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on October 1, 2001
Elementary and high school English teachers looking for a quick fix or complete list of how-to lessons and activities for hooking young writers will be disappointed by The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy McCormick Calkins. What readers will find, however, is a coherent and thorough argument that challenges teachers to develop their own vision of excellence. On the opening page she states in no uncertain terms her definition of good teaching: "To teach well, we do not need more techniques and strategies as much as we need a vision of what is essential" (3). Through five sections and 29 chapters, it is her vision of what is essential that emerges as the overarching theme. Calkins helps students to experience a "wide-awakeness and curiosity" (516) of the world by placing their lives at the centre of their writing. The writing workshop is lauded throughout as a model that makes such an experience possible. Insightful anecdotes and glimpses into elementary and high school classrooms show how all phases of the writing process, including prewriting, drafting, sharing, revising, editing, are managed. Practical discussions on standardized testing, curriculum planning, and assessment are also included. The Art of Teaching Writing is comparable to other landmark texts in the field of writing instruction, including Nancie Atwell's In the Middle (1998) and Linda Rief's Seeking Diversity (1992). However, few texts offer the breadth and passion evident in Calkins' book. Although the book's length (and weight) might be initially daunting, it is a must read for anyone wanting to improve their understanding and use of the writing process and writing workshop. For more than twenty years, Lucy McCormack Calkins has been one of the most respected voices in the field of writing instruction. The Art of Teaching Writing is a testament to why this is the case.
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on October 9, 2000
This book was used in the two summer sessions of the Colorado Writing Project that I have taken. It is geared more towards elementary teachers, yet I teach middle school & have learned so much from Calkins. It gives great scenarios of teachers not giving proper feedback to child writers & gives examples of what is better. As teachers, we know that even constructive criticism is not always taken well by children. Calkins knows it's hard to teach writing without the criticism, but she helps us learn to conference better with our kids. Being able to say the write thing(pun intended) at the right time is crucial. The book reteaches the stages of writing and gives hundreds of samples of student writing. It's a great book to go along with the book What A Writer Needs. Also, Calkins just came out with The Art of Teaching Reading...I just got a copy & can't wait to have the same great experience as I have had with The Art of Teaching Writing. Of course, these are books we are done reading...never done learning!
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on April 4, 2000
This widely encompassing book includes chapters on poetry, fiction, and report writing. It includes extensive sections on reading-writing connections, writing development, and teacher-student conferences. This book is truly a a must have in your professional libray. You'll wonder how you taught writing all these years without it!
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on April 25, 2007
Lucy McCormick Calkins', The Art of Teaching Writing is an essential read to teachers of writing in any grade, but especially for the primary and middle levels. This book is also helpful for new teachers as well as veterans. Teaching writing to the primary and middle school grades can be a challenge, but the instruction she gives and the creativity of her ideas create an exciting guide for any teacher. As someone who plans to teach at the middle school level, I found many of Calkins' suggestions to be very useful.

Throughout the book, Calkins shows the need for meaning in writing and living our lives as writers, and demonstrating this to our students. Her ideas for the Writer's Notebook will allow the students a creative way of noticing the world around them as only a writer can. By giving the students an outlet to get out everything they want to say, they will begin to live the lives of writers.

Calkins stresses that students need to feel like authors to truly take ownership and be excited about their writing; she emphasizes the need for specific writing environments made to inspire and evoke emotion in the writer. These environments consist of cardboard desk separators decorated to each writer's own unique taste. Personal items and quotations may be used to cure any student of the dreaded writer's block.

Allowing the students to become the teachers is just another inventive way Calkins explains in order to allow them to flourish and grow as writers. She puts great importance on seeing and respecting every idea a students have. She realizes that teachers are students as well, and any idea, whether it comes from the teacher or the pupil, can be immensely inspiring.

These are just a few of her techniques, though she offers many more throughout the book. Genre studies, poetry, creative nonfiction, Mini-Lessons and conferences are just a few more ideas she touches upon in great depth.

By instructing teachers on how we can improve the writing environment for our young, impressionable students and explaining various methods in which to do so, Calkins' book is truly ground-breaking for anyone who wants to truly inspire their students to love writing. Any new or seasoned teacher of writing needs to read this book and even veteran teachers can take something away from the fresh look she gives us on the topic. It will open your eyes to all the possibilities there are in teaching writing!
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on April 24, 2007
Lucy McCormick Calkins' "The Art of Teaching Writing" is a very useful text. This book caters to teachers of elementary school students and how they can appropriately teach important lessons to their class. Calkins addresses many important issues such as how to encourage children to write and how to further their writing. Each chapter provides new ideas and is especially helpful for soon-to-be or new teachers.

