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Writing is a big part of the CIA program as it gives students a chance to think deeper about a text.  I love how the quadrants all end in a writing assignment.  After reading multiple units students know what to expect when they reach the end of a quadrant.  This year I will complete three units whole class with one book study independently.  Each book has increased in text complexity to allow students to grow as readers and writers.  My current unit of Streams to the River, River to the Sea will give my students their most detailed Retell Summary experience in 4th grade.  This unit is twice as long as the Shiloh and Castles units and students are taking a lot more notes in their CIA journals.  The charts that they keep are longer and more detailed and they are getting introduced to new charts (cause and effect, actions/motivations, and hardships/response/character traits).  With this novel students are making deeper connections about how a character feels.  They will use this to create their final piece of writing at the end of quadrant 4.  For my three units this year my students have completed multiple retell summaries, a compare and contrast piece, a persuasive essay, a problem/solution piece, and two literary essays.

Before I was using CIA I was not having my students write this much during their reading block.  This makes it easier for me because I can use one piece of writing for a reading comprehension grade and a writing grade for organization, details, and conventions.  When it comes to report cards I have several samples of writing and it shows student growth throughout the year.  Last year I completed my first unit of study at the end of the year after I attended my first CIA class.  As we finished the unit one of my reluctant writers mentioned to me that his Animal Neglect paper from Shiloh was his longest piece of writing that he ever completed!  He felt a sense of accomplishment making text connections that he was confident about from reading Shiloh and including them into his paper.

The great part about the CIA writing portion is it gives students a writing frame.  This allows them to get their thoughts down.  With other reluctant writers this writing frame has helped them feel more confident in their writing.  I haven’t had to spend as much time focusing on organization in my writing lessons this year because the writing frames take you through each step with suggested transition words and sentence stems.  As the year goes students are using more of their own ideas and less of the stems.  This scaffolding approach can be modified as you work your way through the units.  I have also used different writing frames on social studies and science projects.  Overall I have found that using the CIA program has helped my students become better writers.  It is the best curriculum support that I have transitioning into Common Core Standards!  I know that this is covering every part of the ELA standards.

Outside of the writing you will find in the unit of study I had my students write a piece comparing Marty from Shiloh and William from Castle in the Attic.  I used a Venn-Diagram on the Smartboard that we created together in class.  Students made a lot of connections between these two characters after we finished the two books so I thought it would make a nice additional writing piece!

Connections and Quotes

“After reading Shiloh and Castle in the Attic, Marty and William are similar because they both come across difficult obstacles they have to overcome to save someone and something they love”.

“Both boys change over time in the story.  Marty started out lying and keeping secrets and sneaking food.  He doesn’t want to tell anybody about Shiloh and the pen in the forest.  He tells his parents that he’s saving food for himself but it’s actually for Shiloh.  William does the same thing.  He sneaks food from Mrs. Phillips and gives it to Sir Simon.  He doesn’t tell anyone that Sir Simon is alive (besides his teddy bear).”

“…they both have courage like when William had to fight the evil dragon that guards Alastor’s castle by himself and he only had a little dagger.  Also Marty went to Judd Travers and demanded that he will keep Shiloh and ended up working off his debt.”

“In conclusion, I believe that Marty and William are very brave and courageous because William went on a quest in the fantasy world to save Sir Simon and Mrs. Phillips.  Marty went to Judd Travers’ house and was very determined to get Shiloh as a pet for himself.”


Written by Ryan Painter --- 4th Grade Teacher