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Rachel P. 12-23-2005 02:30 AM

Lucy Calkins workshop - not working!
As everyone knows, NYC teachers are being forced to use this model but it is not that effective for the middle, not to mention the struggling learners. Don't tell the mayor and Lucy but most of the students fall into these categories! Also, it is hard to run around correcting all the personal feelings that the kids are encouraged to write. What tops it off is the kids hate it. What happened to directly teaching skills? It is not happening in all the unrelated "mini" lessons. One of the students asked me, "Why don't you teach us how to write like you teach us the other subjects?" He was right! Teach, model and practice....HELP!!!

CDHElmo 12-23-2005 06:13 AM

Have you ever heard of Melissa Forney? She is a writing instructor and travels the country giving mini-workshops on writing. She is fantastic. Enter her name in your search, and you can check out her website as well as order books and materials. I have always used her materials and ideas, and the kids love them. Good luck.

Ima Teacher 12-23-2005 07:29 AM

I encountered Lucy Calkins during my national writing workshop class. I didn't find it useful for middle school. Nancy Atwell was more geared for middle school, but she based her findings on her charter school, which is a LOT different than our population.

The key is that NOTHING works with all kids all the time. I pick what works for my kids and drop/modify what doesn't.

Mini-lessons actually CAN work quite well, but it does take a lot of extra time and energy for the teacher to learn what the kids need and for the kids go tet used to it.

Good luck!

RedSoxGirl 12-23-2005 05:30 PM

It sounds like ...
you are very frustrated and are accustomed to a pretty different way of teaching your students how to write.

That being said, I wonder if you aren't giving the writing workshop model a fair chance because you're too hung up on what you're comfortable with and felt worked just fine.

I say this with some Calkins WW experience. We are currently using it this year for the first time, and while we have some less-than-gratuitous observations of it, we really like it on other levels.

I do think the mini-lessons and anchor books work well. You don't have to do EXACTLY what LC says - use your own knowledge of teaching and your students and fit the model to complement it. You can definitely teach skills through mini-lessons.

I especially like that the WW workshop doesn't stress fictional writing in the primary grades. I used to think kids had to write good fiction to be a good writer, that personal narratives didn't really demonstrate their writing skills. I now know very differently! I LOVE reading their stories about their own lives, their experiences, their families, their friends, everything!

Ask yourself if maybe you aren't giving this your best shot. You might open up more to it and make it work for your students.

Terri H. 12-28-2005 10:57 AM

Lucy Calkins not working?
Look up Basic Writing Skills - I think it is .net by J. Hochman - It is the best. Many teachers are frustrated with the L. C. model. Melissa Forney's expository work is okay.

Lisateach1st 12-28-2005 04:38 PM

What grade did you say you taught?

I teach 1st and we changed over from Write from the Beginning to Lucy Calkins. We are thrilled with the results. The kids love writing about real-life experiences and are getting so good at writing. They actually complain when we DON'T have writing time! In previous years there would be groans when it was time to do writing prompts in their journals.
Anyhow, I will say that it did take an initial shift in our thinking about what makes a good writing curriculum and flexibility with classroom management during writing time. For some like myself it was an exciting change, for others it was a harder sell.
I would say give it a chance and maybe read more about it to figure out how you can adapt it better for your group. I know I've had to make some adjustments - every good teacher does, right?


Mrs. R 12-31-2005 08:35 AM

Swiched to Calkins
We started using Units of study by Calkins this year and are very happy with it. Our kids are excited about writing. They truly view themselves as writers. The writing has improved quite a bit from previous years. I feel like the program does "teach, mdel, and practice" through the min-lessons. Maybe the NYC version is different that what we are using. I do exercise some flexibility and pick,choose, and modify lessons. Some I skip altogether. I often use her suggestions for when children need more time. Of course, I also supplement with interactive writing to work on mechanics, and I focus on mechanics when students do Weekend News on Monday mornings. It's always interesting to hear other perspectives on programs. I guess no program is perfect or works for everyone. I'm sorry you're being forced to use something that doesn't work for you.

love2teach3 07-20-2006 05:20 PM

Another Bandwagon
The problem is that the LC model is the next bandwagon that the administrators are jumping on...We just juped on to yet another bandwagon rather than trusting the teachers to know what works.
No one program is the answer, but our "leaders" will never realize it.

Deborah D. 02-02-2007 01:29 PM

Lucy Calkins works for everyone
I have had the opportunity to use Lucy Calkins writing curriculum in 1st grade, 4th grade and with a few 5th graders. Our school adopted the program last year for K-3. It was so successful that we purchased the next grade level for 4th grade and 5th. I am a special ed teacher, and I think it is the ideal way to teach struggling writers. Even my second language learners have been able to write wonderful naratives

All of our 4th grade teachers (each have taught for over 15 years) said that they have seen more progress in the first half of school this year than any other year they have taught!

Have you ever attended one of her workshops? It would be so worthwhile for you.

annpost 06-13-2007 10:56 PM

this article says it all - I agree with you
Nightmare from Teachers College [Carol Iannone]
Columbia Teachers College continues to exert its deleterious influence on New York City's public schools through the ever inventive techniques of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, adopted by Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein in 2003 in place of sound, proven, phonics-based instruction. Next year "literacy coaches" will be unleashed upon many teachers in a coercive effort to fulfill project head Lucy Calkins's desire to "radically transform schools." The coaches, probably young women in the main, will stand next to experienced teachers in front of their classes in order to train and instruct them in Calkins's techniques. Resistance is anticipated, but principals must force teachers to comply.

An experienced New York City public school teacher emails with rising alarm:

The word really needs to get out; the situation is atrocious. Thanks to TC [Teachers College] and Bloomberg, we are losing a whole generation of immigrant children here in NY. There is wide consensus among experts in the fields of cognitive psychology and neurology that explicit, phonics-based reading instruction has been validated by research, and is, by far, the most effective method of reading instruction. Yet, granola-headed, obscurantist charlatans like Lucy Calkins continue to experiment with children, leaving them functionally illiterate....What good does it do to reform CUNY by raising standards, only to find that the majority of potential students won't be able to read a CUNY application? We need a multi-ethnic grassroot revolt against the Bloomberg-Klein-Calkins axis of illiteracy; there are plenty of teachers and parents who are disgusted enough to act....

The writer suggests that Herman Badillo, perhaps along with his wife, another experienced public school teacher, might get involved in advancing phonics-based reading curricula on a system-wide basis. He continues, however, in a reproach to some of the conservative agenda regarding the schools:

What is depressing,is that conservative newspapers like the Sun and the Post continue to defend the Bloomberg reforms, mindlessly parroting propaganda generated by the PR machine at Tweed [the New York City Department of Education]. This despite publishing the superb exposes on academic failure by Sol Stern and Andrew Wolf. It seems their real agenda was never educational reform, but union busting and tenure destruction. The kids were just an excuse. Incidentally, without tenure, those of us who use the best practices, and resist TC intimidation, would have been fired a long time ago.

Conservatives should stop their futile crusades against unions and tenure and get behind those teachers and parents who want to bring proven curricula into the schools. And while they're at it, they should work toward improving discipline in the schools as well, so that teachers not exhaust themselves trying to keep order, and more able people join the ranks of the profession.

