Welcome to Read – Write – Connect, Inc.

the Internet home of Leah Mermelstein.

Best Writing consultant 002 copyLeah is an internationally recognized literacy consultant who specializes in K-5 Reading and Writing Workshop. She is the President and CEO of Read-Write-Connect, INC. She is also the author of Reading/​​Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom, (Allyn & Bacon), Don’t Forget to Share (Heinemann) and the co-author of Launching the Writing Workshop (with Lucy Calkins) (Heinemann).


Selected Works

DVD

Quality Writing Instruction
This brand new DVD will assist teachers with high quality writing instruction.

Non-fiction

Don’t Forget to Share: The Crucial Last Step in the Writing Workshop
This brand new book will show you how to make your share sessions more instructional.

Nonfiction

Reading/Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom: Find the Clarity and Then Blur the Lines
This book demonstrates how through careful, explicit assessing, planning, and teaching every student can understand and use the reading/writing connection to become stronger readers and writers at the same time.

Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum: Launching the Writing Workshop
This book shows teachers how to launch a joyful and rigorous Writing Workshop in their classrooms.

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Leah Mermelstein
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Blog Posts are Below:

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Writing Units of Study that Align with the Common Core Standards

 

 

 

 

 

Many of the schools I work with are trying to create units of study in both Writing and Reading Workshop that align with the Common Core Standards (For more information on the Common Core Standards go to http://www.corestandards.org/).  In this blog I want to showcase the wonderful work of the first grade teachers at PS 230 in New York City. They have used this year to pilot, create, reflect, and revise units of study in writing that align with the Common Core Standards. They created these units specifically for W 1.1 in the Common Core Standards. This standard states that children should be able to  “write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.  Additionally, they wanted these new units of studies to be engaging, authentic and improve both their kids’ writing processes and products.

I was floored by the units that these first grade teachers created and even more floored by the writing that the kids produced.

Next, I want to share these two units with you with the hopes that you will ask further questions and make comments about these writing units of study, as well as share some of your own units.

 

Unit 1:  Writing About Special Places

 


 

 

 

 

Description of the Unit: In this unit of study, the teachers asked the children to choose a place that they loved to visit and create a concept book that convinced others of how great that place was.  It was wonderful to see the range of places that children chose to write about. Most of the places they chose required no research whatsoever as it was a place they went often such as the park or the beauty parlor. Children drafted these concept books in little booklets and on each page of their book they gave another reason that their place was great.

 

Some Important Teaching Points:  The teachers showed the children how to brainstorm different places they could write about, as well as brainstorm different things they could say about each of the places. They also worked with the children on coming up with more than one reason that their place was great and writing those reasons across multiple pages. The teachers also taught kids to write leads that revealed their opinion.  Finally, they worked on endings that brought closure to their concept books.

 

What the teachers discovered: The kids loved this unit and had great fun trying to convince others to visit these special places.  The teaches discovered  that some kids who were not interested in other kinds of writing (such as narrative writing) were very much engaged and interested in this unit.

 

 

Unit 2: Persuasive Letters

 

Description of the Unit:  In this unit, the teachers asked kids to take an idea  that they felt strongly about and write a letter to someone trying to make change.  Once again, what the children in these first grade classrooms chose to write about was simply amazing. Some chose school topics such as trying to convince the principal for more playtime, while others chose world topics such as trying to get President Obama to stop the war.

 

Some Important Teaching Points:  The teachers helped the kids think about the important of audience in persuasive writing and asked children to choose an appropriate person to send their persuasive letter to.  They also taught specific vocabulary on how to get from one argument to the next (One reason why we should have more playtime, Another reason why).   They also showed them how expand their arguments by including a personal anecdote.  Additionally, the teachers showed them different ways to organize their entire persuasive letter IE (State your idea, tell a personal story, give one reason you’re right, say another reason you’re right, have an exciting ending) and suggested that they used these structures if it helped them.  Once again, they worked on beginnings and endings that let their reader know what their opinion was about their particular idea.

 

What the teachers discovered:  Once again, the kids loved this unit and had great fun writing letters about important ideas to adults.  Because the audience was so clear, children were more open than ever to revising and editing these letters.  The teachers also found that providing the kids with some organizational structures such as the one I explained above helped some kids to state their unique ideas in clear and effective ways.

