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Citation: Calkins, Lucy. (2003). Units of Study for Primary Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Title: Units of Study for Primary Writing
Year: 2003
Publisher: Heinemann
City: Portsmouth, NH
Medium: Book with CD
Author(s): Calkins, Lucy
Grades: Kindergarten to First Grade
Category: Mentor Authors and Illustrators and Mentor Texts Units of Study for Writing Developing Units of Study Poetry Nonfiction Personal Writing and Memoir Writing about Literature and Social Issues Teaching the Writing Process Prewriting and Drafting Revision Editing Responding to and Publishing Writing
Annotation: The "Units of Study" were developed by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in 2003 for teachers of writing in kindergarten through second grade. This series of small books with stunning covers are packaged together in a box and describe how to launch writing workshop, as well as how to teach six other specific units of study (Small Moments, Poetry, Writing for Readers, Nonfiction Writing, Craft of Revision, and Authors as Mentors). The kit includes a CD-ROM with samples of student work and video clips of instruction.

The wealth of expertise that underlies these texts and the focus on pedagogy is incredible. The books not only contain mentor texts, minilessons, and transcripts of conversations, but also include rich examples and information about the structure and philosophy of teaching writing. The minilessons and units are ripe with possibilities and were field tested and modified by teachers around the country. When these units of study have been implemented in schools, student work increases significantly in both quantity and quality.

One of the strengths of Units of Study is that for teachers who are eager to really explore the “art of teaching writing,” Lucy and her colleagues include scripts of actual lessons throughout each of the units. In addition, there is a reflection by Lucy about the reasons why the teacher made certain decisions and how those choices affected student learning. Many people have called this product a coaching curriculum because it is as if Lucy or one of her colleagues is standing right there alongside you, helping you with your “on the spot” decision making. There are also multiple examples of student work, as well as insert boxes of tips for conferring with students with specific needs and suggestions about how to enhance the units to match the anticipated needs of your students. The accompanying DVD is also a great coaching tool that can be used over and over again to view video clips of lessons and conferences. The 3-5 kit also has helpful sections on assessment and collaborating with colleagues. Literacy coaches may want to use the “Collaborating with Colleagues” and the “Supporting Your Own Writing” sections on the CD-ROM for professional development sessions and for building teachers’ background knowledge about units of study. Lucy and her colleagues have also provided “curricular calendars” for each grade level that are available on their website:

Publishing is a part of the process of each of the Units of Study by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues. It needs to be authentic and for real audiences. Children are led through revising and editing that is within their skill range. The object is not perfectly-typed manuscripts for each published piece, especially not until the later grade levels. For each unit there are new and different publishing suggestions that are developmentally appropriate, as well as authentic ways for students to share their writing. For example, in one unit, kindergarteners spiff up their work by putting a colorful ribbon on their draft, while in fifth grade they send their essays out into the world to share their personal thoughts about life issues.