lucy calkins: the good, the bad, and the ugly
what i love most about lucy calkins is her great phrases. she knows how to talk to kids to redirect them without punishing them, as well as how to get little tidbits stuck in their heads so they'll never forget them. she's perfected ways to give mini-lessons with as few words as possible, while making them memorable. i've read in her books that she bases this off of the idea behind commercials.
"Tell me what you're working on today as a writer" is one of hers that delivers the message to a child~ you are a WRITER, and you are not just writing, you are working on your writing craft. you have a goal in mind that you are perfecting, and its your job to know this, tell me what it is, and work hard. all that in just a few words.
or, of course, in redirecting children misbehavior in writing workshop, gasp in horror and say, "but, would rosemary wells write on her arm?"
i wish i'd used that one last year with my smart cookie. i could have said, "but, would patricia palacco eat her writing paper?" of course, my smart cookie is the type of child who would respond to that question with details.
lucy was a whirlwind of information that made me ridiculously excited to teach writing, and slightly regret leaving the classroom. writing workshop is my all-time favorite part of teaching. one of the second grade teachers today told me that one of my kiddos from last year asked her in shock today why they weren't having writing workshop. "what did you do to them?" she asked me. it made my day. i'm glad i have little writing converts. at least some of them...
lucy did share with us that she had been asked to review a children's book written by laura bush and jenna bush. she described a train wreck of a book, but i certainly am looking forward to reading her review. it sounds like it may be a good mentor text in what not to do. (which is why lucy brought it up to us~ an example of what we don't want our first graders doing with their characters.) the authors' main character is tyrone, who is white, and magically goes back and forth between being 5 and 10 (not on purpose).
seeing lucy in person was wonderful. i came away with a lot of great ideas and a much better handle on how to pace the writing workshop curriculum. there were a few times though i had to stop back and wonder about what she was saying. currently being in grad school and having to back everything up with research, i did start to wonder where she was getting her facts. a few times she referred to child development and what she believed was good for kids, which does not fit in with any child development theory. this is fine and i certainly don't believe in teaching solely based on research, but i would like to see more academic studies as opposed to her personal opinion.
the not so good:
the one part that really upset me though was when she mentioned the importance of asking children to state an idea and then learn how to restate it, and restate it, and restate it over and over again in different ways. that (is something i am very good at) and is just bad writing. it may be a great exercise in playing with words, but then we need to teach them to choose which one sounds the best. apparently the SAT writing test gives better grades to students who write this way. the longer the better, and the kids are trained to rephrase their main thesis over and over again. i once had a paper ripped up in front of me in college because i did that.
there were a few other points where i sat back and wondered (which is good, if we just took everything as gospel we wouldn't be good teachers). but for the most part i hung on every word as the true writing-workshop dork that i am. i do love lucy.
You and Susan should compare notes. She made some similar observations about gurus and research at the NCTM conference. Very interesting!
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