Monday, September 10, 2007

Year Long Study of Lucy Calkins' Books

Even though I have a very real and severe case of ADD, especially in late afternoons---and I consequently find most professional development quite painful---I agreed to attend the monthly classes with other teachers in the district that will focus, again this year, on Lucy Calkins' Units of Study. Here are the reasons why I'm going to endure this torture: (I love Lucy's books, it's the sitting still for so long that kills me!)

#1 My own classroom practice will be better the more I reflect, and even this very post is pushed by my commitment to attend these classes.
#2 I am passionately committed to a workshop model of writing instruction and if I can do anything to help other teachers to learn and be successful with the model, I will.
#3 I like learning new things and hearing the stories of other classroom teachers.

I've been asked to talk tomorrow about the work Jen and I did over the summer and where my thinking is right now in regards to the Units books and Writing Workshop, in general. I'm trying to rake all my thoughts into one pile, but it's not easy.

Brainstorm: teachers need to be habitual writers because we need to understand the work we're asking kids to do (Find one of those crystal, explosively inspiring sections from MEM FOX on this). My experience *being* a writer: it was very hard at first to generate seed stories as I was working through the first two books. I had that very insecure feeling, that so many kids have, that I don't have any stories worth telling. Then, one day, I watched the ultrasound of Mama Jean's heart. I realized what amazing stories I'm surrounded by and I suddenly found myself in the habit of noticing them.

And this habit, or way of thinking, is very useful as a writing teacher. For example, today, when I was teaching my students how to generate personal narrative writing by thinking of one person, I was able to list very specific mom memories: I didn't write that we went to NYC together with grandma, but that she found me at Grand Central Station. Most students, in their efforts today, didn't zoom in so well. But I know I gave them a good example and I know where to push them in conferences.

Okay, that's a decent pile of idea leaves. Oh, yeah, a couple more important things: doing it with Jen is essential, and we're going to do the books in the order 1 then 3 then 2 (and why). And also maybe I'll tell the story about going all the way through the third book before I was convinced that is was an effective way to teach essay writing. And that actually doing the silly exercises was what convinced me.

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