Classroom Strategies, Materials Adaptation
Part 3 of Implementing Wit and Wisdom

Wit & Wisdom: Implementation Dos and Don’ts

Lessons learned from teachers who've implemented the curriculum

Three years ago I implemented Wit & Wisdom and although it was my 10th year of teaching, I felt like it was my first. Every night, I was studying the next lesson, trying to make sense of the new vocabulary, and wondering if I would ever get to a Deep Dive. There were a few other teachers involved in the pilot that year, and we talked enough that I knew I was not alone. The next year, my district implemented the program with other 100 teachers in grades K-8. As with anything new, different, and challenging, people respond in different ways. But from having conversations with these teachers and our instructional coaches over the last few years, I’ve noticed that there is some consistency in the stages of implementation. It goes something like this…

To give you a little more insight into how teachers made it to the “Yay” stage, I interviewed three teachers from different grade levels. Lisa is a 1st grade teacher in Year 2, Holly is a 4th grade teacher in Year 2, and Ashley is a 7th grade teacher in Year 3 of implementation.

Question 1: What is the most powerful component of the Wit & Wisdom curriculum for your students?

According to Lisa, this was without a doubt the ability for the kids to dig deep into a book. She is still amazed by her 1st grade students’ ability to not only investigate but also articulate thorough understandings of the texts they read and the author’s purpose. I asked her if she ever worried these lessons were too challenging for such young students. She said absolutely, but now she can see that it is never developmentally inappropriate “to make our kids think on their own, to come up with new ideas, and go deep.”

Holly described similar changes in her 4th grade classroom. She has been amazed by her students’ ability to communicate their learning, both in speaking and writing. She loves that all of her students, regardless of reading level, are able to participate in deep discussions because of the shared knowledge building. Holly has been teaching for 20 years and credits Wit & Wisdom for the best writing she has ever seen students produce.

The dramatic growth in verbal and written processing was also highlighted by Ashley, a 7th grade teacher and department chair. Ashley likes how many opportunities students have to express their own ideas about the texts and topics. Her striving readers and English Learners benefit from the examples they are provided both from the curriculum and from their peers. This explicit attention to language is a very powerful feature of the program.

Question 2: What are some dos and don’ts for implementation?

Dos Don’ts
1st Grade Keep your students in mind. Let yourself deviate from the lesson to connect to your students’ needs, interest, and background.

Create a module word wall with visuals to help all students access the vocabulary.

Don’t be afraid to use the vocabulary and the big words in the program. The students are capable of learning these academic words and deserve the opportunity to do so.
4th Grade Make time to do the program right. Make sure you have 90 minutes per day, and try to get through 4 lessons a week even in the first year.  Stay positive about the challenge and your kids will follow your lead! Don’t skip the Deep Dives! You will end up regretting it if you don’t make time for them. They include many important skills that students need.
7th Grade Find the joy in student – and teacher – learning.  This type of curriculum is a big change for the teacher as well as the students. Put aside what you think kids need to be doing and recognize growth and success in your classroom. Don’t let the students get rid of anything! All of the papers from the module are important in the end. Our team helped our students set up binders for Wit & Wisdom and created packets to keep them organized.

Question 3: What has been the most challenging aspect of Wit and Wisdom for your students? What have you done to help them be successful?

In the primary grades, the length of the lessons has been the biggest implementation challenge. Lisa and other teachers have addressed this by breaking up the lessons with Brain Breaks or moving the Deep Dives to another time of the day. They also make sure to get the kids up and moving during instructional routines like Mix and Mingle (a moving Think-Pair-Share). In addition to the length of the lesson, the rigor of the lesson was also a shift for the teachers and students. Lisa said one of the biggest changes she has made to her practice is increasing wait time for her students. In the past, if a student didn’t seem to know the answer, she would suggest they ask a friend and call on another student. However, with the more challenging content and concepts, she has realized she needs to allow more processing time: “If we want them to dig deep, we have to give them that opportunity to think.”

In 4th grade, the biggest challenge was the difference in the writing instruction and the substantial increase in expectations.  Holly said that in the beginning module she felt like the lessons were too guided and that her students weren’t getting enough independent practice. However, she trusted the program and “as each module went on, the students became more independent and confident.” Even though her students did not always meet all of the criteria for an assignment, Holly focused on the progress they were making and was able to see huge gains by the end of the year.

In middle school, grading became a challenge, both figuring out what and how to grade so that students receive fair grades within a more rigorous curriculum. Ashley and her team have changed their grading policies to focus more on mastery of standards than just completion of work. They use the success criteria at the end of each lesson to assess student understanding and guide their instruction. Ashley focuses on providing her students with substantive feedback rather than just grades, even in parent teacher conferences. Both she and her students have a much better understanding of their actual learning.