Liz R 10-24-2007 06:11 PM

Lucy Calkins
In all of these responses no one has said anything about test scores. What does your data say about your students writing?

Temmie 11-27-2007 05:04 AM

Also Struggling with Calkins
It was very helpful for me to find this post this morning.

I wrote last night (I believe it was this site), I've been asked to present her new 6-volume series to my school -- and I'm overwhelmed -- mowing through the material -- and the lessons I've tried have flopped BIG time.

I liked the comment, "it is hard to run around correcting all the personal feelings that the kids are encouraged to write."

My 4/5 students have not experienced the blossoming of intuitive ... personal ... narrative. They don't even know how to write a sentence (or how to punctuate for same, some writings going from top to bottom of the page as one long sentence). They don't have the interest, skills or emotional resources necessary to "plumb" deeper resources for deep, personal reporting. With just three occasions of trying to work through that darn book one, I feel I have days and days of work now, to "undo" and "correct" the problems I'm sure I'm going to find this morning.

I'm angry, hurt, mad, worried, stressed -- about having to present this to colleagues as the Be All to End All. Will be back to read more comments ....

Thank you!

Combow 11-27-2007 04:40 PM

Lucy Calkins
I find it interesting that this post orginated in December of 2005 and seems to be still going on in November of 2007. I recently inquired of the PT family their opinions of Units of Study and received only one response. I wonder if the orginal posters still feel that way? I wonder if their school districts are still using it? And I also wonder how their test scores are?

denrah 01-26-2008 05:25 PM

If every lesson has flopped perhaps it's the delivery of instruction. I have taught for 18 years and when my students don't perform well. I look at myself and my teaching first to see what I can improve on.

kaycee1128 01-26-2008 06:42 PM

Love Uos
*Students LOVE to write!!!
*They are able to look at their writing and other writing critically.
*The writing workshop helps them learn to read. (Began the year with only 5 students at grade this point in the year I only have 4 students that are NOT at grade level...all are LD and only 1 level behind)
*1st graders can write a strong personal narrative (my students scores were the highest of all 1st grades in the all school write and I teach the inclusion room)
*Skills are taught through writers workshop and throughout other parts of the day. These skills are scaffolded during WW where students are writing for a real purpose.
*Last year all but 1 of my students met the benchmark for our standardized testing. I do teach at a Title 1 school (75% Free and Reduced lunch)
*Phonics instruction is critical and I don't think it is ever ignored in the UOS.

*On a side note...the school I taught in before (90% FRL commonly referred to as felony flats) embraced the UOS. After three years of using the program and working hard to make it work for us our school was classified as a "exceeds standards school" because of our high test scores.

Traditionally ELL and low socioeconomic students have not scored well on any of the standardized tests. Obviously traditional based instruction wasn't working for these students so maybe there is some value in the UOS.

manyhats 02-02-2008 09:26 AM

Lucy Calkins' Units of Study
I have been teaching first grade for 15 years. I taught Donald Graves writing workshop for many years to my firsties... I taught in a Houston, TX elementary school where many of the children were those struggling or middle readers of whom the poster speaks. I loved it, and they loved it. Now I am back in New England and have been teaching with Lucy Calkins' UOS for 4 years...

In the first years, and now, I did not run around "correcting" the feelings they were encouraged to share. I conferenced, I shared mini-lessons, I modeled, I nudged, and I embraced them and their feelings and their growth as writers. Along with them, (and on their level) I shared my feelings and my life stories as I modeled the stories I hoped they would attempt to write. I think this is Lucy's message...

When I went on to apply for other jobs and get closer to my New England home, I always brought with me, a copy of one of my first year student's writing folder. When someone at an interview would ask me, "Why do you want to be a teacher," or "Why first grade?" ... I would pull out that folder and show how - at the beginning of the year, this little girl's writing was string of random shapes and letters, only decipherable by her... and at the end of the year, she was able to share a readable, story that conveyed her feelings, and her message to the reader.

And you know what? Any mark on any of those pages, for "corrections" were made by her... not me... because she wanted the readers to know what she wrote...

On the otherhand... I think UOS is an approach that needs to be embraced by the teacher in order for it to be successful... I pour through those books each year as I plan for lessons... and I learn more and process more each time... because I love it... If you don't believe in the approach yourself... I can see how it would be much more difficult. It would be hard to teach children to love writing, if
I didn't love the writing process or teaching the writing process myself...

Check out the Units of Study yahoo group for more support with this program... I love reading and sharing ideas there....

kaycee1128 02-02-2008 10:57 AM

Exactly Manyhats
I think the classroom is MAGIC during writers workshop if teachers buy into.

How do you get to the yahoo study group?

manyhats 02-02-2008 01:42 PM

...another comment on Calkins
I totally agree... Writers' Workshop is completely magical at moments... the celebrations, the mid-workshop points... the kids just flourish with this program... I always say it is like a rollercoaster. Some days seem crazy when they are exploring new ideas and trying new things out, and then the other days when their ideas are sparkling like magic - it's a thrill ride!

However, in response to the "be all, end all" comment above... I have been thinking about that sentiment a lot lately. Currently at my school, we are allowed to teach writing in our own styles... however, the administration is now looking for that "be all end all" answer to teaching writing to implement district-wide, and I am so scared about that... because it may mean that I am forced to stop using Calkins' approach...

I am going to remind my Language Arts Committee, when I join them on Monday for a discussion... that even with the best writing program out there, can there really be a "be all, end all" approach? Even though I love UOS, I still modify for my kids who are struggling/ like every teacher should feel they can. My strugglers meet with me in smaller groups more often. (Just like at reading time) I just modified a framed out booklet using Story Grammar Marker ideas for them with a story frame built into it, to help them be successful, independent writers... And they are making great progress. With my soaring writers, I modify for them, to take them to higher places with other approaches,... it is all about differentiating.

Even in Reading, when my school recently adopted Open Court and blew all of us (Reader's Workshop, Guided Reading teachers) all away with a scripted, systematic approach to whole group reading that is the "be all end all" to teaching kids to read... the school still adopted programs for the kids for whom Open Court does not work... Reading for Mastery, START, Read Naturally, etc... In the classroom, if they are not "getting it" I meet with them in small groups to reinforce what I am teaching... (just like I do in writing!) So I really think it is about finding a program that works for the large majority and then differentiating for the kids who don't quite succeed with that main approach... for me, having UOS as the heartbeat of my writing instruction is what works.

Aliscia 05-08-2008 08:45 AM

Teacher/Reading Specialist
I'm shocked! The WW is my life! I've worked in schools like NYC and have found this workshop to be so wonderful. Even my lowest students fell in love with writing and grew over the course of the year. What it does requrie is teachers to step up their game and move out of their comfort zone of "Prompts" and whole class same topic and stretch ourselves to reach the writers indivual needs. It's chanllenging but we are professionals and we need to take the time to grow just like we expect our children too. I sometimes think that teachers feel "Kids Can't" Oh yes they can. Lucy provides teachers with a structure that support ALL LEARNERS. Workshop rocks! WITH ALL LEARNERS. Don't give up on it. Stretch yourself!

