Writing Pathways Professional Development

Writing Pathways Professional DevelopmentThis past Monday I facilitated an introduction to Writing Pathways professional development with two of my district’s Reading Specialists.

According to the official website:

Lucy Calkins’ groundbreaking performance assessments offer instructional tools to support continuous assessment, timely feedback, and clear goals tied to learning progressions that have been aligned with world-class standards…These assessment tools make progress in writing as transparent, concrete, and obtainable as possible and put ownership for this progress into the hands of learners, allowing students and teachers to work toward a very clear image of what good writing entails.

The six main components of Writing Pathways include: learning progressions, on-demand writing prompts, student checklists, rubrics, student writing samples, and annotated exemplar pieces of writing. (You can read more about these resources on the official website.)

The session lasted three hours and it involved the classroom teachers from all two elementary schools in my district.

Here is a brief outline of what took place. (Although this outline applies to a session on Writing Pathways, you will find several non-negotiables of professional development that can be applied to the learning of any topic. You can also read more about the non-negotiables here.):

  1. The teachers grouped by grade level to discuss and answer the following six questions on a Google Doc (Storytown is our current Language Arts series.):
    • Typically, what does your writing instruction look like?
    • How does writing fit within your Storytown rotation? (scheduling, how often, etc.)
    • What materials (e.g. Storytown, books, websites, etc.) are you using to support your writing instruction? What are the main components of Storytown on which you rely for instruction?
    • Overall, when it comes to writing instruction, what do you feel is working/not working for your students?
    • How could your writing instruction be better supported? (resources, guidance, professional development, etc.)
  2. A short discussion about the session’s essential question, “Why Writing Pathways?”
  3. A short discussion about the session’s four enduring understandings (more or less, the day’s takeaways):
    • “Where are we” with writing instruction?
    • Where do we “want to go” with writing instruction?
    • I am somewhat familiar with the six different components of Writing Pathways.
    • I have a general idea of what the Writing Workshop structure entails.
  4. Testimonials by teachers who already have experience with Writing Pathways
  5. A brief, direct instruction overview of the six components
  6. The teachers explored the six components on their own by (1) browsing through the actual resources, while (2) referring to a handful of slides that contain key facts about each resource. As the teachers worked, they were encouraged to collaborate/discuss with their teammates.
  7. Break
  8. The teachers individually completed the QTT graphic organizer by synthesizing (1) what they knew about the six components, with (2) key quotes about each resource that were pulled straight from the book. As the teachers worked, they were encouraged to collaborate/discuss with their teammates.
  9. Video: A Day in the Life of Writing Workshop. (While Writing Workshop was not the main focus of the day, the integration of Writing Pathways with Writing Workshop is our eventual goal. So, we thought that the video would help to provide some context and preview where we are headed.)
  10. A review of the enduring understandings (see Step 3)
  11. A review of the essential question (see Step 2)
  12. A brief talk about what’s next: the distribution of a follow-up survey to gauge teachers’ reactions to the learning, and using subsequent sessions to dive deeper into the six components.
  13. Thank you!

Just like any other professional development session that I have facilitated/co-facilitated, some parts “clicked,” while others I would modify if it had to be done again. Either way, I do feel that the teachers appreciated the “less is more” approach to the day, and it was exciting to see that some of them are already asking for resources to assist in facilitating the Writing Workshop model that integrates with Writing Pathways.

What does your school or district “do” for writing instruction? What are your experiences with Writing Pathways and/or Writing Workshop? What kind of writing instruction have you seen “work” for students?

Connect with Ross on Twitter.