Leap Into Literacy 5th Grade

February/March

Literary Essay Tips

Mike Ochs is the co-author of the Literary Essay unit. He shared these tips in a series of tweets over the last few months. Check out his twitter page @readwritemike.


  • Give an on-demand assessment shortly before the unit launches. We recommend you administer an opinion writing on-demand assessment prompt. Remember to avoid teaching during an on-demand! Instead, jot the habits that you notice students doing.


  • The key to a good inquiry is your role: a curious co-learner. When you ask students, “What makes a literary essay?” etc you want to sound like you don’t know, though you do! See link for the kind of tone to avoid http://youtu.be/uhiCFdWeQfA


  • There are MANY ways to support thesis statements! Supports can be 'times when' or 'ways' something is true; with characters to whom the thesis is true; by saying what they used to think & how their thinking has changed, etc.


  • Collect students’ thesis statements after Sessions 3 and 12, & then sort them by needs, using predictable problems listed in the Session 3 Conferring and Small-Group Work section. Do a quick round of small groups prior to Session 4.


  • Print the sample student essays from Session 5 and Session 13 from the digital resources, and carry them with you as you confer. We especially love FIG. 5-2 and 13-2. Mark up those essays with notes as to what you could teach.


  • Oral rehearsal is so powerful. Students benefit from saying their essay aloud "in the air" before writing them on paper. Coach students, & say things like: “Try it again, this time ranking your reasons. Which should come 1st, 2nd, 3rd?” etc.


  • Think about texts prior to starting Bend II. Ask students to pick texts they want to write about. One fav: The Stranded Whale by Jane Yolen. Its ending leaves much to write about!


  • Talk is KEY in this unit. Students will write stronger essays if they have many opportunities to talk with a partner. Set up talk clubs, grouping students reading the same text, & then channel those students to meet regularly across Bend II.


  • Check out the tool “Ways to Unpack Quotes” in the digital resources! Be sure also to print the students work from this session (FIG. 9-3 and 9-4) to provide as an exemplar for students to show them what “unpacking” a quote looks like.


  • The Narrative Goals & Techniques cards are an excellent tool to use when you teach students to support a claim using an analysis of author’s craft. Be sure to print & introduce these cards prior to Session 10 so that students are familiar with them.


  • Beginnings & endings matter. Encourage students to draft multiple versions of both. We like the chart on p. 117 of the unit. It adds significance to end an essay by showing how the themes helped students to rethink their own lives!


  • Session 12: Editing Seminar Stations is a smash hit in classrooms. We suggest you guide students to start at editing stations so you know they’ll need.

  • Celebrations are FUN & important! Students could record each other reading lit essays, & share them on Google Drive, etc. Channel students from each “book team” to share ideas they wrote about & to compare & contrast themes across books.


  • Teachers who went to Oct's Essay Mini-Institute saw Bend III as challenging & essential. Bend 3 helps students transfer learning from Bend 1 & Bend 2 into Bend 3—and life. Print articles from digital resources for students to read before Sessions 14 & 15!


  • Session 15 is a blast, especially if you turn it into a game. Get a crazy hat—the crazier the better! Amp up the play of the session. S.15 is about transfer, but also about knowing that learning is FUN! Channel your inner 10-year-old.

  • One expectation that sets 5th grade argument writing apart from others is that students logically order supports/ evidence. Ask: do you want to provide your most convincing material FIRST, with a BANG, or LAST, with a building drumroll?


  • Session 17 is a classic that you'll find in every unit of study. It gives kids options of what they can work on based on what they've already learned, it supports transfer, & it also serves as a "work day" for students to get stuff done.


  • Pilots & doctors use checklists. Writers use checklists, too! Keep the argument checklist is at hand, & channel students to set goals from it. Also, set class goals, perhaps one each from structure, development & language conventions.


  • For the final celebration, send students off to 3rd & 4th grade classrooms to be Essay Ambassadors, & watch the wonder & awe of younger students as they learn all about essays from your 5th graders. Happy celebrating!

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Understanding Texts & Readers

She's at it again. Our favorite author, Jennifer Serravallo, has once again written a book that is bound to become another indispensable resource.


Understanding Texts and Readers


This book provides a blueprint for helping readers succeed. The formula is simple: know your readers well and understand the challenges they’ll encounter at each step in their reading journey. This go-to guide shows how to find out what your readers need as they approach each level, starting with Level J. You’ll find descriptors of the complexity challenges for each level, organized into Fiction and Nonfiction sections. You’ll learn how turn what you know about your readers into actionable instruction.



This wonderful resource will be available the end of February. Happy Reading!