Hong Konger 07-03-2008 03:13 AM

Lucy Calkin's implementation
Seeing a majority of comments in favor of the Lucy Calkins program, I wish to make the comment that implementation of the program determines it's success. If experienced teachers use it as a resource to augment already successful practice, then fear and anxiety over the impact of a "new" program on their kids, and feelings of being "unappreciated" are minimized, and good ideas within the program itself can be incorporated to improve student learning. However, if program implementation is "required" and mandated to replace existing programs regardless of success of that program, then it creates anxiety, fear and resentment, and blocks teachers from "buying into" the program.

Where I teach, there was a wholesale move to adopt the Lucy Calkins program, however there was little training, discussion or support given for implementation. There is resentment about this and it gets in the way of incorporating those "great" ideas that are part of Lucy Calkins program. This resentment also prevents discussion about the program itself to find ways to overcome some of its limitations.

It is a real shame that the teachers who are expected to build successful learning experience for children in there classrooms are given little opportunity to study the program before they are expected to actually teach it.

KSK 07-11-2008 04:05 PM

LC and WW
The LC version of WW was introduced this year at my school for all of our teachers to incorporate into their instruction. And I have to say that I really love it.

I think that when a lot of ppl first look at WW, they are very overwhelmed. I know I was. Luckily, I had some friends who loved it and inspired me to really give it a chance. And it is new. You have to toally revolutionize how you teach writing. But that doesn't mean it's wrong to do so.

I've read posts about newer teachers loving it and more experienced teachers hating it and this makes sense to me, too. Remember when you were a first year teacher? Everything was new. Everything was overwhelming. And you made A LOT of mistakes. Anyone who is new to this program is going to encounter frustrations. I remember being told in college that it would take about 5 years before I would really know what I was doing and that was about right. The same can be said for LCWW. It's new. You have to learn something entirely new. It's going to take time to feel comfortable and really know what you're doing. The language talks about teaching children the "craft" of writing, but we need to remember that teaching is a craft, too. It's not going to be perfect for you straight out of the box, but if you read with an open mind, there will be statements and expereinces that ring true for you. Use what works, adapt what doesn't. What impresses me most is that you meet kids where they are and help them take the next step. It is not one size fits all education. And I do realize that this makes our jobs as teacher more difficult. But again, that doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do.

Having said all of that.... I'm very curious to see if there is any research that backs up the LCWW method. I know that there's plenty on more traditional approaches, but I haven't been able to find any on WW yet. Does anyone know of some?

kate g 08-31-2008 11:41 AM

Lucy Calkins
I have followed Lucy Calkins in many workshops and books written by her for 20 years. She is amazing and the teaching insight she has, has helped me in my quest to reach all children and turn them on to a love for learning while gaining confidence in themselves as learners. Run don't walk to her workshops. Ask questions if you don't understand her researched approaches to teaching and learnng. You must have missed the many points she makes for including direct teaching skills. However that dosn not mean lecturing at them all day long, either.

2ndcareer 09-27-2008 10:57 AM

I Love WW....
...but do not love Units of Study. Let me rephrase...I like the concepts and ideas presented by U of S but I detest the manuals. The lessons take too long to read and are way too wordy. Please Lucy, cut to the chase!

Ralph Fletcher is my "go to" man...........same ideas as U of S...MUCH easier to model.

DPL 09-29-2008 06:03 AM

writing teacher
I have read and re-read all of these entries and have found it enlightening to see that this debate rages on. As for me I have found EMPOWERING WRITERS is the go-to writing program in my classroom. It not only teaches skills directly but affords students the chance to practice and hone those skills over time. The authors, Barbara Maricanda and Dea Auray were classroom teachers themselves and used these same lessons in their classrooms. It is a teacher friendly, student friendly writing program that teaches quality writing in many genres including narrative, expository and persuasive.

Calkins fan 10-09-2008 08:43 AM

teacher/literacy consultant
If it's not working, you are not implementing it properly. It is the most effective way of teaching reading and writing, but it takes talented teachers to implement it.

tft 10-24-2008 05:04 PM

To Calkins Fan
"If it's not working, you are not implementing it properly. It is the most effective way of teaching reading and writing, but it takes talented teachers to implement it."

You say the preceding with such authority! Have you really tried every single way of teaching reading and writing? I thought not. Then how can you make such a definitive statement?

Why not just say it works for you, instead of disparaging everyone who says they don't like it?

By the way, I hate it, find it shallow, and think that if you need it, you are probably a pretty mediocre teacher!

You like that?

I thought not!

Lynnderella 10-31-2008 07:11 PM

Arkansas Loves Lucy...
...well, maybe not all of Arkansas, but certainly the teachers who have been fortunate enough to attend LC's summer institute(s). This is our second year of implementation (the first year we really didn't give it a chance). I've worked with both the primary and the upper units of study. Upper grade teachers found it very difficult to keep up with the reading/studying/planning because the sessions in those units are extensive. In fact, each session has about three lessons in it! To tackle this big problem, here is what we are doing this year: Each teacher takes one session and condenses it onto a Calkins' lesson plan sheet. On another page, we add notes regarding suggestions Lucy makes, other lessons that can be taught at mid-workshop or on another day, what a corresponding chart might look like, etc. By sharing the load, everyone is reading/studying that wonderful explicit language Lucy uses, but we aren't reading every word in every session in every unit. Of course, we use our own personal stories and modify lessons according to our students' needs, but it seems to be working. We know that the best thing would be for us to read every session ourselves, but this is the next best thing when we are crunched for time. We send the lessons via email so we can make changes. Our students take WW very seriously; we've noticed that they are respectful, thoughtful, and surprisingly helpful in their partnerships, and Lucy's style of conferring moves each student in a way that is positive and non-threatening. Of course, some teachers are more enthusiastic than others, but everyone is working hard to give it a fair shot this year. Good luck!

Jackie88 11-11-2008 12:51 PM

Concerned about implenting Writer's Workshop
Hi Rachel, I feel the same. I'm a grade 7th & 8th language arts teacher. How does Writer's Workshop prepare them for High School ; which does not follow this type of thinking. But of course you can't say anything....

Lynnderella 11-15-2008 08:49 PM

elementary vs high school writing expectation
In the high schools in our district, students are expected to write narratives (both personal and fiction stories), essays, and informational pieces. In third grade, guess what our students are writing? They are producing narratives (personal and fiction stories), essays, informational pieces, and more! I'd say that Calkins' units are very much aligned to high school's requirements. As an added bonus, our kids love the time of day when they "get" to write. There are a lot worse writing programs out there that your district could have chosen.

Sariana 11-17-2008 11:45 PM

Calkins as professor
I actually attended Teachers College back in the mid 90s. Lucy Calkins was one of my professors. I found her to be pompous, grating, and incredibly annoying. When I questioned her about the acquisition of language skills, she dared to try to tell me how I had learned proper English. Did she observe me in my home? Did she know my parents? How could she presume to know anything about how I had learned proper English?

While it is true that my parents modeled proper grammatical structures, my mom also explained the rules to me. I still remember her explanations. I asked questions, and my mom answered them. I don't need Lucy Calkins to tell me how I learn.

