Sunday, March 7, 2010

Writers Grow Like Oak Trees

“Writers grow like oak trees-slowly over a period of time. You cannot cram over night to be a writer.” Lucy Calkins

I enjoyed reading the article called “Conferences Are Conversations” by Carl Anderson. In particular, I appreciated the references he made to Lucy Calkins and her book, “The Art of Teaching Writing.” It reminded me of working on my capstone for my master’s degree. After reading the article, I went and found my book and dusted it off. Colored strips of paper, used as bookmarks, were still in it marking my favorite pages.

Calkins has three components for effective conferences: Research, Decide, and Teach

Research: This is the time to listen to everything we see, know, and hear about a child in order to get to understand the student as a writer. Be fully present as a listener when reading a draft or talking to a writer.

Decide: Decide what the writer needs that will help not only today, with this piece of writing, but also tomorrow, with other pieces of writing. Think in terms of “what might help this writer” rather than “what might help this writing.”

Teach: Teach the student what they need to know to move them along on their journey as a writer.

Several years ago I compiled a few quotes by Lucy Calkins. I have added them here.

"Let’s not ever fool ourselves into thinking that our time with students does not matter that much. Our teaching can change what kids pack in their suitcases; it can help them cherish the intersection of a gravel driveway and a paved road; it can invite them to do wheelies as writers, readers, and learners. Our teaching matters more than we ever dreamed possible. …Thinking about the power of good teachers, I have goose bumps. What power and what responsibility! Sometimes, I see teachers and I want to say, “How do you live, knowing you matter so much?" By Dr. Lucy Calkins
From: The Art of Teaching Reading
The Art of Teaching Writing

Adapted by Debra Stortz, Edina


  1. I am so excited to see you reference Lucy Calkins. I would love to sit with you and learn from you sometime. The information you gathered through doing your capstone is, I'm sure, so valuable when thinking about little ones and writing. I can't wait to hear more about what you know as a teacher!

  2. I love The Art of Teaching Writing so much. I'm glad you posted some Lucy Calkins' excerpts Deb. It makes me want to spend some quality time revisiting that book :)

  3. Sometimes we read a book, love it, apply some of its strategies and store it on its shelf, seldom to be touched again. As I read the articles I had a similar thought to yours: I need to dust off my copy of The Art of Teaching Writing. Just because a copyright is more than 10 years old doesn't mean there are no longer any pearls of wisdom between the covers. Your quote brought it all back for me. Thanks, Deb!

  4. I saw your post on the Heinemann facebook fan page! I work for Lucy! So glad to know there are Reading & Writing Project fans out there : )