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Up the Ladder Units

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Up the Ladder Units: Accessing Grades 3-6 Units in Narrative, Information, and Opinion Writing

The Up the Ladder units give less experienced writers opportunities to engage in repeated successful practice and to move rapidly along a gradually increasing progression of challenges. Although designed to ramp kids up to the work they will do in the grades 3–6 writing Units of Study, these units can be helpful in any setting where students need a boost in foundational elements of writing workshop.

The TCRWP staff spent a long time studying how to successfully accelerate childrenÂ’s growth in narrative, information, and opinion writing. They analyzed the progression of skills taught across elementary and middle-school grades, identified the most critical foundational skills for each of the three genres, and then devised a pathway to support the development of these key skills.

Up the LadderThe Up the Ladder Units give upper grade kids the chance to get the writing process into their bones through work on a sequence of quick publications. The units begin by inviting students to write lots of small pieces that contain the essential characteristics of a specific genre, and to do so within especially motivating, supportive, and clear instruction. Students repeatedly plan, draft, revise, and do that work mostly outside the writing notebook, in booklets that make concrete manipulative revision easy. Kids cut pages apart to insert a quote, they add flaps off the edges to elaborate on a key part, they tape new leads and endings onto the first and last pages of booklets. Frequent checkpoints channel kids to double-check that their work has gotten substantially better. At each of these checkpoints, they—and you—will see that their growth has been dramatic

The Up the Ladder Units:

  • give less experienced writers intense writing practice within a short timeframe
  • teach foundational strategies through content, topics, and mentor texts that are appropriate for grades 3–6
  • include concise, accessible student checklists and guidelines for daily assessment
  • support teachers with an introduction to the workshop framework and writing process, tips and strategies for classroom management, and video demonstrations of the minilessons
  • offer teachers specific ways to support English learners
  • engage young people in work that is demanding yet attainable
  • ensure that students make rapid and dramatic progress toward grade-level writing work.

While the Up the Ladder units are designed to be precursors to the grade-level Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing, 3-6, they can be helpful in a variety of instructional settings.


Series Components

Up the Ladder ComponentsThree Up the Ladder Units (20-22 sessions in each)

  • Narrative
  • Information
  • Opinion

A Guide to the Up the Ladder Units orients you to the Up the Ladder books, providing guidance on the essential principles, methods, and structures of effective writing workshop instruction.

Online Resources

  • Downloadable charts, paper-choice templates, samples of student work, student checklists
  • Links to digital texts
  • QR code links at point-of-use within each minilesson with demonstration videos featuring TCRWP Staff Developers

Anchor-Chart Sticky Notes with illustrated teaching points help teachers create and evolve anchor charts across each unit.


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Common Core State Standards Correlations