I was in the program for secondary language arts. Although I am sure there were people who appreciated Calkins's program, I did not know any of them. Every single person I spoke to felt the same way: High school students need to know how to write essays in response to a prompt. They need to know the proper rules and conventions of English grammar. Using mini lessons may be one way to teach these skills, but it is not the only way. Just as students have different learning styles, so too do teachers have different teaching styles. Expecting everyone to use Writer's Workshop and have the same success is naive and educational unsound.

Cryssie 11-18-2008 06:16 PM

Right on!
Well said!

Lynnderella 11-19-2008 05:57 PM

Lucy, pompous in the 90's?? Ha I attended in '07 and that is still a good word to describe her. However, I still like her work. This month I have been teaching lessons from the essay book and the kids' work is amazing. There has always been the issue of students having difficulty learning (and using) correct grammar and mechanics, even before Calkins. What I notice from 25 years of teaching is that we are now expecting students to use these skills in real writing situations, not filling out multiple choice worksheets. My students could complete a worksheet with success, but had a hard time applying the same knowledge in a real writing situation. Now, I know without a doubt which students haven't internalized these kinds of skills; it's staring me in the face when I pick up a notebook. They can't fake that. Did I like it 10 years ago when most of my students were making great grades in English? You bet I did. But that does not mean my students were getting it then and are not getting it now. No one writing program has all the answers.

Joe43 12-28-2008 06:54 PM

In my elementary/middle school in Brooklyn, NY, we were also told this year to implement the Lucy Calkin's model. The only issue the teachers have is that we are expected to learn, implement and be masters of a program without the proper training. Our literacy coaches do very little to offer us training both in house or out of building. When we request to attend workshops, we are told that there is no money. So how can we possibly learn the workshop? The thing that really is rubbing many of the teachers the wrong way is that we are now being rated by our ability to adhere to this program. I have nothing against the Calkin's program, it seems to have some effective techniques and strategies, but it would have been more logical to expect teachers to follow this model after a reasonable amount of training. As I said earlier, we have had zilch, nada offered. We have one teacher's satisfactory rating this year in danger only because she was not effectively trained to follow this program. Instead of worrying about cakes, coffee and struddle for the PTA meetings, our leader would be wise to use some money to train the very staff who teach every child in our school.

JoAnne CT 01-11-2009 04:20 PM

Reading Teacher
I am confused by your comment "unrelated mini lessons" why are they unrelated?

MartyR 01-29-2009 03:51 AM

Writing Process / Workshop
Since I am a veteran classroom teacher of 24 years and have for the last 5 years taught at university. Currently I am involved with the National Writing Project as a literacy consultant on the Middle School Initiative in Louisiana. I have really enjoyed these postings about the LC program.

Those of you who enjoy teaching writing process within a workshop setting may like the books by Marcia Freeman. She sells no materials, at least that I know of, just her extensive knowledge of children. She offers a book for early childhood and one for up to middle school.

My rule of thumb is to teach the skills and allow children room to grow into their writing with choice, file folder portfolios, and lots of monitoring/conferencing--both peer and teacher. It was successful for me, and I never had to buy a program. I taught many years for the Department of Defense Schools for Military Dependent Children. It was a fabulous system because at the time I was a part of it, there was much professional development for teachers and trust in our decision making powers.

Too often politicians--perhaps with the best of intentions--do jump on bandwagons, and of course have no clue about how to teach a diverse group of children. Worse, of course, are educators who ought to know by now that if you have to purchase expensive sets of materials, they probably aren't going to be worth the shelf space in the long run. Keep in mind that LC is only one way to do this--if it works for your kids and for you, then go for it. If not, keep looking.

Good luck to all of you, and don't give up. Kids do need to be taught how to write. Keep reading about the writing process and develop your own styles for doing it as you know best.

New Mexican 02-02-2009 04:25 PM

I couldn't agree more!
I couldn't agree more with your insight, Lucy Calkins' program has not worked for my middle, ELL, and even higher writers in second grade. This is our mandatory program as well and I feel that the K-2 series is mostly for K-1---my second graders need more explicit teaching and more opportunities for differentiation! I have therefore "supplemented" with Step Up to Writing--I would never do this program without going to a workshop first, but it is well worth it! My kids now understand HOW to write--what a concept. I'm not including my name above because I am not supposed to be doing this, I'm supposed to be faithful to Lucy Calkins. So much for best practices, differentiation, and meeting your learners where they are. Step-Up has just become the "official" program for my district, so I'm hopeful that my school will see the light.

Funnygirl 02-02-2009 04:52 PM

I cannot stand the U of S manuals. They are condescending in tone and muddle up classroom management with teaching writing. Every time I try to use one, I end up wanting to throw it across the room.

techingfirst 03-31-2009 04:49 PM

Lucy Works
I have used Lucy's units of study for primary writing for 3 years now with my first graders. What I have found out is that the model allows each child to grow at thier own pace and individually practice the skills and strategies they need to become effective writers. My first year teaching these units it was tough. I spent each day taking home writing and trying to keep up with where each student was at. However, by the second year I knew what to expect and could manage my time better.

I feel the problem a lot of people have mostly a whole language approach in thier schools and not enough of a mix to meet all the language needs of diverse populations. For example, if a school uses patricia Cunningham's month by month phonics and also Lucy's writing the children aren't gaining any "direct" skills and strategies to use during writing workshop time. For the struggling or ESL child this is a disgrace because they are not being allowed to access the curriculum.

I am fortunate that my school uses an Orton Gillingham phonics program called Fundations. This in conjunction with Calkins is an unbelievable combination. Fundations teaches phonics rules systematically. In addition, children learn to hand write and spell "trick words" or non-phonetic high frequency words. This program is proven to aid in the language development of struggling readers and writers and a uses many ESl strategies.

When studenst learn a new rule in Fundations, they must carry it over into Lucy's workshop. Therefore the students get both the systematic direct instruction, but are also able to practice it in their own writing and be creative, independent thinkers. Which if done properly throughout the grade levels will give students early exposure to the writing process and make mandatory testing not such a miserable chore in the future.

With that being said, do what is best for your studenst. If you hate Lucy's program but have no choice, them mix your own style in their.

turboreader 04-22-2009 07:03 PM

Reading Specialist
In your message you mentioned phonics--phonics should be taught during balanced literacy instruction and should only take about 20 percent of the time, depending upon grade level. Lucy Calkins is all about authentic reading and writing, which should also be a component of your Balanced Reading Program. Although, I know that there are many wonderful writing teachers in the educational field, I have not seen too many. Most shy away and sometimes even choose not to teach writing. If there are young teachers coming to bring you innovative ways to motivate your students to learn to write then welcome them with open arms, we all can learn a thing or two and it won't hurt for others to model for your students. When you are stuck in a classroom of four walls, desks and no collaboration then it is time to bring in the troops. More teachers need to go back to school to receive their Masters in Reading, so they can be considered experts with a certificate. Going back for classes, attending PD's and conferences and collaborating with other coaches has developed my skills as a Reading Coach--we need Reading Specialist/Coaches in school--when we don't then we will have met our goal 100% graduation rate with all of our students exceeding state standards.

