The Impact of Lucy Calkin's Writing

The Impact of Lucy Calkin's Writing
Posted on 02/14/2018
Student Writing

After piloting Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study for Teaching Writing for the last several years, all elementary teachers are implementing the writing strategies.  During the first of three, annual Lighthouse Sessions, representatives from each elementary building demonstrated the positive impact it is having with the students.   After a brief school board meeting, school board members, administrators, teachers and members from Spencer Community School Foundation and School Improvement Advisory Council (SIAC) were present to learn more.

While all areas of instruction are continually reviewed for improvements and changes, teachers were surveyed, and there was an overwhelming response about the need for more emphasis to be placed on writing instruction.  As a result, the curriculum which contains plans to help teach writing and meet the teaching standards, developed by Lucy Calkins and a team of people over three decades, is now being implemented systemically at the elementary level. 

Kindergarten teacher, Brook Schueller, kicked off the presentation by using a quote that emphasized the importance of writing and how the success in many disciplines is reliant on a student’s ability to write.  Susan Coulander and Jennie Stevenson, both third grade teachers, walked the group through the four components of the writing curriculum framework, also referred to as the writer’s workshop, which includes: a ten-minute mini lesson, independent writing, conferring and small group instruction and sharing.  “One of the really neat aspects of the Lucy writing is the duration of time the students are spending writing.  It is amazing to see the students take off with their ideas and their new learning,” shared Coulander. 

The actual process was demonstrated through videos of fifth grade teachers, Abby Faust and Amy Blau, working through the workshop steps with their students.  Watching the videos confirmed what the teachers reported about the impact the new writing curriculum is having within the district

Additional videos were shown asking students and staff from each elementary building their opinions of the writer’s workshop.  Through unrehearsed and unedited responses, it was evident that students are learning and growing as writers.  Teachers remarked that the strategies help students to organize their thoughts and go more in-depth with their writing, and they have more stamina to write for longer periods of time. Second grade teacher, Brian Sand, ended the video by saying, “It is student-friendly.  The kids really seem to pick up on it, and the fact that they are excited to write tells me that we are doing something right!”  Alex Olson, Fairview Elementary Principal, emphasized that the program is helping to develop first-rate writing skills systemically while instilling a love of writing.

Lighthouse Session attendees were encouraged to comment or ask questions, and SIAC member and parent, Jason Vulk, mentioned that a few nights ago at the supper table, his son was excited to share that he was doing some writing, and he was blown away by the strategy behind it and the discovery.

Though this is only the first full year of implementation, teachers have utilized professional development sessions and opportunities for grade level meetings to study, receive training and share strategies for success.  While the teachers feel they are really getting comfortable with the curriculum, they continue to learn and grow, and ultimately believe that the research-based program aligns well to meet writing standards.  School Board President, Bob Whittenburg, applauded the administrators and teachers for the steps they took to adopt the writing framework and improved literacy.