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Writing Instruction ~ Lucy Calkins and the Common CORE

Digging into Next Year

Writing Instruction - Lucy Calkins and the Common Core


Informative / Explanatory Writing

Our school district adopted Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing Workshop about 6 years ago.
I have been teaching for 20 years now - and have seen many different changes in education and curriculum over the years.  
Lucy Calkins - if you haven't heard of her - is an amazing educator.   When my school district purchased this curriculum.  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and I found that my colleagues were feeling the same way.  I like Lucy's writing curriculum, but she tends to be very long winded. So that being said,  it has been a challenge to - as we say in my school- BE LUCY.. let alone teach exactly how you know LUCY would teach writing!  Over the years I have to say the kids are writing more than they ever have before which is exciting.     Here is a link to the Reading and Writing Project website if you would like more information. 
SO changing the way I think about and teach writing was a process for me.  Lucy truly believes in students living in the classroom as WRITERS.  We as teachers are expected to treat our little learners AS WRITERS.   I had to go from teaching writing to my students in an organized and structured way- having most of the control....  to allowing my students to "go off and write". 
My red pen (or purple marker ) is not  being used as much... and I am modeling less for my students - "how to write" or what the final piece of writing should look like. (although I have to admit that I do sneak in some old school modeling lessons when I feel that my students are lost).  
As teachers, we are constantly reflecting on our lessons - what worked well, what can I change... so I find that it's the same when teaching writing.  I do teach the Lucy Calkins way.. but I still find that I tweak it a little for the sake of my students and meeting their needs. 
IT is BEST to JUST DIVE IN and TEACH IT - The Lucy way!
 If you don't actually TEACH it, how will you know what works and what doesn't?  It's also important to know that the Lucy Calkins books aren't necessarily in a scripted format. They're more narrative, so if you don't try it out, you won't know what feels right and what feels forced.  I always review the narrative of her books over the weekend and I tab (using post its or post it tabs) I can quickly reference it during the week.  I have since given up  on trying to BE LUCY and it has taken me about two years to feel comfortable teaching writing this way..
I will update my posts on Writing at a later date - to include more pictures... but I am out of town write now and I forgot to bring the BOOK to snap pictured of what I am referring too.. so that will have to wait until next time..
but STAY tuned. 

My Tips for teaching Writer's Workshop  ~ Grade 2

Informative Writing  ~ Lucy Calkins  

1.  ALWAYS read the lesson plan well in advance of teaching that unit / lesson.  Lucy tends to be very long winded and you could read her book and put it down midway through a lesson.  Not because it is a bad read... but more so because it is so detailed.  (which for some is a great thing). 
2.  USE post it tabs to help you mark the KEY teaching points as you are reading.
3.  Take bulleted notes for yourself to refer to when you begin teaching. 
4.  Prepare ANCHOR charts prior to teaching (at least the title and main focus of the chart -outlined)
5.  Have a SAMPLE idea in your mind - to share with your students... NOT necessarily model what they should WRITE and HOW it should look... but at least give them something to familiarize them to what in the world you are trying to teach... I have looked into my little learners cute faces and seen that look of "WHERE DO I BEGIN"... so this helps them to at least have an example to recall when they are sent off to go and write on their own.  
6.  Immerse  students in the genre of writing in the weeks leading up to the unit.  They will be familiar with the format of Informational Writing and what this will look like in the real world.  Then I refer back to the things we read - so they have a point of reference. 
7.  GIVE kids extended time to WRITE EVERYDAY!  It's hard to squeeze everything in .. but Writer's Workshop happens everyday in my classroom.  We all know, for kids to become writers they need to write.  Your students need to love to write... help to foster that in them by allowing them to write ... and write .. and write... BUT NOT always what you tell them to write - let them write about what they are interested in.   This was the hardest part for me when we started using Lucy Calkins.  It makes more sense to allow them to write about what they are interested in ~ but I liked correcting Writing papers that were all the same topic. I had to give up control.. it's not about me - it's about teaching our kids to become writers...good writers!   IF they don't like the topic they are writing about - then they won't enjoy WRITING.   
This was created for my students to use during our unit on Informational Writing. 
I taught Gr. 2 this year with many students needing extra support. These pages helped them to focus on what they needed to complete ~ but I allowed them to choose what they wanted to write about. 
When we first started this unit... I focused my kids on Animals.. only because they needed that direction and they all love animals.  SO they chose what animal they wanted to write about.  One of my kiddos just got a ferret as a pet, so she wrote about ferrets. Another girl chose spiders.
(see sample below)
 Let me tell you - they took off with this running!  They were writing so fast that I was amazed.. and their writing was good.. not great but good!  We later focus them on how they could improve their writing - but I let them share each others writing AND go off to decide how to make their own writing better.  I didn't have to TELL them what to do, they noticed it when they were working with their classmates. 
My kiddos did hand in WRITING about other topics ~ one boy wrote about baseball and one wrote about family.  Most kids still chose to write about an animal....because they like animals.  :)



My students loved this unit and I was so glad I was able to give them the format and outline needed to help them be successful.  They all felt like WRITERS and were so proud of their work. 
Let us know if you are teaching Writer's Workshop in your classroom.  We would love to hear from you!  
 STOP back soon- I will be sharing my Narrative Writing unit - Lucy Calkins inspired soon... and I promise to include more TEACHING tips and a FREEBIE from my Writing Posters and so much more product! 

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