Robinmgriffin 06-11-2009 04:45 AM

My school adopted the Mary Lewis Program "Writers in Control" a few years ago from k-5. The writing scores for FCAT Writes soard from 78% passing to 93% passing in just one year. They continue to stay in the 90's ever since. It really works! A perfect Elementary model to teach the basics. A foundation for early writers. Maybe Mary's program would be a good sequel.

Embarassed 07-07-2009 06:52 AM

oh my
I am scared and very concerned that some of the people posted on here teach our youth. Wow.

PrivateEyes 07-07-2009 08:47 AM

Dear Embarrassed
Most people are embarrassed to state their regular log in name when gratuitously insulting people. Moreover, since you didn't point out which teachers you are concerned about, it's hard to know what you're objecting to.

Is the the teachers that are concerned about differentiating in their classrooms and meeting all learners?

Is the teachers who feel they haven't gotten appropriate training before being held accountable for the administration of a new program?

Is it the teachers who are growing good writers, both with and without the LC program?

Is it the teachers who have shared their experiences, both good and bad, with the program?

I don't know anything about the Lucy Calkins approach, but I certainly saw many thoughtful responses, both pro and con. In fact, the most unhelpful comment on here would have to be yours.

Sariana 07-07-2009 03:01 PM

old thread
Why does this thread keep getting resurrected? It was started in 2005!

Hope1 07-17-2009 06:37 PM

I've been using this model for two years and I absolutely love it. I agree with the people who say that it helps if you have been instructed on how to use the program and the books. It is extremely overwhelming to read through each lesson. Take it one step at a time…breath. That was the problem that my district faced the first year that we implemented UOS. Since then, I have had the opportunity to go to a LC seminar, and have several sessions with Amy Vanderwater and Kathy Collins, so I guess I understand the program to a different degree then some. In all of the "seminars" the presenters have said its “OK” to change the lesson and the wording of the lessons as you see fit (instead of the scripted work that LC gives you for an example of what you might say). Make it your own.

It also makes you as a teacher become a writer. If you keep a writer's notebook, and you share your work with your students it is such a powerful way of modeling. The students become so involved and inspired. But like I said, it takes courage to put yourself out there like that.

About management: Many of you have noted that you tried some lessons and they haven’t worked but that is not what the program is about. The program is about routine and structure (even though there is a lot of choice). Lucy gave many management tips at the seminar that were quite helpful, but the big idea is (with any management) it needs to be routine for the kids.

About teaching grammar: This program calls for one-to-one conferencing. This is powerful time. It’s a time when you can learn about your writer’s, compliment them, and where you give them something to work on (which can be anything that meets their individual needs).

I was observed by the principal of our school this year and he asked the students after the mini-lesson before they went off for independent writing: "How have you changed as a writer since third grade?" (I teach 5th) The students responded by saying things like "I write to release inner feelings", "Instead of writing because my teacher tells me to, I write for a purpose now”, “I use real authors as mentors and imitate their styles” … the things they said were enough to bring tears to my eyes and make me a true believer.

This program is intimidating because it requires you to be a reader and a writer yourself. If you are not that, you should try to become that (Hey, you’re a teacher!). Keep a writer’s notebook with all of your summer memories. Give it a try. It made me a writer…

I’m exhausted from reading these posts and trying to convince you. If you don’t like it and you have to use it anyway, try to get training and be open-minded.

If you are being forced to use the program and don’t like it- refer to this quote:
"If you can't change it, change the way you think about it"
Author Unknown

teacher456 07-19-2009 07:02 PM

WW works, but RW is not cutting it
I teach 5th grade, and truly enjoy WW. Most of my students, including Sp. Ed. and ELL, show tremendous growth as writers. However, after 6 years of Readers Workshop, I cannot conceal my disappointment. This program is just not addressing the needs of the struggling reader. To pick up the slack, I have to have guided reading with my lowest groups EVERY day- at the expense of the rest of my class. There just is not enough systematic, direct instruction for 3/4 of my class. I have had my coach observe my class numerous times because I questioned my method of implementation, but she has assured me that it's not me- she hears the same complaint from most of the teachers in our school. We've asked the administration to consider a different approach to reading instruction, but so far it's no go. Anyone else in NYCDOE feel this way?

Barbara A 08-07-2009 06:25 PM

middle school teacher
Having attended Columbia University's summer writing intensive with Lucy Calkins and the Reading and Writing Project staff, I returned to my California public school classroom a significantly improved teacher of writing. I do not implement a rigid Calkins model. Rather, I incorporate Nancie Atwell's reading and writing workshop philosophy along with Vicki Spandel's six traits of writing philosophy. My students are loving English class, the parents are overjoyed, and administrators and school board members rejoice at the significant rise in test scores. However, the delight and excitement I see from students who request additional reading and writing time along with opportunities to share their books and writers' notebooks makes teaching the greatest job in the world.

R.L.M. 08-10-2009 08:45 PM

Literacy Coach
I am confused, "correcting all the personal feelings." In a true writing workshop the teacher is encouraged to value process over product, so we would never "correct all of a piece". The purpose of the conference is to encourage the student by pointing out what is good, then lift the student to a higher level of understanding by pointing out "one" thing that he/she needs to improve. If you are focusing on everyting that they did wrong by "correcting" the whole piece no wonder your students hate writing. Try reading Ralph Fletcher or Donald Graves to get a better understanding of the Workshop Approach.
Good Luck.

dualanguage 08-21-2009 04:32 PM

R. & R. Spanish
The Lucy Calking can work pretty good in schools that have students with a lot of social exposure. Genuine writing comes from social exposure and not all of the students can enjoy that. I understand that most of the school districts want to adopt this program but we have to understand that not all the students have the same exposure in they early age. I teach in a rural community school and believe me... this kids don't have the same exposure than city kids. You ask them "to get a theme from their memories" and the answer back is "I stay home all the time, take care of my younger brother/sister and help mom and dad with the house's work" It is frustrating sometimes.

Also teaching the L.C. workshop in dual language program schools is another nightmare. None worksheets or anchor charts or simple charts are translate so... is double work.

I really like the workshop and I can see improvement in some writers ( the ones that have $$ and can go to parks, beaches, other states, vacation trips etc.) but the other students have a hard time working with the concept of pulling out of memory and experiences.

queenmom09 08-22-2009 08:36 AM

the first year I used UOS
I followed the manuals and taught all the lessons...and there were a lot of things that Lucy suggested that I was not modeling for my it helped me to do a better job of modeling and gave me the language to be using to do a better job at writing with my students. After that I looked at our state standards and chose the units that I needed to cover. I am getting better at looking at my students and teaching what THEY need rather than every lesson from Lucy...I think it is meant to be a guide and NOT the be-all end-all of writing curriculum. Even some of the mentor texts she uses I don't use because I can't relate to them...Angela Johnson has some great books, but that is not my experience or my students experiences because we live in a rural area not in a city, so you need to find things that work for you...I am not an expert, I am always trying to learn...hope this was a little helpful...

top teacher 09-04-2009 08:59 AM

Lucy Calkins
I have been a reading coach and interventionist for the past 12 yrs (elementary level) at an inner city school and I can tell you the L.C. Program does not work. Time for a change!!

