A copy of Lucy Calkins and Laurie Pessah’s book, A Principal’s Guide to Leadership in the Teaching of Writing, recently found its way into my hands (I borrowed it off a colleague’s shelf). I have to admit, I’m impressed with the suggestions offered in the book. Here’s a web site that outlines the whole book, and provides links to specific chapter PDFs.
As an avid writer/blogger, as well as graduate of Abydos Learning Summer Academy, I found myself thrilled to begin reading this leadership-focused book. The best quote in the book is this one:
When you learn methods for teaching writing, you learn methods for teaching anything.
Amen to that! I would suggest that when you learn to facilitate change for teaching writing, you also learn how to do it for technology!
Here are some of the take-aways that jumped out at me:
- In order to teach/lead well, a person must bridge the gap between ideals and practice, between big plans and the very real work of today and tomorrow.
- The nature of the principal’s job is that he or she will always be multi-tasking….
- If professional study is going to make a difference in our schools, it can’t just make the individual smarter; it needs to make the school smarter (Michael Fullan)
- Intelligence needs to be socialized…the greatest asset a school has is its collective IQ (Tom Sergiovanni)
- “The real difference between success and failure of an institution can be traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.” (Waterman Peters, “In Search of Excellence”).
- No reform that is worth anything will be accomplished in a year.
- Reasons to Prioritize writing instruction:
- It is undertaught
- The field is not marked by huge debates
- Teachers are learners, eager to be taught writing
- Writing is concrete/visible and can be supervised
- When you learn methods for teaching writing, you learn methods for teaching anything.
- When student’s writing improves, it impacts every area of the curriculum.
- Teaching of writing is relevant to all learners.
- When students receive clear, systematic instruction, the level of writing increases dramatically, immediately obvious ways.
- When people write together, relationships strengthen [Aside: This is a great argument for using blogging to build relationships]
- It’s a huge priority for me that our kids grow up knowing they are writers…for me, it is crucial that our kids not only write but love to write.
- Meet 1 to 1 and share that “I’ve been looking at our kid’s writing and thinking that, as a school, we should invest ourselves more in teaching writing. What approaches to teaching writing do you think would fit well into our school?” [Aside: Love this approach…great for technology,too!]
- Students working in a process approach–that write often, given opportunities to draft/revise their writing, collect writing in portfolios–do better on high stakes tests than those students who do not learn within such a context. (National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2002 data)
- In the process approach towards writing…teachers explicitly teach students that what they do during revision and editing must soon move forward in their writing process, becoming part of their rehearsal and drafting.
- Learn to approach the school year having planned the longer journey, the ongoing structures, and the evolving plotline that will last across that year and many years.
- “Could we meet and talk about your experiences related to teaching writing? Could you bring all the writing that one of your strongest writers has done this year and all the writing that one of your more average-level writers has done just so we can talk about that, too? Could you also bring record-keeping or lesson-planning notes related to what you’ve done on teaching writing?”
- What are our children NOT receiving that they should be?
- Questions to Ask Yourself as You Visit Classrooms (as a principal):
- Are children choosing their own topics?
- Are children writing daily?
- Are children writing at home?
- Has volume of writing increased over time?
- Is there evidence of instruction?
- Are children developing letter-sound corresponding knowledge?
- Are children engaged and self-directed?
- Are children using charts as a resource? [Aside: Word charts]
- Does the mini-lesson seem to follow a logical sequence or architecture?
- Is the teaching point clear?
- Does the teacher model the strategy for children?
- In exemplary teachers’ classrooms kids write ten times more than they do in other classrooms. In a first grade classroom, children wrote an average of 4 pages a day…as opposed to children writing 3 sentences a day.
- “We cannot affect another person if we are not willing to be affected by that person.” (Ralph Peterson)
- One important goal for the organized, formal staff development will be that it helps create a professional learning community characterized by teachers studying together on their own.
- What teachers are expected to know how to do is too complex these days for teachers to close their classroom doors and teach in isolation.
- If one teacher has special knowledge in teaching _____, that teacher’s teaching needs to be transparent enough and public enough that other teachers working at the same grade level can borrow her expertise teaching in sync with the _________ expert.
- Principles to keep in mind while establish grade-level cohorts:
- Distribute leadership so there is someone at each grade level who can rise to the role (official or unofficial) of grade leader. Put a leader in place as well as followers.
- Move entrenched teachers to new grade level so they can’t rely on old lesson plans.
- Say “Yes” whenever possible to teachers who want to loop with their students.
- Assign teachers where you need special strength.
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure