writing workshop

a litmus test.

Sometimes my background as a science major leaks out.  Today, allow me to share my “litmus test” for minilessons:

Is this lesson relevant for students to use again and again and again in their lives as writers and communicators?

This is one of the biggest differences in my teaching now that I’ve embraced Workshop philosophy.  I’m incessant about delivering lessons (via whole group instruction, in conferences, or during share sessions) which are applicable outside of the classroom, outside of a particular piece of writing.

As Lucy Calkins teaches, we should be able to say to students, “Try this now in your writing and then do it again . . . forever-the-rest-of-your-life.”  The cool thing about getting older and gaining experience is that I get closer to meaningful lessons and conferences and share sessions which meet this criteria.

Are there any other “litmus tests” out there for solid writing instruction?  Wanna share?

4 thoughts on “a litmus test.

  1. Thanks for your thought today. I needed that.
    I find during conferencing that students need to evaluate themselves. When they don’t set the agenda for the conference, I will often ask which part is their best and then to tell me why they think that. By noticing what the child is able to say, I can tell what lesson are sticking and what else needs to be taught. I guess that’s assessing if the teaching is actually “Litmus tested”.


  2. It seems the universe moves in one thought sometimes. As a college teacher, I don’t always have the rhythm of K-12 teachers (sometimes I’m jealous of you all), but have been thinking lately about what I want my students to take away at the end of my class (besides relief).

    I just purchased L. Dee Fink’s well-recommended book, “Creating Significant Learning Experiences,” and am looking forward to diving into it. I want my students’ time in the classroom to count for something, or as Calkins reminds us, to have something they can do for the rest of their lives.

    Great post–


  3. My favorite is what are you working on as a writer. At first you really have to front load that you don’t mean to read your piece, but to have a goal. I tend to front load by having a goal as a class and for myself that is relevant to my writing. Then students write their own. Our site uses the PDSA (plan do study act model) and it has been very successful. I love the line you use of Lucy’s “Forever the rest of your life.”


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