sdm 09-12-2009 08:41 AM

no child left behind...this is the anthem to which we teach. Although I agree with making sure all students achieve, I also know that in my 12 years of teaching I have never met a class, much less an individual student, that learned the exact same way as every other class or child. It's important to make sure that no child is left behind, but honestly, how do we take them with us when what we're doing isn't moving them along? I teach over and over in math that there is more than one process to an answer, and as long as you can get the correct answer on your own and explain how you got that answer, you're doing it correctly. I've taught addition and subtraction strategies to my second graders and there were over 5 different ways to get to an answer, all of which were right.
I also teach my students when talking about maps that we all live in different places however, we all go to the same school. If I were to give one set of directions from Sam's house to the school to every child and tell them that this is the way we all need to follow to get to school in the morning...we're not all going to get to the common destination point. (Side comment - it's sad that some leaders don't understand this very simple concept...)
My point being this...Not every child will learn effectively with LC, nor will they all learn effectively with Barry Lane, or Sharon Taberski or Debbie Miller or who ever else is out there. As teachers, it's our job to teach to the child's ABILITY - not just their level. IF your district requires you to teach a certain prescribed curriculum to your students, then by all means, teach it (or at least try and show you've put forth effort). BUT it should also be your responsibility to find another way to teach the ones who aren't getting it through that program. That's your job. That's why you're a teacher. Yes, I must agree with every ounce of my being that it sucks we're being asked to do prescriptive teaching. It's sad that many of the people that run the education system, whether national or local - even within our own districts - don't know the "realities" of teaching, nor do they understand the fundamentals of the learning process. But we do, and that's all that matters. I would encourage anyone who teaches writing to do what's being asked of you due to your contract. But also stand up for your philosophy! Not by becoming so vocal that no one wants to listen, but by teaching "that child" the best way for HIM (which I'd like to add may not always be the easiest way for you to teach)! I would even go so far as to say document those strategies which you have used that DID make him successful. So that you can show to your school leaders that this is how this student learned, so that you can prove there isn't just one way to make sure no child is left behind.

texas parent 10-01-2009 09:12 PM

parent of a fifth grader
My son is a fifth grader and I am very disappointed in the reading and writing taking place in his classroom. He was writing wonderful stories, poems, etc. in fourth grade. He is now writing disconnected sentences trying to get his writing to fit into the "program" that his teacher wants. I, and other parents, see our children regressing not progressing. Worse yet, the children are not engaged in the work. My son even complains that he doesn't get to write anymore! Then the teacher is complaining that he isn't performing like she wants to (nor is anyone else in the class). As the parents have tried to point out some of the areas that aren't working for the kids she starts dropping names like "Lucy Calkin" to support her continued use of things that are obviously not working. The adminstration likes all of her references to "research" and "documentation" of her methods and many of the parents now feel overwhelmed. This is a relatively inexperienced teacher that if this is NOT working for any of the kids in the class something needs to change. Thus, I was interested in hearing the variety of comments from experienced teachers. If anyone know of some research or other data that we parents could use to suggest this method isn't always effective, that would be extremely helpful.

The Oaks 11-01-2009 10:44 AM

years of practical teaching experience
Your concerns and frustrations are very real. Your rural students have a wealth of 'life experiences' in memory - but they are so unrelated or disconnected to 'school reality' that they are 'switched off'. School, no matter how much we try to make the links, is not real life. Your students are very competent students and you want authentic writing for and from these students.
Competent? Yes - how many of them babysit younger siblings, prepare meals, translate for their parents in situations that I might find daunting? How many carry responsibilities far beyond their years. I heard a young mother castigating a five year old because she had been too lazy to wake herself up and get ready for school and then wake her mother to take her to the bus stop! How would I find the energy or interest to write about my memories if I was this child?
What to do? Give them something to write about in the right now, the immediate - your challenge is to create the context in the immediate sense to stimulate a purpose and desire for writing. If you have a SmartBoard and Digital Camera life becomes a bit easier.
Start with a traditional story where the characters are larger than life, with good and bad, humour or the bizarre, etc - I'm thinking of "The Little Red Hen", "John Brown Rose and the Midnight Cat", "The Magic Fish", "Caps for Sale", "Tikki Tikki Tembo" etc etc.
What does a lesson look like?
Student Goal or intended learning: students will be able to write a piece to be included in a class anthology for publication as a Class Text and on our school Website.
'piece' covers a range of abilities - this is an emergent curriculum and is focused on what the student is able to do with some scaffolding from you.
Text (to create context for writing): The Magic Fish
1. MiniLesson with all students seated on the rug - Read the story through to the students and encourage students to join in with the repetitive refrain (immediate participation).

2. in pairs have students role play being the fish and the fisherman 'oh fish in the sea, come listen to me............... etc' (yes, they will need to know how to work with a partner and you will need to know how to keep it 'tight' - you make the judgment call, you are the teacher),

3. returning to the rug ask students to tell you what the wife was like - character description, what the fish was like, what the fisherman was like, what they would say if they were the fish or the husband, you can ask 'the wife' with a student in role - this can be very interesting and often hilarious for the other students and needs careful management.

4. ask students to draw the part of the story they want to draw or something it made them think of (5-10 minutes - this is a quick sketch, for now, and can be added to later)

5. have students return to the rugs with their drawings and again they share with a partner - 'talk about your drawings',

6. Listen to the talk - locate a student who is actually talking about the story

7. ask students to stop - you may collect the drawings - and ask the student you listened to if you could 'write his ideas on the chart paper for everyone to read'
Yes - this is an Interactive Writing MiniLesson

8. Now ask students if they could write something to go with their drawings so that 'we can make a book to go in our Library or on our school Website'.

9. this is the Writing Workshop component of your lesson. What about the student who is not writing? Maybe you need to write what the student dictates (concerned? refer to Marie Clay (1991) 'Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control' pp 104-105.

10. What to do with their writing - bind it with a cover they have made - make sure you put Title, Illustrator, copyright (kids seem to love this), dedication, publisher's logo (an aspect of visual literacy which they also enjoy - particularly when they create their own)

They will want to read what they have created.
Other options for creating an immediate context for writing - cooking if you can do it in your school/classroom. Some of the best results I have seen come from art work, eg, make the Magic Fish on the floor or desk top with Maths Manipulatives or modelling clay - the student then writes about this - imaginary or actual - you take a photo and upload the art work, you can add text using the SmartBoard and you've created (NO - your students have created a class generated text which you can then use for ENJOYMENT - we are writers! We did this!!!!! and, word study, vocab. development etc etc)

Have students make a head band for a character and observe how quickly they become that character - use these moments to write!!!!!

