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Home : 2004 : Nov : 27

    Lucy Calkins
    By Tracey

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    The method is in our system at least at the K-5 level, and for most of the teachers, this is their first year doing it, although I can't speak for what happens once the kids go off to middle school. Unfortunately, it is fairly expensive, I think just over $100 for the set of books. Since our county adopted the program, teacher who attended a 4-day workshop were provided with copies of the books to be housed in their classrooms. However, I was not a staff member at the time of that workshop, so I just sort of flip through the table of contents for what the basic idea of the lesson should be, and once you've got the gist of the format of a lesson, it's easy enough to improvise.

    It's possible to use the idea driving the method without the books though. The books are divided into units. The first is launching the writer's workshop, and a lot of time is spent simply on the format of how writer's workshop runs and how to ask for help so you don't have a bunch of kids crowding around you for help. After that is small moments (stretching out a story that doesn't change setting), and there's an entire unit on editing (although bits and pieces are introduced prior to that unit), one on poetry, one on how-to books, and I think I saw somewhere something about realistic fiction, as well as several others.

    The basic format though is that you spend 1-2 min. connecting what you're going to teach, 3-4 min. actually teaching, 3-4 min. letting the students have active involvement (turn & talk with your partner to tell what you will do for your story, or even just visualizing what they will do makes them more effective when they actually try it on their own), and 1-2 min. reminding them what exactly it is you want them to practice "today and every day". Then, they write for 25-35 min. (varying on age).

    Little things matter in the ideas that drive this program, such as referring to the students as writers, and often the connection will compare what they're doing in their writing to a real author's work, and Lucy would probably have a heart attack at the idea of a teacher writing on a child's paper...they are after all, the writer, and how dare us mark on it! Also, some people allow their students to write in pen, that way they are discouraged from spending 800 years erasing a mistake or when they revise when they could just cross it out and move on, allowing you to see their thought process. Lastly, published work doesn't need to be perfect; don't make them rewrite it, it's a lot of work and they'll just resent it. To show that they're finished, I allow my students to spend some time coloring their sketches, then it goes into their "work in progress" folder, because as Lucy says, "When you think you're done, you've just begun..."

    I hope this has helped, but if you would like more information you can email me.


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