Copyright, 2011

14 Responses to Writing Units of Study that Align with the Common Core Standards
  1. Lucy Malka
    May 8, 2011 | 1:29 am

    Great work!
    Lucy

    • Leah Mermelstein
      May 8, 2011 | 12:29 pm

      I agree, these first grade teachers really are doing GREAT work!!! I just love the way that they seamlessly created fantastic units of study for Writing Workshop that not only aligned with the standards, but were engaging, fun, and produced strong writing. They are true professionals who understand that teaching is an ongoing, reflective process.

  2. Sharon Davison
    May 8, 2011 | 12:22 pm

    I love this! I am so happy that you are sharing your work in a digital way. Very Inspiring!

    You continue to inspire me and the work that I do with young writers and readers!

    Sharon

  3. Leah Mermelstein
    May 8, 2011 | 12:30 pm

    Thanks, Sharon. Your blog is pretty amazing as well.

  4. Maria Muldner
    May 9, 2011 | 12:28 pm

    Hi Leah,

    I LOVE the new blog! And it is so great to see untis of study other schools are creating! See you next month!

    Maria

  5. Leah Mermelstein
    May 9, 2011 | 10:42 pm

    Hi Maria,
    I’m so glad it’s helpful and I look forward to speaking soon about our day together in June. :)
    Leah

  6. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
    May 11, 2011 | 1:40 pm

    I love the idea of a unit persuading people to visit special places, and I will be sharing this on with others. Recently I heard of another type of authentic persuasive letter – “Write to Persuade Your School Librarian to Purchase a Particular Book!” Thank you for sharing all of these ideas. A.

    • Leah Mermelstein
      May 11, 2011 | 2:37 pm

      I love that idea! It is so authentic and kids would have a blast. It’s so much fun thinking up new units of study in writing that are not only aligned with the Common Core Standards, but are also engaging for both teachers and kids. Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. Paula Yolles
    May 15, 2011 | 10:37 pm

    I too love the ideas of new writing units being shared here. I am thinking of trying the writing about a special place unit. Leah or anyone else- I’m wondering if you have children picture books to recommend to support this unit. Thanks

    • Leah Mermelstein
      May 16, 2011 | 11:55 am

      Hi Paula,
      I don’t know the exact books that they used but I do know that they found some picture books that were about places and read those to the kids. Although those were great books for the kids to see how you could write about a place the writing in these books did not look like the kind of writing the kids would do. The books were really, really long and there were paragraphs on each page so it was more challenging to use those books to teach kids the craft of writing these ‘special places books.’ If I were doing this unit in my classroom, I might also use books such as the Nick Butterworth concept books (My Grandma is Awesome and My Grandma is Wonderful). Although these books are not about places, they do show kids how to persuade somebody by having a different idea about the topic on each page. Once I had completed the unit, I would for sure use examples that other kids had done.

      Leah

      • Pam
        May 20, 2011 | 8:06 pm

        You could also unpack a description from any picture book to notice what the authors do when they describe a place–noticing the different attributes they use (like color, size, distance) and the movement (if any) that would be happening in that place. Depending on your grade, some examples you might consider are The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gibbons or The Ocean Is by Kranking. The Ocean Is is an amazing photo essay that compares the Ocean to other things using a poetic structure. (For example, “The ocean is…a garden Corals bloom beneath the waves, Just like a garden grows…”

        • Leah Mermelstein
          May 22, 2011 | 11:34 pm

          Thanks for sharing the ideas and the books! Both are really, really helpful.:) See you soon!
          Leah

  8. Stephanie
    March 6, 2013 | 10:39 pm

    Can you discuss or provide feedback as to how Balanced Literacy meshes with the units of study created around CC standards? Our school is a Balanced Literacy school; however, we are trying to create units of study to cover CC standards, as well as be more collaborative and cohesive in our teaching. Some are hesitant to create/use units because we have only used guided reading and its components and writer’s workshop for the last 10 years. Any thoughts or suggestions on meshing the two?

    • Leah Mermelstein
      March 7, 2013 | 12:37 am

      Dear Stephanie,
      For me meshing the two just makes sense…The units of study are what you are teaching and balanced literacy is how you are teaching it. For example, if I was in a non-fiction unit of study I would create it by assessing my students as well as looking at the Common Core Standards. Then within that unit I would teach the concepts by having mini-lessons as well as small group (guided reading) I would also use other components such as shared reading and read aloud to teach within that reading unit of study. I hope that’s helpful. :)

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