A New Way to Teach Writing

A group of third, fourth and fifth grade teachers and representatives from the Learning Resource Center spent the day taking a crash course to learn Lucy Calkins’ approach to writing. The Lucy Calkins writing program focuses on more rather than better.
"Writing is about building stamina and a love of writing," said Third Grade Teacher Katherine Callahan. Ms. Callahan studied this program while at graduate school and implemented it at Allen-Stevenson four years ago. She said she relearned how to teach writing.
 
"In Third Grade, I have the boys work in small groups, which helps both the inspiring and slower writers. I have two half groups for writing two times a week which I make a more skill-based lesson. When I have the full group, I set clear expectations for their writing that day,” said Ms. Callahan.
 
It’s important that they are writing for an audience, so the boys share with the class. Ms. Callahan has also set up organized writing conferences between the teacher and the student, which she always begins with a compliment. Peer editing has also proven successful.
 
To help the boys get started, they each generate ideas around people, places and things in a separate book. She also has them use a pictorial checklist, which is particularly helpful for those who are finding it difficult getting started.
 
Some of their writing is based on stories, starting with the narrative. For non-fiction texts, they conduct research and expose themselves to different types of writing. They might write a persuasive piece too.
 
"It’s all about showing vs. telling," said Ms. Callahan. The writer should tell the reader what they saw, what they thought and what they remembered. They are encouraged to bring out the internal story…the feeling, what they’re hearing and remembering.
 
Ms. Callahan said, "The boys are gaining in stamina and independence, and they are getting more excited about writing."
 
In the Fourth Grade the teachers are combining this writing approach with the humanities. They are setting routines and creating mini-lessons
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Allen-Stevenson’s distinctive “enlightened traditional” approach educates boys to become scholars and gentlemen.