Second-grade teacher Karen Ernst is excited.
Her students at Palmer Elementary School are writing and loving every minute of the process. Her colleagues throughout the Baldwinsville Central School District are experiencing the same thing in their classrooms. Jackie Campbell, a third-grade teacher at McNamara Elementary School, said her students are feeling empowered through their writing.
"They have the title. They're writers," she said.
What has students and teachers so fired up?
It is the "Units of Study for Primary Writing." The district initially launched the writing program in kindergarten through second grade. This school year the district expanded it to include third through fifth grade. Teachers in all five elementary schools, in all grades, are using the program every day in their classrooms. The program, created by Lucy Calkins, a leading expert in writing curriculum, provides teachers with units including workshop, personal narrative writing and revision.
Expanding the writing program throughout the district has been a teacher-driven initiative, rather than a district-driven initiative. The district is seeking to tap into its staff members' talents and expertise more often to create professional development opportunities, and it's encouraging teachers to become leaders for their peers. Last year, as well as over the summer, staff members collaborated across grade levels to put the writing program in place for this school year. They worked under the direction of Dawn Wilczynski, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and Linda Law, director of curriculum and instruction.
Six teachers were instrumental in this process and in the training involved. They are Karen Ernst, Jackie Campbell, Dana Ziegler, Christie Brooks, Sarah Parrish and Natalie Thompson. These teachers act as resources for their peers throughout the district. Additionally, each elementary school has a teacher-trainer available at each grade level to aid teachers who have questions and need help with the program.