A New Writing Curriculum Begins at Cherry Lane

By Lisa Weinstein, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

While our students at North Shore Hebrew Academy have always been engaged with reading and writing on a daily basis, after a thorough analysis of the General Studies curriculum, we are implementing a formal writing curriculum this year that will explicitly teach students to write, by building upon skills over time, across grades 1-5.  Our goal at NSHA is to prepare our students for any reading and writing task they will face or set for themselves, and to turn them into life-long, confident writers. We aim to develop and strengthen a generation of writers who are passionate about communicating through the written word. 

This year, in grades 1-5, we are implementing the Teachers College Units of Study in Opinion, Informational and Narrative Writing. Over the summer, General Studies teachers participated in professional development sessions over Zoom and in person during Teacher Orientation to introduce the curriculum to them. Our teachers are also attending virtual conference days throughout the year with staff developers at the Teachers College and meet weekly with me to study student writing and learn best practices in implementing this new curriculum.  Our teachers are excited by these new professional development opportunities and are eager to bring their new skills into the classroom.

Students started the year by writing a narrative on-demand, which is a writing sample that serves as a baseline for teachers to learn about a child’s writing. Teachers met in grade-level groups, studied narrative writing exemplars, and read and discussed several of the student writing samples together in order to create a shared vision of what an excellent piece of writing at their grade level looks like. Teachers also identified the strengths and weaknesses in each student’s writing, and looked for trends across their class, so that they can modify their writing lessons to exactly what our students need to strengthen their writing.

Each grade began the year with a narrative writing unit. Students will read published personal narratives, brainstorm ideas for their own writing, draft, revise, edit, and ultimately publish a writing piece. A huge emphasis in this curriculum is the writing process, and on the writer’s craft – i.e. the things that a writer does to make his/her writing stronger and better. While spelling and grammar are important elements in writing, it is equally important that students understand that they are writing for an audience, and that the choices they make in their writing affect its quality. 

We can’t wait to see the impact of our new writing curriculum on our students, and look forward to sharing more about our students’ writing and their accomplishments as the year progresses.

School-to-Home Connection or Ways you Can Support Your Child at Home: T

The next time you read a fiction picture book to your child, read it twice with them. 

  • First, read it as a reader, asking questions like, “Who are the characters? How would you describe them? What’s the problem in the story? How was it solved?” 
  • Next, read the story again, as a writer, asking questions like, “How did the author begin the story? Did he/she use words to describe the setting? Or dialogue to bring you right into a conversation between the characters? Or did the words begin some other way? Why do you think the author chose to write the story this way?”