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Be Brave—Remove the Shrink-wrap: Skills Practice Support in Being a Writer

Yes, there is grammar support in Being a Writer—but it’s probably still in its shrink-wrap….

If you are teaching Being a Writer in grades 2–6, did you know that there are Student Skill Practice Books and a Skill Practice Teaching Guide included in your materials? If you are aware of these resources, are you using them or are they sitting on your shelf in a pretty, shrink-wrapped package?

I was recently in Las Vegas where I attended a professional development session presented by a group of outstanding Clark County School District educators. Lindee Witt, one of the facilitators and fifth grade teacher, shared how she incorporates the activities in the Skill Practice Teaching Guide (that was screaming to be released from its shrink-wrap) into her writing time.

Here’s how she does it:

  1. Find the following sections and tab your Skill Practice Teaching Guide (doing this will help you down the road…really, it will):


    • Grade-level Skills: This chart lists the grade-level grammar skills addressed in the skill guide. The chart also indicates which skills are explicitly taught within a genre unit and provides suggestions for any additional units it would be appropriate to practice each skill. Ideally you’d want to introduce the skills at a time when students are going to be able to apply the skill in their own writing (for example, using double and single quotation marks would be a great skill to introduce during the Fiction genre unit).

      Grade 4 Skills

    • Skill Practice Mini-lessons: These two pages contain the teacher instructions for the mini-lesson and the corrections for the sample activity.


      Mini-Lesson Corrections

    • Blackline Masters: These are the uncorrected versions of the sample activities you will use for each mini-lesson.

      Blackline Master

    • Student Skill Practice Book Corrections: These are the answers for each of the practice activities located in the Student Skill Practice Book. There are four additional student activities for each mini-lesson.

      Student Book Corrections

  2. Create a weekly plan like the following for teaching the grammar lessons.

    Consider spending no more than 5–7 minutes each day on the activity. It’s not essential for the students to finish each activity since they’ll have many opportunities throughout the week to practice the targeted skill.

    Day 1: Teach the mini-lesson from the teaching guide as a whole-group lesson.

    Day 2: Use the first practice activity from the Student Skill Practice Book. Have the students work with their writing partners to complete the activity. If applicable, you might provide the students with clues for each sentence (Lindee provides her students with a chart similar to the one below). Have partners work on the passage together for 5 minutes, and then discuss as a class.

    Clue Chart

    Day 3: Use the second practice activity from the Student Skill Practice Book and follow the same procedure as Day 2. This time, you might provide students with clues for some of the sentences (if applicable).

    Day 4: Use the third practice activity from the Student Skill Practice Book and follow the same procedure as Days 2 and 3. This time, you might provide students with clues for just a few of the sentences (if applicable).

    * Be sure to establish and model your expectations for how partners will work together on Days 2–4.

    Day 5: Have the students complete the fourth practice activity independently. This activity can then be assessed and used to inform future grammar instruction.

  3. Reinforce the targeted skills in your conferencing.

    During the session we were able to work on a practice activity in the way suggested above and the discussions that evolved from analyzing the passages were amazing—we really had to think! I’m sure that some people might still be a little skeptical, but I urge you to at least give it a try. Be brave—remove the shrink-wrap!

    If anyone else has found a creative way to incorporate the skill practice activities into their instruction we’d love to hear about it!

Jackie Jacobs is a Program Manager at the Center for the Collaborative Classroom. Before coming to CCC, she was a classroom teacher with Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada and for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Vilseck, Germany. Jackie received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and her undergraduate degree in elementary education from the University of New Mexico.

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