Writing in Fifth Grade

I am so excited to share all things WRITING today!

Because I've taught several different grades, I come to fifth grade knowing a bit more of the progression students have experienced as writers.  We have Lucy Calkin's Units of Study available to us, and I also have been trained in Step Up to Writing, Nancy Fetzer, thinking maps, and I'm sure there are more that have occurred since I began my career in 2003.

I frequently get asked what I use and what I use is a mix of resources that will hopefully give students exposure and practice with writing pieces that will grow and stretch them.

We cover the three major genres: expository, narrative, and persuasive.

We also practice constructed responses, produce response to literature essays, and learn from mentor texts and authors.

You can check out THIS freebie to get a glimpse into our general scope and sequence but like with all things teaching, we also remain flexible.

Our reading and vocabulary/word work block is in the morning but we do writing after recess (specifically before lunch).

I work really hard to tie in things like sentence structure and grammar into our writing mini-lessons.  The work we do in the morning is best when it is incorporated with the work we do later as writers.

Okay, so let's break down the different things we do and what it looks like.

Constructed Responses

Because I teach fifth, they come with a really solid foundation of what four parts go into a constructed response.  At our school, we do RACE: restate, answer, cite evidence, and explain.

I explicitly teach each one, going over what the expectations are in fifth and then practicing all together.

You can grab all these components HERE.  The pillows are from Walmart!
We spend the first month of school really working on these.  We use picture books to begin.  I just type up the text and copy; Mr. Peabody's Apples and Fly Away Home are two of my faves.  You can read more about them HERE.

Carmela Full of Wishes is a WONDERFUL picture book and after classroom discussions, they took it to writing.
When we begin our first novel study, we transition into text responses that match with our discussion and the story.
With novel studies, they constantly take notes.  They use these to then write responses.
We start slow and scaffolded, but with each one, I release more and more to them.  It REALLY helps to have students color code their answers, underlining each component of RACE in a different marker or colored pencil.

Once we finish a novel, we always do a response to literature essay.  Click HERE for what we use.

Narrative Writing

I love narrative writing (as a writer, I would choose to do narratives!) and it is covered on the state test at the end of the year.  However, in many discussions with middle school teachers, it is the least covered genre as they matriculate through school.

Their first narrative they do is mystery writing, which they love and we use THIS to guide us.

We also do a published narrative piece (meaning we go through the entire writing process) in the spring, where they write about a small moment from fifth grade camp.

All published pieces go on our writing wall.  We use THIS to keep things organized.
We do heavy work with the five paragraph essay, which includes a driving thesis statement.  At the beginning of the year, it feels so overwhelming but we break it down (teach those constructed paragraphs!) and they really take flight quickly.

We typically do these essays in response to an essential question derived from our novel study at the time.  However, we also do expository essays that tie in other parts of our curriculum, especially with colonization of the New World and issues of government.

I love to see what they create with their symbolism pieces!  We use THIS.
I would argue that some of our five paragraph essays dip into this genre, especially as they explain evidence that supports their claims.

We do opinion pieces with their hundred year old essays, their best memory at school, and several released state test question prompts.

With all of these genres, we take them through the writing process.  I almost always give my students the option to type (Google Docs) or hand write their published pieces.

I love the reading version, too!  My local office store spiral bound it and it was a game changer.
For writing mini-lessons, we mostly always use the Writing Strategies book by Jennifer Serravallo.  It is AWESOME and I highly recommend!

Mentor Author, Mentor Texts
They LOVE to share these out!  The wireless microphone is a fun addition.
 We LOVE using THESE mentor texts from Ralph Fletcher.  I have stories saved on my Instagram (@hello_fifth) that go through it in DETAIL.

The passage gets glued in on one side and they make their noticings there.  On the opposite side, they imitate the text.
This typically only takes 15-20 minutes and is a GREAT way to warm up writers!  I use these constantly when they're in the publishing stage of the writing process, since I may not have a new mini-lesson to deliver.

Pen Pals
You can embed so many lessons into these, too!
Several years ago, we paired up with another fifth grade class in our district and became pen pals.  The kids LOVE it and I've found it's THE best way to get students writing authentically and from the heart!

We do about one letter a month.

As a bonus, we meet at a central park in the spring so they can meet each other.  We've heard of several great friendships that have formed because of these!

Our writing wall is constantly changing and we always have SOMETHING up (you can grab some pieces HERE).

Now... to meet writers where they are, we do daily writing conferences.  Our breakdown looks a little like this:

Mini-lesson or mentor texts (15ish minutes)
Writing time (20ish minutes)
Closing/sharing (10ish minutes)

Building up the confidence to share writing during closing is huge and shouldn't be taken lightly.
I prefer 1:1 conferences but with 32+ students, I typically have to do small groups.  I try and strike a balance because I've found that writers have such varied needs.  

During conferences, I always listen to them, whether it's having them read me their piece OR just where they're at.  I have to decide what I'm going to address and then teach them something that addresses that.  I link it back to their piece and give them something to work on immediately upon returning to their seat.

I keep track using THESE and just put the sheets inside a notebook (I have separate one for reading conferences, too).

I hope some of that helps!  If you're looking for the scope and sequence of what we do in writing, grab it HERE!

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