The beginning of Calkins' book gives background information along with her personal experience in the classroom. As the book continues, however, Calkins thoroughly explains the importance of writing and how to get students to write. In chapter three Calkins talks about the importance of students writing often, and to help this process she suggests students have writer's notebooks. These notebooks will include students' thoughts, and will help them jumpstart their writing. She explains that hopefully these notebooks will form "small threads and small stones" which the students can "declare them significant, and make something of them" which will really help the students as well as the teachers (21). By using Calkins' idea of a writer's notebook, students will have ideas in front of them before they start to write. This is also very helpful for teachers because they can look at what their students have been writing, and help them to come up with ideas and stories.

Throughout Calkins' book she stresses the importance of students writing constantly, revising their work, and piecing words and thoughts together to form a finished product. One of the chapters that I found the most helpful was chapter eleven, entitled "Establish a Predictable Workshop Environment." This chapter discusses how important it is for students to have a predictable schedule, because their work is "unpredictable and complex," which I agree with (183). Calkins further explains the importance of this by saying, if students have a set time to write then they can "anticipate and plan for their own writing" (185). I think this is a very important idea because if students know when they will be writing, then they will be more productive and produce better work.

In addition I found chapter 22, called "Genre Studies," to be very interesting. This chapter discusses the importance of having students write in several genres. This was not something I would have immediately thought of as being necessary. After reading the chapter, however, I really agree with Calkins and I think it would help students quite a bit to write in many genres. This way students can learn which genres they like the best and explore all different sides of their personality.

Overall, Calkins' "The Art of Teaching Writing" is a great instructional tool. This book gives great ideas for new teachers, as well as examples of how to present these concepts to the class. This is definitely a book that I will use in my future of teaching elementary school, and a great book for everyone interested in education.
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on October 15, 2002
While as a writing consultant and presenter, I do recommend many of the strategies mentioned in this book, I also find that a majority of my audiences (inservice teachers) admit that reading Lucy Calkins is difficult. Finding her important ideas is like looking for treasure without a map! What about clarity and conciseness? Despite the focus on story-telling, the book is worth reading - particularly if you enjoy Mitchner novels.
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on December 4, 2003
The Art of Teaching Writing, by Lucy McCormick Calkins is an enlightening read for new teachers everywhere. It provides challenges for teachers to develope personalized teaching skills, discusses many aspects of the feild that teachers find while working in education, as well as discusses modern ways of teaching writing skills instead of the "old style." Not an easy read at all, hard to keep interest throughout the book, and very intimidating in size
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on March 2, 2015
Way too wordy. I was not impressed with all the stories she told-- and many of them had nothing to do with anything that could help us teach writing . Maybe someone else would disagree, but there are several other books that are far more helpful and less wordy than this particular book.
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on September 2, 2000
Calkins's huge book may be appealing to those who are inspired by endless anecdotes about a small set of students and her own precocious son, but it is not a book that gets flipped through on occasion, when looking for a nifty idea. It is instead a revival meeting-style "get up and write with those kids" book, damning and condemning old practices. It takes a bit of doing to sift through the stories to find out what a good writing program comprises, and then she lets you down with a skimpy section on a genre study of poetry, which she readily admits is somewhat of a mystery to her. The best part of this book is the ample book lists, some annotated, which are useful texts for reading out loud and silently. The book is wordy, overblown and only good for teachers new to the field and/or dealing with their own fears of writing.
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on December 4, 2003
The Art of Teaching and Writing by Lucy Calkins is a book that I would recommend for new Elementary School Teachers. This book makes an attempt at illustrating how teachers can create creative writing lesson plans for young students.
I must admit the size of this book was a little intimidating. It isn't really the type of book that you would read straight through, but perhaps skim through picking out material that pertains to what you want to convey to your students. The material in each chapter did not always flow well and a few times I found myself having to reread what I had just read. However I did enjoy the short stories the author included and the idea of students forming their writing around their own lives.
The fundamentals of good writing are clearly identified. The author goes through great pains to stress the importance of writing rough drafts, revising and allowing others to review the work and edit it. This book encourages creativity as long as it follows the fundamentals of good writing.
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