What is absolutely essential for you to understand as teacher is to help you students construct a rich inner life - to understand that their imagination is valid and very useful - let them know this (this is what self to text is actually about) - use 'imagine' and 'imagination' as often as you can. (I recommend Maxine Greene 'Releasing the Imagination' for anyone who want to have some background to their decisions). It is only through the imagination that we can get beyond the ordinary, maybe what for these students is the drudge and demands of the everyday reality of caring for siblings, preparing meals. As teacher, you are challenged to create a context in which this can happen.
hope this helps

li teacher 11-11-2009 05:05 PM

What's wrong with what I was doig?
I have been teaching for many years and have tried many programs for teaching writing including TC writers workshop. Although I felt I gave it my best, I feel that the TC model did not work with my teaching style. Therefore, I have combined many of these programs and "do my own thing". Unfortunately, we do have state tests here in which students must write in response to literature by following a prompt. There does not seem to be any place in this program for this, or for learning the correct format for certain types of wriitng (ie persuasive, compare/contrast). In fact as I research more about this program (my district is now implementing this program because of a few loud teachers) and read more about it and people's opinions about it, it feels a little cult like. If you don't like this program then you are labeled as not a good teacher, because those that like it "believe" that this is they ONLY program that works. Well that's just sad.

Aboutthekids 11-12-2009 05:09 PM

If you have any experience at all as a teacher or administrator, you should know that nothing is the "Be All to End All." However, you need to open your mind to the possibility that this program can help our children become better writers. I love the program and like someone else said, I have seen my students become very excited about writing! This isn't about how much time it takes us as teachers. It is about how much our students learn. If you don't believe this you really should think about finding another career.

changeNYC 11-28-2009 09:45 AM

good writers...
It looks to me as if something needs to change. If from 2005-2009 there are still strong feelings against the model something is not working. In theory a lot looks good on paper. Teaching in middle America a lot is different from urban NYC life. What works in one place may not work in another. If we are trying to teach students to be writers we should be teaching creativity and encouraging exploration of self. I feel this is hard for students to do if they are all encouraged to write the same way, "Good writers ..." This is even less productive if students do not even have basic reading and writing skills down.

clc5 12-11-2009 10:05 AM

in response to Calkins not working
It is your job to make this model effective. Mini-lessons should NOT be unrelated. If issues should arise in student work, then it is time for a mini lesson. I like using 6+1 traits to guide a lot of my mini-lessons. These lessons should be authentic and so addressing something that you find in student's work makes sense and is the most productive use of your time. Mini-lessons can also be small group so the students you're addressing are the ones most in need of the information. Whole group lessons can be referred to later on, even if it doesn't pertain to everyone at that exact time as many students will be at a different place in the process. It sounds as though you were not properly trained, or perhaps, trained in an idealistic way and are finding it frustrating. Many people I've talked to have had similar experiences with writer's workshop, as it doesn't work as "prescribed" for all. There are, no doubt, problems with the workshop, but what you, and every other teacher who wants to be successful needs to do is adapt the system to a form that works with your curriculum, and most importantly the needs of your students. Also, reading as a writer is very important. This is part of the modeling you mentioned. . .choosing a book to share as a read aloud before a mini-lesson to introduce/model different types of writing and using different literature as touchstone texts fits in to the "teach, model, practice" formula.

Kirby Lane 12-15-2009 12:37 PM

Educator, Consultant
Although the Calkins materials are a fine resource for teaches, they are NOT curriculum; and therein lies the problem schools are facing in using as a curriculum.

whitfpa 12-30-2009 08:04 PM

One Size Does Not Fit All
I am a firm believer that not any one PROGRAM will ever answer or meet the needs of every teacher/student. If that were so the inventor of that PROGRAM would be a millionaire and every teacher in the world would be using it. Lucy is one of those teachers who discovered a method of delivery that worked for her, she packaged and sold it (Yeah for her) and parts of it works for other teachers. I think that it is best to remember that as a teacher you take what works for you from the program and mix it with what woks for you. It takes courage to stand on what you know as a teacher. I know, my principal is sold on SRA Directed Reading, which I hate. I voiced my concerns, backed it with research, and then closed my door and taught children how to read using what I knew would work. Yes, I incorporated some of the instruction from SRA (so that I could not be targeted for insubordination) and guess what my students scored higher than students who were taught only using SRA directed instruction. To the lady who said, look at yourself, if the students are failing it is your fault. Ma'am that is not always true, there are teachers who are forced to teach curriculums, lock and stock, that do not work. It is sad when politicians, principals, and people who create PROGRAMS have the last say in how students are taught. What is even sadder is that these EXPERTS may have been in the classroom at one time, but many of them have been out of the classroom for many years and are relying on information gleaned from books and research. When will we learn that there is a big difference between book knowledge and field knowledge. Teachers are in the field, PROGRAM makers are not. Having said all of that, I am not against programs, when they are used as a resource that teachers can use.

Lanny Ball 01-04-2010 09:57 PM

Instructional Coach, Gresham, Oregon
Rachel P.,

I must admit I was searching for something else when I ran across your post. Wow . . . where to begin? I attended both the Institutes on Reading and Writing in summers of 2005 and 2006 and since then have been astounded by the positive results in my students. They not only improve as readers and writers, but learn to love reading and writing in a way I never dreamed possible. Did you really attend? I can't recall any training on "correcting personal feelings". What the writing workshop aims to do is equip students with strategies for generating ideas of their own, ideas they can be invested in writing about. In doing so, students learn how to become stronger writers (through the mini-lessons) and process some of the important happenings in their young lives. As a seventh grade teacher in my town, I was the first to introduce them to the idea that they were capable of generating their own narrative and essay topics. Before, they had been given "prompts" and topics like "Salmon Essay". They had gone through the motions they called "writing", but after being part of my writing workshop, they found their voices and truly flourished.

The mini-lessons are explicit teaching of skills. So that was one of the most confusing parts of your post. And if your mini-lessons are "unrelated", then whose fault is that? My coaching to you (not that you've asked for it, but here it is) is to seek a successful mentor. Seek out a teacher who understands the value of explicitly identifying and instructing using a connection, a teaching point, active engagement, a link, and conferring. Really, young Rachel, you've missed the boat! This is the best there is! My teachers in Gresham are clamoring for the training you've received. Consider yourself lucky.


ojeme 02-23-2010 07:36 PM

esl teacher
Okay, I praise the workshop model for READING and WRITING!!! Someone explain to me how I should use this with Rigby's "On Our Way to English" which is a complete ESL program, for my 1st graders. They are beginners, and intermediates who don't understand what they are supposed to say or do in their sharing time, or independent work. Meanwhile, I have all this content to teach, which I cannot do in the 7 minute- tidbit of "good readers think about what they are reading????" I am trying to teach the child about differerent cultures in the US, the compass, recognizing states and capitals, teaching about the five senses, my community, animals and their habitats etc. How do I make any meaningfrul sense to my kids in 7 minutes and tell them to go do independent work? Someone help me, I am desperate to know how to integrate these two things. I have about 45 minutes with my class, everyday, and I am expected to teach them all the content, plus prepare them for the NYSESLAT through this method! Personally, I think it will work if one is having a reading session or a writing session. But when I have to cover so much in so little time, how do I effetcively manage this exploratory discovery learning, with kids who are strugling with the alphabet, most of whom cannot read a book on their own! Help!!!!

