Saturday, January 14, 2017

I DON'T love Lucy...(Calkins)

 Who doesn't LOVE Lucy, you might ask??? Me. Lucy Calkins, that is.

(Everyone LOVES the real Lucy!)

Lucy Calkins and Reader's/Writer's workshop has become something of a phenomenon. When I became an elementary teacher 6 years ago, after a decade as a middle school social studies teacher) I had never taught ELA before. I had no idea what to do. I was provided with a set of Lucy Calkins books.

You might be wondering what I have against Lucy Calkins, someone I assume is a wonderful person. I actually think reader's and writer's workshop is an amazing structure for teaching ELA. My problem with Lucy is that I believe there are numerous ways to teach any subject, and telling teachers to follow any specific program sells teachers and students short. I remember sitting in my classroom trying to figure out how the heck I was going to teach the most adorable fifth graders reading and writing. Every time I picked up a Lucy Calkins book...I wanted to throw up a little. I am not cut out to follow long narratives, or follow any kind of script. Becoming an elementary teacher opened my eyes to the limited autonomy that exists in our classrooms...particularly our elementary classrooms. There were no student materials to go with it. There were just lots of scripts and big ideas. I could see that there were missing pieces. And a lot of them.
There are a million great ideas in these books. But in order to be an effective teacher, you have to be able to adjust for your students and their needs. I remember being told that my mini-lessons shouldn't be longer than 5-10 minutes. And after that 10-minute lesson...everyone should be independent while I work in small groups. HUH? Nobody tells you that the second you tell 30 ten-year-olds to apply this new knowledge to their own "just right books" and work independently....they will have eight million questions.  Let me clarify something here...I have never had a classroom full of advanced level readers and writers. I have never had a classroom full of students that have all of their basic needs being met. I have never had a classroom where kids always have access to great books for independent reading. I have, however, had multiple classrooms full of kids with varying needs. The workshop structure is great for differentiating instruction...if you do it right and allow yourself to stray from the scripts whenever necessary. For me...that's all the time. But I hate scripts. I am a teacher. Not an actor.

I remember wanting to cry all the time. I was so frustrated with the lack of student materials and the lengthy narratives I was expected to make sense of each day in order to deliver my 10-minute-lesson and then magically have 30 independent readers while I work in small groups.

So how did I make it work??? I chucked LUCY and did what I knew to be right for my kids. I studied my standards. I learned every single one. I searched for great books for my kids. Developed my own materials. Wrote my own formative and summative assessments. Created a student-tracking system so that students could track their own progress. I taught. And I taught my heart out.

I thank Lucy for her contributions to reading and writing. But I'll do my own thing...thank you very much.

I went on the teach ELA for five more years. I became obsessed with creating kid/teacher friendly materials that could be used at various levels and were aligned to the Common Core standards. This year I was transferred out of elementary and am back in the world of middle school. But I MISS teaching ELA so much. I continue to create and develop materials that will help teachers to teach and support kids in their learning.

This is what I do to help teachers and kids to learn to read and write now. I'm Doc. And this is my shop. 

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