All three of these teachers have moved into the “Yay!” stage of implementation. However, they would assure you that despite their combined 50 years in the classroom, they went through the rough early stages as well. During our conversations, I kept noticing the ideas of trust and balance coming up again and again. In the beginning, they struggled to trust the program to meet the needs of their diverse learners. They struggled to balance their own classroom styles with the structure of the program. They were happiest when they were able to find that balance, but it did require confidence in the curriculum design and the capabilities of their students. What I love about all of their journeys is that, even though the curriculum is still complex and rigorous, these educators are excited and committed to keep pushing themselves because they see the impact and the benefit for their students.

For more information about Wit & Wisdom and the shift to a rigorous, knowledge-building curriculum, check out these resources.

Wit & Wisdom Webinars

Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read? (APM Report)

Knowledge Matters Tour (Blog post)

50 thoughts on “Wit & Wisdom: Implementation Dos and Don’ts

      1. This will be my first full year teaching wit and wisdom and I would love to connect with the 1st grade teacher you interviewed.

        1. I am a first-grade teacher whose district is looking at implementing this in the fall. I would love to talk to a more tenured user in order to get their perspective!

  1. I would also like to connect with the 1st grade and 4th-grade teacher if possible. We are considering Wit & Wisdom but there are no districts near us using the program. I’m interested in talking with more teachers that are actually using the program. Thank you.

  2. We are implementing Wit and Wisdom next year (I teach second grade). Is there a list anywhere of materials I may need to purchase such as the magnifying glasses for Module 0? I would like to get a head start on collecting things if possible, but we don’t have a date yet on getting materials in.

    1. Rose, please let me know if anyone has replied. I am in the same position and I want to make sure I am fully prepared.

  3. Hello there! We are in our first year and it’s a rough start! The lessons for K and for 2nd grade that I taught are really long, and get monotone after re-reading the same book over and over and over again. With 2nd, it’s better, since topic are interesting, but K keeps reading the same type of texts over and over, which is not an authentic learning, I think. Also, while it is great that it’s challenging, it’s just really hard to explain to 5-6 year olds how to write a paragraph. I feel like even though they are writing it, they don’t put a lot of their own thoughts into it, and just go through meaningless motions. I feel like it’s different for higher grades. Thank you for your thoughts, it really cheered me up after reading another lesson of WnW!

    1. I would love to discuss ways that other 2nd grade teachers are using this program. The lessons are so long for my students. I need ideas on how to adapt to meet their needs.

      1. Did you ever get any good ideas? I teach second and we have to implement this program in the fall.

    2. I know these are comments from last year. But I’m a newly 2nd grade teacher using the wit and wisdom. How are you adapting this to meet your students needs? I really appreciate your feedback.

  4. This year I was assigned to teach Language Arts 5th grade the 3rd Module of Wit and Wisdom. I have never taught Language Arts in my life and was absolutely terrified of being successful. I have always taught Math, Science or Social Studies.
    I followed the directions and guidance of my Lead Teacher. I designed my room to meet the theme of the Unit, posted questions, used journal booklets for responses, vocabulary, reading responses and graphic organizers.
    It has been an amazing third quarter reading The River Between Us by Richard Peck. Watching my students attempt to sneak the book out the classroom to read the next chapter is so rewarding. I love to listen to the students discuss the book and the characters. Writing their opinion using evidence from the text has been a rewarding adventure.
    Looking forward to the last module and enjoying receiving webinars for new strategies.

    1. I am starting Module 3. This will be my first year. I sure home I am able to cover everything in one lesson in one day. In Module one, it took about two days for each lesson. There was so much to cover. I teach two classes in a day with 23 in each class. I have 3 special ed and 4-504 students in one of my classes. Makes things hard. I also have to teach a separate Social Studies to each class.

      1. How did you accommodate your IEP and 504 students? Does the curriculum offer differentiation/modifications? Or did you have to do that?

        1. Would love to know if you got any answers from your question or what you’re doing for your students with IEPs

  5. I would love to connect with the 7th grade teacher, Ashley! This will be my 2nd year with W&W. I am interested how you organized students binders and created packets!

    1. Me too! I’m an 8th grade teacher about to start the W&W curriculum. I need all the help and guidance as possible (packets, journal structure, etc), please?

  6. I am interested in connecting with a second grade teacher, that teaches in an urban district. Our district is laying out the Wit & Wisdom curriculum for k-6 this school year and there are lots to learn in a short time without all of our resources not being delivered yet. I would like to get a good understanding of Module 1.

  7. This is my first year teaching…..teaching Kinder! And the first year my entire school district has started wit and wisdom. I would LOVE any help/advice/suggestions….anything!!!

    1. I’m trying to make it comprehensible and modify assessments and assignments for ELs and would love to know what types of modifications have worked for you. HALP! (I also have 60 students)

      1. The district thatI will be working in this year uses Wit& Wisdom and I would like to connect with a 5th grade teacher

  8. Hello,

    I would love to email back and forth with the seventh grade teacher. This is a new curriculum for my school, and I feel like I’m struggling. I don’t want my students to miss out what they need to know. Please help with any ideas you may have.

