Sunday, January 25, 2009

WRITING WORKSHOP: Planning a Unit of Study

What do you want to teach your students how to do next in writing? Persuade? Describe? Explain? As teachers of writing guided by curriculum and Grade Level Expectations, we know what to teach. The challenge comes in deciding the best way to do it.

Katie Wood Ray
has written a wonderful book called Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop that outlines a framework for designing units of study based on inquiry. The framework involves these steps:

• Gathering Texts
• Setting the Stage
• Immersion
• Close Study
• Writing Under the Influence

Katie's framework reminds us about the importance of immersing students in the genre by providing lots of opportunity for students to read mentor texts. Close study of the genre allows students to notice and identify the characteristics of the genre before they begin to write. This 'joint construction of knowledge' engages students and empowers them to tackle new writing challenges. An inquiry based unit looks very different than one that begins with a teacher explanation of the genre's characteristics and a rubric.

Try it and you will discover that students who participate in inquiry based genre studies are successful and motivated writers.

Preview Chapter 3 of Katie's book.
Read Write Think inquiry based lesson plan: Investigating Animals: Using Nonfiction for Inquiry-based Research
Thinking Through Genre: Units of Study in Reading and Writing Workshop 4-12 by Heather Lattimer