Pacing Your Writing Instruction (Grades 4-5)


Pacing your writing instruction isn’t an easy thing to do, especially if you’re a new writing teacher.

The question I get the most when it comes to writing is “What does your writing calendar look like?” I, like many teachers, like to plan pretty far ahead in the year so that I have more time to really develop my units. I’m also lucky enough to have the flexibility to make choices on writing pacing.

Here is what I do:

This is a graphic showing a sample pacing guide for writing instruction in upper elementary

Back to School (August-September)

Back to school is about getting to know your new students. This makes it the perfect time for teaching personal narrative writing. We do a lot of personal narrative journaling and I read and respond to their journals at this time. By September, I have a pretty good idea of what my students are like in class and outside of school. This is also the time when I try to pair my literature standards to personal narrative using personal narratives and memoirs like The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust (Grades 5-6).

Crunch Time (October-December)

I refer to this time of the year as “crunch time” because this is really the busiest teaching and learning time of the year. We cram in a lot of new standards during this time. This is also the time where I teach the bulk of my informational standards, which pairs very well with explanatory writing. This is also a great time to link your explanatory writing to your science and social studies standards. My 4th graders get their explanatory topics based off of state history, while my 5th graders get their explanatory topics based off of American history. Because of all the integration we do with writing during this block, we spend an extra month on explanatory writing.

We really focus on using text-based evidence from reading in writing selections, which also prepares us for our upcoming opinion unit.

The Long Stretch (January-March)

It seems like there are no breaks these months and even though we just came back from winter break, the kids get burnt out fast. Opinion writing is a lot more interactive that explanatory, which is why I put it on this part of the calendar. We do a lot of opinion journaling, debating, peer review, and more. We also read a lot of text about our topics and even watch some YouTube videos.

Testing and Wind-down (April-May)

With so much going on during this window, I want my students to be working on a writing piece that they enjoy pulling out between testing days. This is why I choose creative narrative for the last block of the year. We have a lot of fun with this unit. I like to pair my International Space Station-themed creative writing unit with my field trip to space math project-based learning activity. We end up with super awesome projects and writing pieces to take home on the last day of school, and my students are never bored. These units really reinvigorate our classroom, which is definitely needed the last month of school.

A photograph of writing resources for upper elementary

Looking for information on actual writing lessons? Check out my post about Writer’s Workshop.

No matter what you or your school decides for your writing block, I recommend sitting down and really mapping out what you can connect from the other subjects to your writing units. The connection between writing and the other subject areas should always be strong to show your writers the real purpose of writing.


April Smith

Curriculum Writer and Online Professional Development Coach. 


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