Informational Writing Books for K-2 (Lucy Calkins)

Informational Writing Books for K-2 (Lucy Calkins)

Informational writing can be a struggle with lower elementary students, but in this post, I’ll share with you how I was able to help my 2nd graders create detailed and age appropriate informational writing booklets on topics they were comfortable writing about.

Watch my Facebook live on this topic here.

Informational writing ideas for kindergarten, first, and second graders Lucy Calkins non fiction writing booklets

In February, I blogged about using the Lucy Calkins common core writing program, and how we were making catapults and creating lab reports. {Click here to check out that post}.

Well, after we finished our lab reports, we were supposed to move on to creating informational writing books about something related to forces and motion.

AND here is where I have a problem with Lucy Calkins. She assumed that just because my students did experiments with forces and motion that they would automatically understand forces and motion concepts like push, pull, gravity, friction, etc. Well, Lucy, that’s not how it works. I totally think learning through experience is fantastic, BUT you need to give kids some background knowledge and leave time for some actual instruction.

So, I stepped out from the program a bit and did a mini unit for a few days on forces and motion. I didn’t think it was fair to expect my students to write about something they didn’t fully understand.

We read some books about forces and motion, watched some brainpopjr video clips, had some fantastic discussions, and created a this flip book and mini dictionary.

(Click the picture to check it out on TpT)

Teaching informational writing in a real and meaningful way in K-2 classrooms is a struggle, but learn how you can have your students create and publish informational books with this step by step blog post. Free template included!

After that, my students totally got the concept and were ready to write their informational books. Lucy (We’re on first name basis now, aren’t you? haha) wanted them to pick something they know about that relates to forces and motion and create an informational book explaining all about it while including how it relates to forces and motion. I was overwhelmed at first. It seemed like a really tall order for 2nd graders (and their very pregnant teacher), but I dove right in and the results were fantastic.

Most of my students ended up picking sports because they play sports outside of school and they easily relate to forces and motion. Some topics were- track, baseball, softball, tennis, swimming, surfing, snowboarding, dance, and even bowling.

The first thing we did was create our table of contents so we could decide WHAT we would include in our books.

Teaching informational writing in a real and meaningful way in K-2 classrooms is a struggle, but learn how you can have your students create and publish informational books with this step by step blog post. Free template included!

We added the page numbers at the end. In the beginning, we just wrote our topics.

Then, they began to write. I (of course) model drafting different sections on the topic Lucy gave me in her novel teacher’s guide (which was cleaning by the way… how random!). One thing I really liked about the way she had them write was that I gave them a bunch of paper choices and they could choose whatever one fit their topic. I didn’t like that she didn’t include any of the paper choices and I had to create them on my own.

Here are many of the different options my kiddos had.

Teaching informational writing in a real and meaningful way in K-2 classrooms is a struggle, but learn how you can have your students create and publish informational books with this step by step blog post. Free template included!

Let me tell you, it took a LONG time for my kiddos to complete all of their chapters, but I have never seen them so engaged in writing. They loved every minute of it, and their writing was really good!

After we finished all of our chapters, we went back and wrote an introduction and conclusion.

Teaching informational writing in a real and meaningful way in K-2 classrooms is a struggle, but learn how you can have your students create and publish informational books with this step by step blog post. Free template included!

Teaching informational writing in a real and meaningful way in K-2 classrooms is a struggle, but learn how you can have your students create and publish informational books with this step by step blog post. Free template included!

It was much easier to write an introduction and a conclusion once their books were done because they knew what was in their books. Writing an introduction before they wrote their books would not have worked.

Now, again, I veered from Lucy’s path a little bit. In true LC fashion, she had the students edit their work on their own and that’s it. My students worked so hard on their books, that I thought they deserved more than that. I did have them edit their own work first, but then I sat with each of them together and helped them edit. Any misspelled word in their book were pointed out and I had them look them up on the word wall or dictionary.

Once their books were all edited, they each created a glossary.

Teaching informational writing in a real and meaningful way in K-2 classrooms is a struggle, but learn how you can have your students create and publish informational books with this step by step blog post. Free template included!

Last, they created their covers for their books.

Teaching informational writing in a real and meaningful way in K-2 classrooms is a struggle, but learn how you can have your students create and publish informational books with this step by step blog post. Free template included!

I can’t even express how much excitement and pride my kiddos felt when I handed them their bound and completed informational books. They were SO proud of themselves and each other, and I was so proud of them too. They did such an excellent job!

Here’s a picture of them displayed in the hallway (ignore the RESPECT, that was for something else).

Teaching informational writing in a real and meaningful way in K-2 classrooms is a struggle, but learn how you can have your students create and publish informational books with this step by step blog post. Free template included!

