The staff at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project are in the middle of their second week of writing institutes for the summer of 2013. Just six weeks ago I was at the first institute in New York City immersed in a wonderful world of writing authors and experts: Lucy Calkins, Sarah Weeks, Tony Wagner, Billy Collins, Patricia MacLachlan, Colleen Cruz, Mary Ehrenworth, Maggie Roberts, Kate Roberts (and the Twitter friends that I met in person including @jennymae and @azajacks).
Lucy Calkins kicked off the keynote and then led the beginning grade 3-8 sessions every single day. It was one of the most fabulous professional development experiences of my life (even though I was sure I was in the wrong place the first day because writing a narrative WAS HARD!) The chance to learn from, be challenged to improve, and to ask questions on a daily basis was literally a slice of heaven. We did not hear everyone’s story but in a community of 1300 learners from 52 nations and 42 states, there were many stories to be told!
I have many favorite quotes from Lucy Calkins that I will be regularly reviewing to see if I am on course, but her opening keynote was literally a call to action!
1) “Don’t waffle!”
In order to achieve something, one must “go for it!” Stay the course. There are many pressures on teachers and public schools, but now more than ever the adults at school need to be doing the right things for the right reasons. Kids need writing every day, not a little workshop time here and there during the week. Writing has to be on the schedule daily for students to grow their writing skills!
2) “Work with deliberateness towards crystal clear goals.”
Begin with student writing and then identify goals as next steps. Research on achievement shows that students who are most successful are those who get feedback and work on getting better. Deliberate practice with concrete goals will set the learning curve. Look at Hattie’s research on goals for more information about the effect size of having clear, purposeful goals.
3) “Bring writing to scale.”
Change is hard so you will need a support group. Find those communities that will support you because the people who make life-altering changes usually have a support group. If necessary, be a bottom feeder and move forward because students can and will assume identities as writers with our help. Use the Common Core to create a sense of urgency to provide writing workshop time so students can develop the writing process with integrity. Remember that three of the reading standards support “writing” in addition to the 10 writing standards that all students are working towards. Literacy time probably needs to be half reading and half writing and extend across other subject areas in the day as well. If students are writing every day, their work will be visibly better in three weeks so we have a moral imperative to provide both the environment and the instruction to make that happen in our classrooms.
And my closing Lucy Calkins gems for today:
“Remember that we are not teaching kids to DO something. We are teaching them to BE something!”
“What is the Bill of Rights you give to all writers at your school? What is the promise you give the kids about writing?”