My 6th Grade ELA Pacing Guide and What I Do Everyday
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
My First Years
I remember being a new teacher and having NO CLUE what I was going to be teaching. My first year teaching, I was given a basic curriculum of major writing pieces that had to be accomplished and a basal reader (yuck) for reading. That’s it. So, I leaned on my colleagues for guidance and I am pretty sure they were very annoyed with me! This was pre-Pinterest, pre-Instagram, pre-Teachers Pay Teachers. I consistently asked my colleagues if I could see their lesson plans, borrow their packets, etc. In reflection, I regret doing that. Those teachers worked hard to develop their curriculum and I essentially expected them to hand it to me. In their eyes, they probably felt as if I was taking their hard work and using it, and I don’t blame them for animosity, if they had any. In all honestly, it was simply because I was clueless and had no confidence. (If they are reading this, I am sorry! You guys were amazingly patient with me and I hope you understand it wasn’t because I was lazy; I was learning).
Confidence was something I always struggled with, but I don’t think new teachers SHOULD go in overly confident. I’ve met some new teachers who think they know everything already, and that’s not a good. They need to ask their fellow teachers for guidance, but should not ask them to use their materials. This was a mistake I made, but when make mistakes happen, we learn from them.
Eventually, after that first year, I started gaining more confidence. I moved to new district. It still took me a couple more years to feel like I knew what I was doing. Now, I actually write curriculum for my district. I am solely responsible for what happens in my 6th grade classroom.
What I Do
I use Reading and Writing Workshop in my classroom. I do not stick to it fully and over time, have added my own twists. I also do a reading unit fully, then a writing unit fully. With 81-minute blocks, I like to really use that time fully to focus on whatever skill we are doing that day.
This is the basic structure of each day:
Each day starts with 15 minutes of independent reading.
Then, I teach the mini-lesson/skill of focus. I use a mentor text and do whatever I expect the kids to do. This typically takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
Usually, students then go off to do the skill with a partner. This is about 10 minutes.
Following partner work, we meet back at the mat for a few minutes to regroup/reteach.
They then go off on their own to do the skill with their books or writing piece.
Lastly, I do some kind of grammar at the end of the block for about 15 minutes. In the past, I’ve done No Red Ink, Moby Max, and mentor sentences. This year, I am doing interactive notebooks from Teacher Thrive.
Where do all the books come from?
Since I do Reading Workshop, students are always reading in REAL books. I have a classroom library, but for book clubs, I require students to get books from the public library or I get a bunch of books on my card. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain in the neck, but it gets my students into book they WANT to read. If it means I have to go out of my way, I will.
I work very closely with public libraries. A month before book clubs start, I give my students a list of books in the genre of study. They then choose what books they want in a Google Form. My lists are usually lengthy and I'm open to letting them choose others. Once I compile all the forms, I try to group students into books they want and do some negotiating. Then, I make a list of groups and the books they are going to read. I send this list to the librarian and she orders all the books for me. She keeps the books behind the desk. Students come in, ask her for the book, check out and walk out. As long as they have a card and can get to the library within a month before the unit, it’s easy. Yes, they have to return them at some point, and yes I get parents pushing back, but they need to learn responsibility. If it’s a true hardship, I just get or return the books for them.
My Pacing Guide
A Deep Study of Character: This is a Lucy Calkins Unit of Study for middle school. This one, I follow pretty closely to the book. I spend time working on inferencing, point-of-view, perspective, empathy, and more.
Students are reading from any fiction book for this.
Narrative Writing in Response to Fiction: This is my first writing unit. I originally did this unit to get kids state test ready because this was how they were supposed to respond narratively on the PARCC. I still like to do it because it gets the kids to think about their reading in a different light.
For about two weeks, we spend time writing continuation stories. They write new stories using story structure that could continue after a short story they read. Think of it as another chapter.
Then, I spend the rest of October doing point-of-view stories. They choose a short story to write from the perspective of another character in the story.
Within this unit, I focus a lot of mini-lessons on narrative writing skills and connecting their stories to originals.
Social Issues Book Clubs: This is another Lucy Calkins unit that I follow closely. I give them a list of books under specific issues (Calkins’ unit has an extensive list or I hop onto my Facebook groups). I use the book Faceless as my mentor text.
I focus on similar skills from September, but really get into theme. They also do a lot of collaborative work on the issue their books focus on.
Research, Research Essay, and Informational Book: This is a massive unit! I spend a good three weeks on research skills. This is a mash-up of Lucy Calkins units (Tapping the Power of Non-Fiction and Research-Based Information Writing: Books, Websites, and Presentations), but I’ve tweaked this over the years. A month before, I let students decide what topic they want to research. I give them about 5 topics to choose from based on the Calkins’ units. I group them and give them a list of books to choose from to get from the library. Again, they have a month to get the books.
I then spend up to Christmas break on non-fiction skills for research (main idea, text features, summarizing, text structure). Then, when they come back, they write an essay on their topic. Lastly, they spend half of January creating an eBook on the topic with their peers who have the same topic.
Dystopian Book Clubs: Yet again, another Lucy Calkins Unit of Study. This unit tends to be geared toward upper middle, but I like to take the plunge with my 6th graders. I mostly focus on setting and power. I use Among the Hidden as my mentor text. It’s a great introduction to dystopian books. I do this for the second half of January and beginning of February.
Literary Analysis Essays: After our February break, I have the students write a comparative essay with their book club books, a dystopian short story, and the movie A Truman Show. I focus on theme (how do all sources show a specific theme).
Poetry: My focus is close reading. I’ve gathered a ton of poems into one digital notebook. We work on reading the poems several times and applying typical poetry skills (mostly figurative language). I also focus on song lyrics and let them write some poetry, too.
Debate: I spend about two weeks on this. I use Newsela and Commonlit articles to prepare for debates. We spend a week discussing the ins and outs of debates, then a week prepping and performing a debate.
Test Prep: I do about a week of this. That’s it.
Graphic Novels: I let them choose any graphic novel they want, as long as it’s fantasy. My unit focuses on the complexity of graphic novels (because they’re not as easy as everyone thinks!). I then focus on fantasy components.
Fantasy Writing: Last unit of the year! Students plan and write fantasy stories! I like to kick this off with showing them the movie Spirited Away to discuss the hero’s journey.
This can be overwhelming, for sure. I wrote this just to give you a snapshot of what one teacher does. The first thing you have to do is see what your district expects. It’s great when they give you freedom, like my district does. Sometimes, you are bound by a curriculum, but if you want to stray a little, this may give you some ideas.
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