Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lucy Calkins’ Writing Pathways: Performance Assessments & Learning Progressions, K-8.

Don’t have a copy? Blog if you want to enter our raffle for a free copy!

Part 1 Chapters 1-3 Highlights that jumped out at me…
Ch. 1  Assessment Toolkit
* checklists to raise student and teaching level & students improve in a matter of weeks-intriguing!
* checklists, rubrics, and benchmark texts derived from Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
Effective formative tools as students are actively engaged & transfer skills from one type of writing to another

Ch. 2  1st Step: Conducting On-Demand Performance Assessments
* Begin day 1 by inviting kids show off their writing- they’ll love that kind of invitation!
* Teach the Writer not the Writing- love that advice, don't you?
* Important for teachers across grade levels to agree on a plan- same grade level prompt and same genre assessed
* Kids given heads up day before to be ready to write about a topic they know for 45 minutes and invited to bring resources- that will boost kids’ confidence!
 FAQ is helpful!

Ch. 3  The Norming Meeting and Subsequent Scoring: Developing Shared Expectation
 Lucy gives positive support for working as a group and alone to get magnificent growth!

What did you take away or what jumped out at you? Can’t wait to hear from you!

Lynn Gurnee,

CRA Past Pres.


  1. I really like the explanation of the assessment tool kit in chapter one, and how she gave a clear overview of how each component worked. My school has spent the past year training to implement Visible Learning throughout our school. In her first paragraph, Lucy quoted John Hattie, who has written books on Visible Learning. Most of us dread assessments, but he explains how assessment can be a good thing if it is used to give students feedback and help them set goals to work towards. Visible Learning is about teaching children how they can be in charge of their learning by giving them feedback and helping them set and achieve their goals. The second to the last paragraph on page 3 summed up the goal of teaching children to be visible learners. I am going to type the “steps to success”, and put them up in my classroom. My kindergarteners will not be able to read it, but it will help me in my teaching goals, and if I keep referring to it, they will begin to learn the vocabulary and make connections to the skills they are developing.

    I appreciated that the checklists, rubrics and benchmark samples were created to align with common core standards. I also was glad that they added extra components they felt were important to teach students, so that they could be successful at reaching the required standards. You cannot complete a puzzle if there is a piece is missing, and the same goes for developing writing skills.

    The first day on demand writing is something that I try to do every year. I teach kindergarten, so it is more drawing than writing, but I have them dictate and I write. It is fun to look back at this half way through the year and see the progress. It also gets the kids excited when they see how much they have improved from the beginning of the year. I use it as a way to help motivate them to keep working harder. I tell them to look at how much they have improved and if they keep working hard they can get even better. It is just really important to keep them excited about writing.

    The on demand writing helps me a lot with my planning. I get somewhat of an idea where they are at with their drawing, writing, and oral skills. It gives me a starting point to create my mini lessons, small group intervention, and extra support. Having the checklists, rubric, and benchmark papers from this book to incorporate into this will be an added bonus!

    The Norm Meeting might be a little bit more of a challenge. There are five of us on our grade level team. Because we have AM/PM classes, we only get to collaborate once a week, and sometimes the topics of those meetings are already set for us. We do share student writing and discuss it, but not as in depth as it was explained in the book. I am hoping to introduce this idea to them and get them to give it a try. The beginning of the school year is always hectic. I am hoping that when they see the rubrics, checklist, and benchmark papers they will be excited and want to do it.

  2. I agree that Chapter One had a clear overview of the assessment system and how everything worked in Writing Pathways. While it was a lot for one chapter, I think the following two chapters broke the On-Demand Performance Assessments and The Norming Meetings into parts that are achievable.

    I really liked how Lucy Calkins tied the CCSS to the Writing Pathways. We are working on adjusting our report card to reflect the CCSS, so these chapters give a clear understanding on how to report results to parents and students that are aligned to the CCSS and how to have discussions with parents when possibly the majority of students are not meeting grade level standards based on the new CCSS.

    On-Demand Performance Assessments are outstanding ways to evaluate students at the beginning of the year in order to direct instruction. Each year we administer beginning of the year writing assessments and grade the entire grade level together. While this was effective at norming our grades, the rubrics we tried last year didn't help our students to grow as writers as much as we would have liked. The rubrics were worded more in CCSS language than in kid-friendly language.

    The rationale that was explained in chapter 3 for the norming meetings showed what my school has done right. Our strength is that we collaborate in grade levels and across grade levels, although there is never as much time as we would like. By collaborating in our grade level, we identified that the area that we wanted to focus on this year was writing and that the curriculum that we were using was not effective in meeting the CCSS.

    Our goal is to improve our students writing to meet or exceed the CCSS, and I believe that with the components in the Writing Pathways, we will have a clear and concise way of creating that change.

  3. Lori, loved your comment on Hattie's Visible Learning, i.e. teaching children to be in charge of their learning and giving feedback that helps them set and achieve goals. Putting it into action via your steps to success” poster may motivate your grade level team too! Wish you luck on your Norm Meeting endeavor! Keep me posted!

    1. Yes, I am hoping that my grade level will be open and motivated to use Lucy's model. Our LA/ELD Coordinator is the one who gave me this book at a workshop that I attended last year. I was excited to see that she is using the rubrics, checklist, and sample writings as a support tool for all of our grade levels this year. I believe she is planning on holding more writers' workshop professional developments throughout the school year to help support teacher implementation.

  4. Terri, thanks for sharing how these first 3 chapters give a clear understanding on how to report results to parents and students that are aligned to the CCSS and how to have discussions with parents. Many schools/districts are adjusting report cards to reflect the CCSS so this and the rest of your comments are priceless. We are so excited to blog about it with you! Best, Lynn Gurnee