to read the first narrative section of the same draft differently, this time trying to translate the words into a mental movie. Are the actions explicit and clear? Link: page 165 Remind writers that when they see the end in sight and their energy flags, this is a time for fresh resolve. Ask children to dig into their reserves of energy, to believe their writing can become even better, and to shift from writer to reader. Try: page 166 “Writers, we need to learn how to stick with the writing process. If you have a problem or get to a hard part, then push past them and decide that you can invent a solution to that problem.” Share: page 170 Tell children that writers read their own drafts noting the component sections, asking, “How is this draft almost-but-not-quite- structured?” Then we make revisions. Remind them the writers often decide to study texts that are structured like the texts the writer hopes to write. Encourage children to select a text to study, think about it quietly, and share what they have discovered with their partner.
Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Lesson 13: Metaphors and Meanings Teaching Point: Writers take a tiny detail from our lives and we let that one detail represent the whole big message of our writing. Materials: chart paper Connect: page 176 Tell children a story that leads you to talk about the times when you-or any writerwanted to capture something in print that felt too big for words. Teach (Model): page 177 Teach children that sometimes writers cup our hands around a detail from our lives, letting that one detail symbolize our message. Remind them of a story they’ve learned about an author who has a big content she wanted to convey in her story, and did so by embedding that big meaning into an object, a metaphor. Debrief, explaining that the author created a metaphor to say something too big for words. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 178 Tell children that when writing narratives that represent something big about their lives, that are making a metaphor. Suggest that the children bring out the metaphors in their writing more and ask them to help one child do so. Try: page 181 So right now writers, reread your writing for lines that could be highlighted. When you find one, think about where else you might try writing it so that it helps your ideas really stand out. Share: page 183 Tell of one child who wanted to find a significant ending and therefore searched for an object that could stand for something big. Highlight that writers can make actions happen on the page that didn’t happen in real life. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Lesson 14: Editing to Match Sound to Meaning Teaching Point: Writers listen to their writing carefully, and then choose words, structures, and punctuation that help convey the content, mood, tone, and feelings of the piece. Materials: chart paper, mentor texts, editing tools
Connect: page 188 Acknowledge that children already know writers edit so as to correct errors. Teach (Model): (page 189) Tell children that writers edit for sound, rereading our writing aloud and refining words, sentences, and punctuation so that the texts sounds right. Tell children that it helps to closely examine passages-and punctuation-in published texts. Show students how reading writing aloud can help them edit for sound. Demonstrate on your own writing. Highlight that writers decide how to punctuate once the writer knows what she wants to communicate. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): page 190 Set the students up to listen to a shared text and then to edit it, making the sound match the meaning. Link: page 190 Remind writers that today and every day, they can edit their writing to make sure the writing sounds in a way that communicates our ideas as best it can. Try: page 191 “Writers, you can play with punctuation as you write so that you can bring out the tone of your writing. Take a moment and reread your writing to find if you have done so, if not then find a spot that you might rewrite. Remember that punctuation is another way you can make your writing sound the way you intend.” Share: page 193 Remind writers of the importance of writing with clarity. Ask them to find new partners and together read their writing to be sure every bit rings with clarity. Additional Resources: See CD-ROM
Session 15: An Author’s Final Celebration: Placing our Writing in the Company of Others Teaching Point: Writers will share their published memoirs with others. Materials: chart paper, copies of published memoirs Connect: page198 Welcome everyone and set the tone for the ceremony with an introduction or a story.
Teach (Model): Explain the way the ceremony will go. In this case, explain that a few children will share with the whole group, then the group will divide and the rest of the children will share with one of the two smaller groups. Suggest the audience join in a chorus after each child reads. Active Engagement (Guided Practice): Children will read aloud their memoir to their friends and family. Listeners will say a few lines of a chorus between readings. Share: Congratulate writers and have a whole group or partner share of what students have learned as memoir writers over the course of the unit. Record learning on chart.