So there you have it. Did I do everything the “Lucy” way? No. Did I take some valuable ideas from her? Yes. In the end, combining her ideas and techniques with my own created a fantastic book that hopefully each of my students will keep for a long time.

Congrats on making it to the end of my very long post! Go to my free resource libraryΒ for subscribers to download the booklet template (Subscribe here to get the password)!Β 

Click here to read more about taking the frustration out of writing instruction!

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Teaching informational writing in a real and meaningful way in K-2 classrooms is a struggle, but learn how you can have your students create and publish informational books with this step by step blog post. Free template included!


Primary Paradise

Primary Paradise

I have always had a passion for teaching and sharing with others and look forward to sharing my ideas with you!

49 Comments

  • Diane OC
    April 13, 2014 8:43 am

    I love your booklet. How long did it take your students to complete it? Did you do one page a day? Did you write it on one paper and then edit/rewrite it all at the end? So, in other words, did you do a complete book sloppy copy first and then edit it a page at a time and then rewrite it? It seems like an overwhelming job but if a pregnant momma can do it, than I am going to try it too! You are an inspiration!! Thank you so much for the freebie paper too!

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      April 13, 2014 1:31 pm

      Hi Diane! It took about a month to complete (we had some snow days in there). They basically started with 1 chapter and then would move to the next when they were done. Each student worked at their own pace. Some students took about a day to complete each chapter, some students took more, and some students took less (if they had a short chapter). They had free access to dictionaries through out so that minimized spelling errors, and they did peer editing which minimized punctuation and capitalization errors. When they were all done, I sat with each student and helped them edit their work. If their page needed a TON of fixing, I had them rewrite it. Otherwise, they just fixed it on the original page because it would have taken them forever to rewrite the whole thing. I hope that helps! Good luck! πŸ™‚

  • Storie
    April 13, 2014 10:12 am

    I had great intentions of making a nonfiction book with my kiddos after studying nonfiction text features. Unfortunately, this group took longer than expected to learn paragraph writing. Maybe with my next class. Thank you for sharing copies of the pages you used. The books turned out great!

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      April 13, 2014 1:32 pm

      You’re very welcome! It was certainly not an easy undertaking, but with a lot of work, all of my students were successful. Hopefully you can do it next year. πŸ™‚

  • Karen Ganon
    April 13, 2014 11:30 am

    Can’t thank you enough! All set up and ready for our research. This will definitely keep them much neater and organized than they have been in the past!

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      April 13, 2014 1:33 pm

      Good luck! I hope they have fun and create some awesome books!

  • Sara
    April 13, 2014 4:15 pm

    Hello! This is my third year teaching and I am looking for a writing curriculum to use and I started researching Lucy Calkins Common Core Writing Program for first grade. I noticed you said that you have mixed feelings about it. Do you mind sharing your opinions on the program? Before I ask my principal if I can pilot it, I am looking for some reviews from teachers who are already using it. Thanks, I really appreciate it!

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      April 14, 2014 5:25 am

      Hi Sara! I like some parts and don’t like others. This is my first experience with Lucy Calkins, so if you have previous experience with her, some of the things I dislike might be things you’re used to. First, I find it really difficult to wade through her pages and pages for each lesson. It is not very straight forward. I find myself reading through the teachers guide, taking notes, and then writing my lesson plans. She does not put it in an easy to follow, step-by-step format. It’s written more as a narrative. I also don’t like that it does not really teach conventions or grammar. I think these are really important skills. Last, I don’t like that she sometimes assumes my students know things that average 2nd graders wouldn’t just know. That being said, my students have grown as writers this year and I am impressed with the skills they’ve gained. I think, if you’re willing to add to it and do some tweaking, the program can work, but if you follow it exactly as it’s written you might have trouble. That’s, of course, just my opinion. I hope that helps!

      • Winn Morgan
        February 1, 2015 8:53 pm

        Ditto! I love and so appreciate your booklet. My school is implementing Lucy Calkins’ Writers Workshop this year. My sensational second graders had a blast conducting the forces and motion experiments and grasped the concept of writing lab reports very well. Applying the concepts of forces and motion in their informational booklets on topics of their own choosing was difficult. Like you, I called a time out and regrouped. I am so pleased with the progress they made incorporating nonfiction text features. Can’t wait to offer your paper next year!

        • Primary Paradise
          Primary Paradise
          February 6, 2015 7:20 am

          Winn, that made me smile so much! It really is amazing what our kiddos can do. I definitely loved this unit, despite the fact that there were a few times I kind of wanted to rip my hair out with frustration. It was ALL worth it in the end. πŸ™‚

  • Carla Hoff
    April 13, 2014 6:59 pm

    Great post! Thanks for explaining things so clearly. Best to you and the upcoming Big Event!