  9. I would love to know if you’ve spoken with any Kindergarten teachers that have used the curriculum and what they thought.

    1. Hello Elana:

      Do you have a different email address that can be used to connect you with the author?
      Thank you,

  10. I am an instructional coach in a district that is piloting Wit & Wisdom, full adoption next year. I am curious about daily schedules in elementary classrooms. Is anyone willing to share? Our pilot teachers (specifically K-2 teachers) are finding it difficult to spend 90 minutes per day on Wit & Wisdom and still find time for foundational skills. Any guidance is much appreciated!

  11. Hi there!! I am a tech coach for my building and last week I met with our new 5th grade teacher who is using Wit and Wisdom. She has only been here a few weeks (starting in the middle of the school year is stressful!) and she is teaching all 4 core content subjects. She was hoping to find some additional resources to make the text/lessons more engaging. We found some videos, discussed using Pear Deck with her Slides, and looked around Edpuzzle. She is using Wit and Wisdom but is using it without anyone to collaborate with. Are there any 5th grade teachers out there who would be willing to collaborate, brainstorm, share resources, etc?

  12. We are in our first year of W and W. Our third graders are learning how to think deeply about texts-that are being read TO them. Problem is, they are not doing enough reading with explicit instruction and teacher feedback. Amos and Boris-Module1-was a 4.7 reading level and was their first FLUENCY passage. What about this is best practice?

  13. I am interested in talking to your first grade teacher. We are piloting the program this year and as we start Module 0, we have so many questions!! Thank you so much!!

  14. I am interested in connecting with a 4th or 5th grade teacher. I am new to this curriculum and first time our school is piloting the program. Any resources or tips would be greatly appreciated.
    thanks and blessings

  15. My district is considering adopting Wit and Wisdom for middle schools. I’m wondering what digital/distance learning/a-synchronous learning supports there are. I’ve been told there are none. Given the likelihood of a mixed model of in-building and at-home learning structure next year, are there materials and such in process or do they already exist?

  16. For those of you who teach this in a middle school… do you have block scheduling? Our periods are only 40-45 minutes. How do you make it work?

  17. Our district will be using Wit and Wisdom next school year. Does anyone have a lesson plan template that they love?

  18. My district has adopted Wit & Wisdom and will begin using it district wide next school year. What is the best way to adapt or modify lessons for inclusion? I teach 3-4 Sped.

  19. I would love second grade ideas that have worked from a real teacher who has taught this program in the classroom. We have to start it in the Fall and are all feeling overwhelmed and do not know where or how to start.

  20. I would love any information on Middle School implementation of Wit and Wisdom. We are starting it this year and I am just looking into more information!

  21. Hello! This will be my first year teaching, specifically starting off in 2nd grade. My school wants to pilot W&W through distance learning. I would love second-grade ideas from 2nd grade teachers who has taught this program in the classroom. All the help is greatly appreciated.

  22. This is our first year using Wit and Wisdom. I am a kindergarten teacher and I would love to any kindergarten ideas.

  23. I am teaching 4th grade Wit & Wisdom virtually this year, thanks to Covid-19. This is my 9th year teaching and my first year teaching W&W. I would absolutely LOVE to connect with fourth grade W&W teachers who have experience with the program, who wouldn’t mind answering some of my questions. We just added 4th grade to our school, so I am blazing a trail alone. Help!

  24. My district is in year one of implementation. We are required to teach one lesson a day and stay on pace to teach all four modules before standardized testing begins. It is a difficult pace. I need help with the response journal. I have many questions that are not grade specific about the journal. If you can offer me some assistance please reach out.

  25. I teach Kindergarten in a Title 1 school. We will be implementing Wit&Wisdom Fall 2021. I’m starting with Module 0. If there is a Kinder teacher that would be willing to collaborate and be a support I would love to connect.

  26. Hi! I teach 3rd and 4th grade Special Education bridge class – utilizing the 3rd grade WW curriculum in a title 1 school. Is there anyone that can help/talk about how to split the curriculum to meet the needs and standards of both grades, as well as presenting daily customization/personalization to meet the learning goal and students’ IEP goals simultaneously?!

  27. My district has adopted W&W for implementation this year.
    My school blends grades, and we are desperately seeking any guidance or pointers.
    Thanks in advance.

  28. My district is considering Wit and Wisdom next school year. I was wondering if anyone has ever went through the curriculum evaluation guidelines put in place by The Reading League?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

About the Author: Sarah Webb taught third and fourth grade for 10 years and now does ELL and Curriculum Support for Mad River Local Schools in Riverside, Ohio. She has a Masters in Literacy from the University of Dayton where she also teaches adjunct courses and is pursuing her TESOL endorsement.