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First School Board Meeting Teaches Humbling Yet Encouraging Lesson For This Scribe

New writing curriculum at Farms Intermediate School teaches that anyone can be a good writer with enough practice.

OK, so I admit it now. I may have been living in an ego-centered fairy tale.

It started a few months ago when my youngest son, a first-grader at , came home from school one day to proudly declare that he was a writer. This statement was huge for me since up until that point in my young son’s life, he has been adamantly telling me he was a soldier. So, to hear him tell me, with such authority and belief that yes, he was a writer — just like me — made me proud and feeling like I was finally able to pass along a talent of mine to one of my offspring.

I’m starting to realize, however, that this maternal bliss of giving my son the magical gift of writing may all be in my head — and I guess I’m OK with that. I'm also willing to admit that his school, his teacher and the new way Hartland schools are teaching our children to write may have an influence on my young Stephen King as well.

This past Monday, I attended my first-ever school board meeting where I was lucky enough to hear Mikki Cheney, principal of presenting on the Lucy Calkins writing workshop that grades K-8 now participate in. As a parent, I had heard the name and knew some of if from the kid-speak around the dinner table, but obviously hearing the more in-depth description and benefits made me more excited about what my children were doing every day in school.

The Lucy Calkins writers workshop, as a teaching tool is based around the theory that writing is a process and — here is the kicker for me — and that every child, no matter what "inherited" talent they may have, can learn to be a great writer. 

“We heard a cute story,” Laurie Mayes, Hartland's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction said after Cheney’s presentation.

“Second-graders were having a sleep over this past weekend. The mom overheard them talking about, ‘I think this would be a good topic for writing topic for our writing class on Monday. Why don’t you write about it and I’ll write about it to and we’ll see if we can come up with different stories.’”

Laughing, Cheney, Mayes and writing coach Dotty Selix who works at Farms, went on to tell the audience how the students were wondering about whether it was a "quality experience" and good enough to use in their writing workshop. A sophisticated thought process at any age and I have to admit I was pretty impressed.

And this is when the lighbulb went off in my head. Even though my young son has a wonderful imagination, (but let’s face it, the majority of kids his age do), and even though my boy is wicked smart (I am his mother) I realized that his love and excitement from writing was coming from his involvement with this program at school.

The integration of the Lucy Calkins writing program is fairly new to Hartland beginning only seven years ago with the first full-day class of kindergartners, but so far, according to the staff at Farms, each year they see an improvement with incoming students due to a cohesive teaching style that focuses on a common language.

And when 2011 MEAP test writing scores for Hartland came back as the second lowest in the county, Farms Intermediate took another look at their class structures and became more determined to make the writing workshops a priority within the whole school, not just the language arts classrooms.

As the teachers and staff at Farms demonstrated throughout their presentation, the students are embracing this new form of teaching that shows them that writing is a process, getting to the heart of a story is key and children can learn to express themselves through writing with practice.

Wish I could sign up.

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