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Similarities and Differences between this and Lucy Calkin's Method.....

What are the smiliarities and differeneces between Being a Writer and the Lucy Calkins Writer's Workshop?

Susan Hult's picture
Joined: 06/15/2009

Hello, and thank you for your question.

Units of Study and Being a Writer are both stand-alone writing programs that offer writer's workshop instruction and are aligned with the Common Core and othr state standards.

Being a Writer offers student-centered, deeply interactive instruction that develops students as writers, thinkers, and principled people. The program supports teachers at all levels of experience in building a community of writers who grow together academically, socially, and ethically. The program supports teachers in the following ways:

1. Teacher Support and Resources. Many teachers want and expect regular guidance and clear lesson plans for teaching writing, helping students develop skills and stamina, and responding to student work. They expect that the resources that are called for in a lesson will be provided. Being a Writer:

• Offers clear daily lesson plans for teachers at all experience levels

• Provides all lesson resources

• Provides scaffolding for teachers across the yearand across grade levels

• Offers ongoing support for implementation of the workshop model through embedded videos demonstrating best practices and in person with literacy experts

2. Building a Caring Classroom Community. A strong classroom community is essential for successful implementation of the workshop model. Classroom teachers want intentional support and direction for creating a culture of inclusion, safety, and respect for authentic sharing of writing among students. Being a Writer:

• Explicitly teaches how to use collaborative structures

• Gives teachers ongoing support for managing partnerships and groups

• Guides teachers in building community

• Explicitly teaches students to communicate respectfully with peers, give and receive feedback, and reflect on partner work

3. Supporting English Language Learners. Teachers of English Language Learners (ELLs) look for specific strategies and tips—integrated into instruction and tied to lesson content—for meeting the needs of their students. Being a Writer:

• Has point-of-use suggestions throughout the lessons for differentiating instruction for ELLs

• Offers specific suggestions for clarifying language, adjusting prompts, and grouping strategies to ensure full participation

• Identifies and explains key words that ELLs may struggle with in each mentor text 

• Provides abundant oral-language opportunities

4. Mentor Texts. It is important for young writers to be immersed in powerful writing. Authentic literature helps them not only develop a sense of what it is they are trying to write, but also see how real authors create engaging characters, powerful stories, and compelling arguments. Being a Writer:

• Provides 19–31 trade books per grade level, K–6, representing all instructed genres, as part of the core program

• Includes exemplar texts that are integral to each lesson

• Includes up to 4 complete trade books per unit, and the entirety of each is read aloud to students

• Reproduces passages from selected exemplar textsfor students to analyze, interpret, and annotate

5. Skills and Conventions. The inclusion of language skill instruction (both at the point of use and according to individual needs) is anessential feature of a comprehensive writing program. Understanding and using the conventions of written language is a hallmark of a confident, fluent writer. Being a Writer:

• Provides G.U.M. (grammar, usage, and mechanics) mini-lessons, integrated within the writing lessons at natural points of use

• Includes the Skill Practice Teaching Guide, which offers formal G.U.M. instruction for grades 1–6 (30 lessons per grade), supported by hundreds of interactive whiteboard activities

• Includes a Student Skill Practice Book, which provides 3 pages of practice per skill and a Student Handbook

• Offers 3 diagnostic proofreading passages per gradeto assess Common Core grade-level language skills

6. Assessment. Effective writing instruction depends on evaluation tools that can inform instruction and keep track of students’ development as writers over time. Being a Writer:

• Offers an assessment book per grade (grades K–6) and separate Writing Performance Task Preparation Guide (narrative, informational, opinion) for grades 3–6

• Provides all stimulus materials (texts, videos)

• Includes unit assessments that allow scoring of published writing, G.U.M. skills, and grade assignment. The Assessment component also includes: 

– Beginning- and end-of-year writing snapshots

– Affective and metacognitive assessments

– Writing portfolios (end-of-year)

– Diagnostic Common Core Language Skills assessments

– A web app for recording individual and group progress

To review the program, you can set up a free trial to access all of the instructional materials. Visit bit.ly/start-a-trial to learn more, or contact your local education consultant to learn more about the program or see it in action.

Peter Brunn's picture
Joined: 06/15/2009

Hi - There are many similarities and a few significant differences.  The programs are similar in that both appraches are based on a "Workshop" model of writing instruction. We both for instance make significant time for studetns to write every day on topics that are important to them and of their own choosing.  We both organize our programs around different genres of writing.  We also both have time where we teach lessons directly to students on the craft of writing.  The Center for the Collaborative Classroom, like most of the field has been heavily influenced by Lucy's work.  But the Center has also made some significant contributions as well which accounts for some of the differences in approaches.

In Being a Writer, each lesson has explicit social and academic goals.  The organization has been on the forefront of integrating academic and social development in instruction and this integration occurs in every lesson.  The Being a Writer lessons also provide more support and structure for teachers in the lessons theselves. There is enough support for teachers new to a process writing, workshop approach to be successful as well as for seasoned veterans to use as a resource.  All of the materials teachers need to teach the program including them mentor texts are included. Finally, another big difference is around grammer usage and mechanics.  Being a Writer has a whole component that supports students in learning these critical skills in the context of a writing workshop.  

Being a Writer is also available digitally and has an online assessment support teachers can use to track the progress of students.  The digital resources also contain lots of video and teacher professional development support embedded right in the teaching materials.