I have been marinating so happily this summer in Lucy Calkins' model of teaching children to write. I've basked in her warm, supportive tone. I've relished the power of her very particular strategies, both in my own notebook entries and in my girls' writing efforts. And I've nurtured a vision of a classroom writing workshop informed by her poetic descriptions and practical tools.
When I first started Writing Through Childhood, I felt a bit jarred. I didn't want the assumptions of Lucy's writing model, that I haven't even put into practice in my classroom yet, to be called into question. But the more I read, the more I feel that the two authors, both of whom I admire greatly, are simply in the midst of a delightful, important conversation. Like this, maybe:
Lucy: We need to teach kids the tools real writers use.
Shelley: Yup, but we mustn't forget to value and recognize that our students are, in fact, children.
Lucy: A powerful focus of the units is on how writers structure completed pieces of writing.
Shelley: Of course, that's a very important focus. But don't guide kids there at the expense of playful, imaginative, self-directed entries that will convert them to writing for life.
I'm no longer frustrated that the two authors have different stances, or that they zoom in on different ingredients of a strong writing workshop. In fact, exploring the tensions in such a nuanced conversation will give my teaching a thoughtful and rich leavening. A question I scribbled in my own writer's notebook, while reading through Lucy's first three units was: "Where's the poetry!!??" Well, I think Shelley gives a precise and encouraging answer to that question: trust yourself. I know my kids and know they're going to benefit enormously from many of the mini-lessons, read-alouds, and poetry selections that Shelley suggests as ways to warmly welcome students to writing and to help them step out onto the shaky ice where they must trust their own ways of seeing and must learn to believe in their own incredible voices.