  • Marilee Estes
    April 13, 2014 9:38 pm

    Awesome. I am working on Informational writing with 3rd graders. This will be helpful. Thanks.

  • Susan
    November 20, 2014 2:00 pm

    Thank you for this post. Our second grade classes spend at least 6 weeks on informational books because we did independent research on animals of our choice, sloppy copies, edits, rewrites and illustrations. It was quite challenging and our friend Lucy has no clue what is demanded of second graders these days beyond writing. You have inspired me to try again! Thanks for your post!

  • Lisa
    December 26, 2014 7:53 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! We will be teaching a unit on force and motion requiring informational writing as we return from holiday break. I too scratch my head at times when attempting to apply some of Lucy C.’s workshop principles.

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      January 7, 2015 6:33 am

      You are so welcome! I’m glad to help! πŸ™‚

  • Jeana
    December 29, 2014 9:16 am

    Thank you!!!! thats amazing!!!!

  • Rosemary
    January 2, 2015 12:31 pm

    I printed the pages for the informational writing but I did not see the cover included. Thanks!

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      January 7, 2015 6:30 am

      Hi Rosemary! I’m not sure why I didn’t include the cover-oops! If you email me at primaryparadisetpt@gmail.com, I can send it to you.

      Thanks!

  • Cindy
    January 4, 2015 12:47 am

    YOU ARE AWESOME! I loved everything! Lucy is my hero and you are too! I wish we taught next door to each other!

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      January 7, 2015 6:29 am

      Aw, thanks so sweet! I’m so glad I could help. πŸ™‚

  • Danette
    January 21, 2015 2:09 am

    I am glad I saw your post, I was having a difficult time deciding how I was going to teach the FOSS unit “Balance and Motion” and if Lucy Calkin’s Informational Unit would be taught during Writing Workshop and also cover the science topic. I have not read all of the unit, so I don’t think it’s something I can do as I go along. I will probably have to wait for next year to use the unit. Should I teach the science unit first, then use Lucy Calkin’s Unit? How does it go together?

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      February 6, 2015 7:23 am

      Danette, I totally stopped and taught the science first because my kids didn’t “get it”. I think that’s a great way to do it if they’re not understanding the concepts. πŸ™‚

  • Rosemary
    February 10, 2015 9:04 pm

    Our district adopted Lucy Writing this year. Our second grade teachers were glad to find your posts on informational writing books and your catapult lesson and your book pages. I purchased your Forces and Motion unit on teacher pay teachers to use as you suggested. I was wondering if you had a student copy of one of their books that you could email me. It is so hard to find samples to show the kids. We talked today about choosing a topic. Also do you know of any good mentor texts about sports to use with this? Thanks! Rosemary

  • Alix
    March 9, 2015 12:19 pm

    Thanks so much for your post and the papers! I use Lucy for 3rd and 4th grade and your experiences and ideas are similar to what I find at these grades as well. I always say to my colleagues that teaching with Lucy Calkins is like doing performance art. I’m always interested to know the nitty gritty of how other teachers are implementing her work.

  • Dee Dee Love
    March 22, 2015 7:24 pm

    I just want to thank you so very much for your posts on this unit of Lucy Calkins. I even showed my students your blog to give them a better idea of what they shoudl be producing because they were really having a hard time breaking their topic into chapters or sections. They were more dividing it into steps instead of some real chapters. I couldn’t have gotten through the catapult bend or the informational piece without having your blog as a reference! Thanks so much!

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      March 26, 2015 1:02 pm

      You are SO welcome! That makes my teacher heart so happy. πŸ™‚

  • Carolyn Newman
    May 17, 2015 5:42 pm

    You echoed every thought I have about LC, good and bad. She is challenging to use but so beneficial! I just hadn’t delved deeply enough to figure out this informational writing–I had just figured out her first edition!! You have given me the extra push I needed to really try this next year.

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      May 18, 2015 12:04 pm

      Carolyn, I’m so glad to help! I think that she’s great, but you definitely have to make it your own. πŸ™‚

  • stephenwokanick
    May 23, 2015 7:33 pm

    Hi there,

    Thanks for this great post! I am going on an interview this week where I have to show a 5-day outline for teaching non-fiction text features. I was going to do an All-About book but I see a few people have said it takes WEEKS to finish that. Any idea on how to make a simplified writing assessment to show their understanding of non-fiction text features?

    Thanks!
    workofharte@gmail.com

  • Tammie
    October 2, 2015 10:24 pm

    I love your science unit. I just used it to teach forces and motion and my students loved it. I’m not using Lucy Calkins program but am planning on using your book format to create the informational books too since our focus is informative writing. Would love some more detail on how you guided your students through this process, what directions you gave them.

