balanced literacy · lucy calkins · tcrwp · writing workshop

A Must-Read for All WW Teachers

An article published this past summer in Education Next came across my desk today. “The Lucy Calkins project: parsing a self-proclaimed literacy guru” disturbed me for two reasons:

1. Lucy was my professor for four courses when I was a graduate student at Teachers College. She taught me how to be a better teacher of reading and writing. I admire her because I learned so much from her.

2. There’s a deep insinuation that Calkins’ methods are not proven to be solid by independent research companies.
In her article Barbara Feinberg writes, “Calkins is shaping the education of millions of children, yet no independent research backs the efficacy of her programs. Aside from grumblings from the New York City teachers required to work under her system, there has been remarkably little open debate about the basic premises behind Calkins’s approach, or even feedback on how the programs are faring in the classroom.”

I think anyone who doesn’t believe the Workshop Model, which Lucy has pushed for so many years, is working should come into a Workshop classroom and really take a good look around. They will find children who are engaged in their reading. They will find students having extremely literate discussions. Furthermore, in a Writing Workshop, they will find children who truly believe they have something to say that matters. Furthermore, those same kids, who will identify themselves as writers, will be sharing their writing with their peers who will give them constructive feedback on what they did well as a writer and what they should work on.

This article about Lucy got me pretty fired-up for the two reasons I mentioned above.

Joel Klein, the NYC Schools Chancellor, hired the TCRWP to come in and implement the Workshop Model around the City of New York so that all kids could have equal access, regardless of where they went to school, with rich literate experiences. This happened and the entire City uses the T.C. Model when teaching literacy. What better endorsement can one get than to have their program implemented in every NYC Public School?!!?

Feel free to weigh-in on this article after you read it. Click here to view said-article.

5 thoughts on “A Must-Read for All WW Teachers

  1. Wow, I just can’t believe that article…I had to read over your blog twice. I am on my third year of using Lucy’s K-2 units of study…in fact…I have done staff development using her videos and by inviting teachers in to see how the units of study worked. I have truely seen a tremendous amount of shifts in the writing abilities of k-2 students since I began studying Lucy’s work…I also use the work of Katie Wood Ray and Lester Laminak…who both worked with Lucy at TC. WOW…I am still in shock…wish I had access to that article to share with my teacher leader! I disagree with Barbara Feinberg …I think Lucy is a guroo!!! (not sure how to spell that one :o)


  2. Hmmm. I largely agree with what’s been said. I’m using Lucy’s Units of Study 3-5 for the second year now, with a much better implementation this time around. I could go on and on and on about the strengths of this model of writing instruction. My students’ narrative pieces are going to be celebrated at a class reading this Friday and my fifth and sixth graders are not only becoming powerful writers, they’re also becoming more kind, gentle, and thoughtful people.

    However, I also empathize with some of the teachers quoted in the article. I would hate to feel like Lucy’s exact style and words had to be what comes out of my mouth in my room with my students. It’s unfortunately easy for me to imagine district bureaucrats and administrators making a total mess of things by acting like Lucy’s books are meant to be a script, rather than a professional guide. A lot depends on how particular administrators and literacy support professionals use the model. Do they look to teachers as a primary source of knowledge and wisdom about their students? Do they trust teachers to make good choices?

    There are a couple of ironies at play, here, though. First of all, I think the kinda programs that the author of this critique might recommend would marginalize the voices and knowledge of classroom teachers far more than any iteration of a writing workshop model. And second, Lucy has always been an advocate for keeping the professional dialogue fresh and the writing instruction responsive and flexible.

    I wonder what sort of attention this article will receive and I wonder about the intended audience.


  3. Here’s my thoughts: The workshop is pretty economical in that it doesn’t require a lot of basals and textbooks! They’re just cheesed because the powers that be (the people creating the books) aren’t making any money off of said textbooks. It’s allabout money!


  4. In my TEN years of teaching I have never seen such results as I have last year and this year. It(the workshop model) is a slow process to gather and wrap your arms aroudn, but one that has made such an incredible impact in my kiddos reading and writing work!

    I LOVE my room and what I do even more than ever! I see the growth in my kiddos all around!

    What a bunch a puds who wrote this!


  5. WOW! I am off to read the article now, but I am already fired up!

    I was trained in TCRWP when I student taught. I was lucky enough to be in one of the few suburban project schools. Today, I use all my project materials in my 6th grade room. I also use Lucy’s Units of Study 3-5.

    Ugh! I am so angry! I’m off to read the rest now!


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