FLTeacherUS 03-08-2010 07:09 PM

Empowering Writers
I used to teach with Lucy and was a fan for quite some time. I've since taught with Write From the Beginning and Being a Writer. However, I've just recently come across Empowering Writers...I'd love some feedback on this program! Strengths? Weaknesses? Thanks!

muj 03-15-2010 04:58 PM

literacy coach
I too have worked in a rural setting with students who have little "social exposure" as you put it. But I found that their insights about the ups and downs of life were quite meaningful and sometimes I was blown away by their simple wisdom and matter -of -factness . Try taking each child seriously wherever they may be -- it is their reality that makes their writing important. Maybe we , the teachers , need more social exposure to understand and value their experiences. Helping siblings at home can be a crucial writing topic, no matter your social status.I have found that the true art of teaching is found when we are able to bring the best of our skills and knowledge to the individual needs of each student, always keeping a framework as our focal point . Even "socially deprived" students can write beautiful prose if supported and respected.

Torn Teacher 04-09-2010 12:34 AM

Like it but worry about the future
I like the workshop model but feel that it works better with the younger students (I'm a kindergarten teacher and a mom). I like that they are encouraged to write stories about their lives while improving slowly. At least the children feel that they can do something correctly as a result of the workshop model. As they get older, the workshop model is too open ended in my opinion. The students and teacher need more structure because of high stakes testing.

I do like reading and writing workshop, but I don't feel that it is a realistic way for older children to improve their skills. I feel that the older students really need to be from homes where reading is constantly taking place to experience continued success.

All of the students need to be self motivated with the workshop model, because their teacher expects them to work alone for a large amount of time while they help others (conferencing).

Under the program, the children's vocabulary can suffer. That is, unless the classroom teacher is dedicated to making sure that they teach science, social studies and math (all of the time).

Most teacher's also do not get the support that they need to implement the program efficiently enough. Some literacy coaches just "preach" they don't really "teach" or assist us in breaking down those books that Calkins writes. Those boring books have such small print and if the coaches would just lay everything out for the teacher's on each grade, it would really be help the student's much more.

Instead, they expect the teacher to research the student's needs, complete the needed research to implement the lessons effectively and research the next exercise. Not to mention teach the mini lesson and deal with all of the on the spot issues that could arise.

It could work very well if classes are small, children do all of their hw, principal's are realistic and literacy coaches really coach and support. However, in this environment of everyone "covering" themselves and looking out for their own best interest due to the high stakes testing, workshop will soon join the ranks of failing programs. It will soon disappear when test scores continue to go down the toilet.

Viola7 06-21-2010 10:12 AM

Lucy Is Great!
Then you are not using Lucy correctly! You teach students through an inquiry based approach. By studying how mentor authors write, students see how an author uses craft and then tries that for themselves. Maybe you do not know how to teach that effectively, you have to carefully plan out and scafold the lessons so they are effective for children. If you teach this correctly, then your students will love it. My kindergartners love writing time. They can sit and write for at least forty minutes. Lucy has helped make them great writers in a non-intimidating way, they say, "hey, I can try that". They WRITE, not draw pictures, two or three page stories, depending on the assignment.
Skills- if you are talking about grammar skills, then yes, Lucy does not teach these. You need to supplement this program with grammar skills. But again, kinder and first grade teachers, grammar skills should be taught IN CONTEXT. how could you not? putting spaces between words, capitals, periods, that all comes very natural when you are conferencing with their writing or producing examples as a group. Hmmm.....maybe you need to update your teaching practices or watch truly good teachers and observer them.

Enlightened 07-13-2010 04:56 AM

Golden nuggets found in this discussion
This discussion was started over five years ago, but teachers are still struggling to implement the WW model. I think this is still occurring due to a lack of professional development in some schools. I read all of the comments and jotted down some suggestions. I like the model, but need to modify somethings for my student population. The various names mentioned as resources in the discussion, I will definitely research. This ongoing debate may be stale to others, but it was beneficial to me.

teachen 07-22-2010 05:42 AM

Lucy Caulkins for Ells
I teach a kindergarten freestanding ESL class in a poor neighborhood in the Bronx. I agree with you that Caulkin's program does not work! My students do not have the rich experiences as well as the language to write a personal narrative. Although my principal tells me that I do not have to use it, she looks for the lessons when she walks into the room. What are the alternatives?

erinteach 07-25-2010 02:14 PM

collaboration time is the key
This thread is fascinating. I think what really matters when choosing a reading and/or writing program for teachers to have enough time to develop their craft through collaborative planning and evaluation of student work. 10 years ago San Diego threw out the basal programs in favor of units of study. They gave intensive training for teachers and made it mandatory. Most teachers were frustrated and complained about this mandate. But the hours and hours of professional development helped me to be a better teacher. At my school, teachers were given time to discuss and plan. We took time to review student work and plan our next steps for instruction.
UOS requires teachers to be thinkers who are masters of formative assessments. Unfortunately, even the best of the best teachers cannot do a very effective job of implementing UOS without the proper professional support. If there is no time for teachers to prepare for lessons, review student work, and reflect on the effectiveness of lessons then UOS will be mediocre at best. Scripted basal programs remove these factors from the equation. Just read the script and turn the page. So what is best? If the teaching profession continues to put more and more demands on teachers while eroding salaries/benefits and planning time then UOS and other labor intensive approaches will fall by the wayside in favor of follow the script programs. It is cheaper and safer to have a bunch of robots than a group of thinking teachers who might start asking too many questions and make demands which support them as professionals. New teachers probably won't be see the effectiveness of UOS like many of us did years ago. That is because the money is gone for training and prep time. Essentially it is a sink or swim situation. No wonder teachers are wanting basal readers again.

balance 08-04-2010 06:07 AM

balance is key
Hi All,

I have used Lucy Clakins writing workshop and Kathy Collins Reading Workshop for 4 years. At first it was difficult but it got easier. I have also used this type of model with ESl children in japan as well.

To be honest, I am very happy that people like Lucy at Teachers College exist. Similarly, I also love Wilson Fundations (orten-gillingham-ish) and primary phonics. In my experience I have found that balance is what works best for children. I think they need both explicit instruction and also freedom. I have found that Fundations used in conjunction with reading workshop, primary phonics texts, and writing workshop has been a wonderful balance.

Oregon Mrs R 08-27-2010 07:18 PM

wow what a long discussion
I'm very interested in this discussion because I am considering using LC's UOS in my class. Reading through the long thread of comments, I'd say on balance there is as much or more enthusiasm for the program as there are concerns.

As a 4th grade teacher, I'm responsible for getting my students ready for state assessments, as well as helping them grow as writers. Our state and district have no adopted writing curriculum. Our district adopted HM Reading a few years ago, which is a program that has writing embedded. It didn't take long to see that it wasn't working for writing. Since then, we have been gathering programs/models/data etc. to support writing instruction--so we are borrowing, blending, and recreating wheels.

I've been reading the UOS manuals this summer, like what I see, and have already started my own writers' notebook (I may already be part of the cult). Anyway, I plan to combine the UOS model of WW with the 6+1 model, and throw in some Step-Up to Writing too. Somehow, I see how the three connect, but I'm probably crazy to think that I can learn and use all three in the time I have (our schedules have been blocked so heavily with reading and math, we have only 30 minutes a day for writing).

Any new program or model will be a hard sell to some teachers. I usually find that patience, effort, flexibility, and willingness go a long way toward making any program successful.

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