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      November 11, 2015 12:22 pm

      Hi Tammie! We actually ready a book on each topic in the book, and put it together slowly over a week. It’s been a few years, so I don’t remember exactly what books I read. I just went to my school library and searched for books on each topic. I hope that help! πŸ™‚

  • Dana Murphy
    December 8, 2015 6:47 pm

    This is very helpful – our school district uses the Units of Study and I know this unit has been a bit of a struggle with our 2nd grade team at times. Like you, though, they worked through it and the pay-off was worth it. FYI – I’m not sure if you got the CD that accompanies the units, but the printable paper choices are on there.

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      December 19, 2015 5:16 am

      So glad to help! I did have the CD, but I’m a little picky about my paper, so I decided to make my own. πŸ™‚

  • Megan
    January 5, 2016 6:16 pm

    Just what I was looking for! Thank YOU!!!!!

  • Carolyn
    January 5, 2016 7:00 pm

    I am a little late to this thread but thank you so much for blogging about the lab reports/Caulkins writing. I am kind of out there on my own in my grade level trying to get through this unit. (everyone is waiting until I do it!!) LC has good ideas but it is overwhelming. Love your paper and will definitely be using it!!

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      March 3, 2016 4:17 pm

      I am So glad to help! Enjoy!

  • Carla Costi
    January 20, 2016 7:13 pm

    Where do you get the book binders from and how do you attach the pages to it?

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      March 3, 2016 4:18 pm

      Hi Carla! My school has a binding machine, so I was able to use that.

  • Larissa Alvarado
    November 27, 2016 6:56 am

    It was so wonderful reading this post. We will begin our informational books this week, so this was super helpful and thanks so much for your free downloads. I love the different types of paper your offered for the students, I always try to give them options! I found the lab reports to be fun but exhausting but the end of it and I think my kiddos did too! We are super excited to move onto informational books! I had a question about your forces and motions booklet, did you give them this booklet to help them in writing their informational books or did you give them this as a resource for the lab reports? I think it would have been great to give them to the kids already but I know that it could still be useful. Thanks again for the post!

    • Larissa Alvarado
      November 27, 2016 8:30 am

      So Ive just re read your blog and I see that you did the forces and motion packet before informational books! Got it. πŸ™‚

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      December 5, 2016 9:40 am

      Both! πŸ™‚

  • Lizzy
    February 7, 2017 6:22 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I have been struggling BIG time with this unit. All my other units this year (taught them in a different order) have gone so well that I was thrilled with this approach. This time, however, my kids have just felt like they did not come close to getting it. This gives me some insipiration!

  • deb
    February 16, 2017 12:21 pm

    i would like to download

  • Carla
    April 1, 2017 4:33 pm

    Hi – I love this, thank you for sharing. My 2nd grade gifted/high achieving students are going to start writing their books next week. How long did it take your students to complete? I’ve been trying for the past 3 school years, but now it’s time. We just finished Forces and Motion in Science, and they made their lap books. I would love to see a completed book that a student has made-Is this possible? How many pages did your students actually write not including the Table of Contents, Glossary, Index and All About the Author?

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      April 3, 2017 1:03 pm

      Hi Carla! From start to finish was probably about a month long process. We went step by step together. I no longer have their booklets because they took them home, but they varied. I required that they had an intro, at least 3 sections, and a conclusion. They also all had to have a cover, table of contents, and glossary. So, the shortest ones (including cover to back cover) were 8 pages long. Most were longer. Each students’ pages really varied because it was specific to their topic. I hope that’s helpful!

  • Holly Gunsauls
    May 3, 2017 5:55 pm

    Hi! I love this lay out for all about books! I downloaded it once, but now I can’t seem to access it again. One of my students used my original of one of the pages πŸ™ I have signed up for the newsletter to get the password to get another copy, but have not gotten anything. I then looked at teachers pay teachers to buy a copy, but can’t find it on your page! Is there any way I can get another copy?

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      May 5, 2017 1:46 pm

      Hi Holly! I’m so glad you like this! Sometimes the newsletter ends up in your promotion or spam folder. Give that a check. If it’s not there, shoot me an email at primaryparadisetpt@gmail.com, and I’ll help you out. πŸ™‚

  • Stacie Hau
    May 16, 2017 9:06 am

    Good Morning,
    I have been trying to get a copy of this for a couple days now but I can’t seem to ever receive the password. I tried emailing you as well on the email above. How can I go about getting a copy, this is a wonderful project my kiddos would love!!

    • Primary Paradise
      Primary Paradise
      May 16, 2017 1:16 pm

      Hi Stacie! I tried to email you back 3x but it seems to be bouncing back. Sometimes school emails block incoming emails. Is there a personal email you could use to sign up?

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