Writing Workshop Writing Workshop is the time of day when students are given instruction on and provided the opportunity to develop their skills as writers. During Writing Workshop, children choose their own topic or idea within a specific Unit of Study (personal essay, persuasive writing, historical fiction novels). Students are encouraged to write about topics that are personally meaningful to them, while learning how to write in that particular genre. Teaching also focuses on grammar such as writing in complete sentences, using the appropriate punctuation, and spelling.
Unit 1- Personal Essay
In the first writing unit, fifth graders practice the skill of essay writing by writing a personal essay about a special person, a favorite place, or something important to them. Personal essays are idea-based essays that convey a strong personal idea about something important to the writer. This is a great way to start of their 5th grade writing life, because as we all know, fifth graders have a lot of opinions to share! Fifth graders are challenged to think of all the different angels of their topic so that they develop more complex ideas. For example, a fifth grader writer's initial idea of 'Teachers are strict.' may be pushed to the more sophisticated idea of 'When teachers are strict, it means they care about you.' Fifth graders practice using narrative (story-telling) strategies to support their idea through well-developed examples that include dialogue, thinking, and description. Fifth graders work hard during the revising process to re-read their pieces looking for specific examples that really support their idea, while cutting or getting rid of examples that are not as strong.
Unit 2- Persuasive Essay The second writing unit of the year builds off the essay writing students did in the fall, but in this unit, students read complex nonfiction texts, practice note-taking strategies, and then develop ideas about a 'hot' topic that interests them. Students read texts sets, watch videos, and research topics such as cell phone use in school, deforestation, video games, social media, or plastic use, all the while working to think carefully about all sides of the topic. Then, they choose where they stand on the topic- for or against- and develop a plan for their essay with ideas, reasons, and supports. They work on crafting a catchy introduction, writing body paragraphs that provide convincing evidence to the audience, while acknowledging the counter-stance so they can use their evidence to prove their point. To close their pieces, fifth grade writers craft conclusions that offer their readers a call to action.
Unit 3- Essay Writing about a Pair of Texts At this time of the year, our fifth graders practice two kinds of writing about reading- short response writing and Essay Writing. Both kinds of writing are based off texts they read. Students apply the strategies they've learned for reading complex texts to comprehend the texts. They read the texts with the question in mind, mark up the texts with notes, and then formulate structured short responses and essays that answer the posed questions or prompts.
Short responses are questions posed about one text. Students learn to start their short response with a topic sentence that answers the question with an inference (idea) or a claim. Then they go back to the text to find specific details that support their answer. They write a couple more supporting sentences that include their details. Then they might end with a conclusion sentence that wraps up their short response. Our fifth graders have been practicing this structure across the year, as well as in third and fourth grade, so they are very familiar with it and become experts at writing about texts they read.
In addition to short response questions, students continue to build the essay writing skills they have developed over the year. In this unit, students write essays on paired texts. Paired texts are two texts that have something in common. Fifth graders learn to read paired texts & analyze what they have in common. Then they plan, organize, and write essays on the two texts using details from both texts.
Unit 4- Narrative Writing- Historical Fiction Stories In the spring students have fun becoming historical fiction writers. They write historical fiction stories based on what they learn in their social studies unit on immigration to America at the turn of the twentieth century. Fifth graders use what they learn about daily life, hardships, and contributions of these new immigrants to America in the early 1900s to create an imagined story, weaving in historically accurate details about the time period.
Using what they know about daily life back then, students imagine realistic problems immigrants from that time period would have encountered. As historical fiction writers, they make decisions about what part of the journey they want to be the backdrop of their story—leaving their home country, taking the journey to America, facing challenges when arriving to a new land- and then use their knowledge of how a fiction story goes to develop the plot of the story. They develop the main character with strengths and flaws and imagine how he/she would handle the struggles he/she faced at that time. They develop a turning point at the end of the story where they show how the main character has grown and/or learned a life lesson by going through their struggle. Throughout their story, students practice ‘showing, not telling’ by including dialogue that shows strong emotions, as well as setting and daily life clues that show their reader what life was like back then.
To support your child at home, you can ask him/her to:
share his/her writing with you- encourage him/her to read their writing aloud to look for mistakes they can fix (missed words, punctuation)
write about everyday events together (going to the park, visiting family)
make writing a part of everyday home life (write letters/emails to family, make a family journal, write lists)