How to Plan a Whole Year of Writing Lessons in 6 Easy Steps

Teaching writing should be enjoyable and with a solid plan, it can be.  Planning a whole year of writing lessons can be easy if you approach the task from the right angle.  A simple plan is usually best.

The First Time I had to Plan Writing Lessons

The first time I had to plan writing lessons for the whole school year it was overwhelming.  I was trying to look at what I was required to teach, the lessons in the curriculum, and what other teachers on the team did.  So many factors go into planning writing lessons and each pulls us in a different direction which makes it difficult to know know what we can let go of.   

Was My Writing Lessons Plan Good?

I ultimately became so overwhelmed that my writing lessons plan were non-existent, reliant on a boxed curriculum, and lasted too long.  Not being prepared with a plan wasn’t going to help me or my students.  Planning gets easier year after year but teaching also changes every year.  If we have a solid plan for our writing lessons to start with it will be easy to adjust and change it as the year progresses.

What are Writing Lessons for the Whole Year?

Writing lessons for the whole year are your entire curriculum.  Your curriculum doesn’t have to be a boxed curriculum.  The lessons that you decide to teach are your curriculum. The longer you teach the more the writing lessons in your curriculum will become unique and customized to you and your classroom.

It’s helpful to have an overview of the lessons we want to teach over the year even if we change and adjust those lessons depending on your students’ needs.  Flying by the seat of your pants is never the most effective way to teach.  Having a plan and making adjustments to that plan will make the school year more effective.

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5 Easy Steps to Plan a Year of Writing Lessons

Planning a year of writing lessons doesn’t have to be difficult and after you read the rest of this article you will be on your way.  This daunting task will change into a doable one with a little helpful advice. You will need to do a little prep work and then some decision-making to plan your writing lessons for a whole year. This isn’t a do it my way or the highway type of article thought.  I hope you find some helpful tips within my process. 

The First Steps to Planning Writing Lessons 

1. What Writing Lessons and Concepts Do You Need to Teach

There is no way around district requirements and state standards.  These requirements about what teachers teach in the classroom guide much of what we do. It’s important to have this available while planning your writing lessons.

2. Examine the School Calendar Before Deciding on Writing Lessons

We think of school as a Monday-to-Friday gig but there are also a lot of holidays, vacations, and special events that interrupt our “regular” schedule.   Take a calendar and write down these special events so you have a good idea of the actual time you’ll have to teach writing lessons.

3. Look at Your Curriculum If You are Choosing to Use One

Are you going to use a boxed curriculum?  Look at how many lessons they have for each type of writing just so you have an idea.  Look at the table of contents and mark which lessons you want to teach and which ones you think you will skip.  You are allowed to skip writing lessons from a boxed curriculum that won’t help your students learn. This will give you a baseline number of lessons you want to teach.

Before You Pick Writing Lessons Decide How Many Projects of Each Writing Type Students Will Complete

When you are a classroom teacher you get to make most of the decisions about how you will teach your students.  So it’s time to take advantage of that.  How many final drafts will they complete for each type of writing this year?

There are 4 types of writing – narrative, informational (expository), persuasive (opinion/argumentative), and descriptive.   Usually, we see descriptive writing mixed with the other types or focused on it in poetry.  The three major types of writing are narrative, informational, and persuasive.  Pick a reasonable goal for how much you want them to write.  For example, you may want your students to write 3 or 4 narrative pieces over the course of the school year.

I think this is especially important when it comes to grading.  Sometimes we get so caught up in completing every writing lesson that we get to the end of the grading period and our students only have one piece of graded writing.  How awful would it be to have your entire writing grade be based on one final draft?  

Decide How Many Final Drafts Each Quarter Before Choosing Writing Lessons

Now you need to break it down further.  Does your school use quarters, trimesters, or semesters?  Decide how many final drafts your students should complete during each grading period.  Again this should be reasonable. The go-getter in me wants to say that they will complete each type of writing each quarter, but when I consider all the things that stop me from teaching I decided two final drafts each quarter would be great.  As my students become more proficient I might be able to have them write three in the last quarter. 

These goals and timelines are all adjustable because it has to be, but this type of timeline will help you and your students get more writing done. My outline for the year might look something like this.   It’s a quick and simple plan for the major writing assignment my students will complete each quarter.  If you would prefer to write three narrative essays at the beginning of the year that’s fine too.

Quarter 1NarrativeInformational
Quarter 2PersuasiveNarrative
Quarter 3InformationalPersuasive
Quarter 4NarrativeInformationalPersuasive

Picking Writing Lessons for Each Assignment

Every time you teach narrative writing you do not need to teach all the narrative writing lessons.  What if you were asked to pick three to five lessons to teach for narrative writing each time your students did an assignment?  If you teach narrative writing three times during the school year that’s 9-15 lessons.  Don’t try to teach too much during one assignment

Students hate when a writing assignment goes on for weeks on end.  They get bored and lose focus.  Instead, plan the due date, teach a few lessons, and grade based on those lessons, not perfection.

For this step, you don’t need to write an actual lesson plan.  You can look at your boxed curriculum, or write down an idea of what you’d like your students to learn.

Quarter 1NarrativeInformationalPersonal Narrative Due Sept 15Sea Creatures October 15Hook | Pacing | Story ArcHook | Conclusions | Organizing Information
Quarter 2PersuasiveNarrativeBest Pet  Due Nov 12Types of Narratives December 15Hook | 3 Reasons | ConclusionCharacter Development | Setting | Prewriting Activities
Quarter 3InformationalPersuasive
Quarter 4NarrativeInformationalPersuasive

How Will You Include Poetry, Holiday, and Culture in Writing Lesson

Take a look at the calendar and decide when you want to schedule your writing lessons for each assignment.  Personally, I like to try to work on an assignment for about 2 weeks (10 days).  It’s even better if they turn it in midweek because then I can add in some poetry lessons, have a movie day (with more grading time for me), or add in a holiday celebration.  All of these things have benefits for my students like a break from a big assignment, time to learn through poetry, celebrating holidays, or even giving extra time to another part of ELA.  I don’t want to overbook their writing abilities.

Find the Writing Lessons You Want to Use

If you are using a boxed curriculum you probably already have the lessons you want to use. You might have some favorites and some you’d rather skip.  If you are already familiar with the curriculum then you probably know which writing lessons you want to use.  If you are using a new curriculum take a look at the table of contents first to help you narrow down the lessons you’ll use. I have always found boxed curriculums want to have my students write the same paper for a month and that’s way too long.  Pick and choose your lessons if you are going with a boxed curriculum.

If you are writing or downloading your curriculum it’s time to take a look and find what you need.  Do your research and develop your lessons or take a look online for writing lessons that you want to use.  I have a narrative writing curriculum that is almost complete.  You can purchase the whole curriculum or the individual lessons you need.  Information and persuasive writing are the next writing lessons on my list so keep an eye out.

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students by using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

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