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My Breck Story: Your Words are Powerful

“Your Words are Powerful”
A Lesson Uniquely Taught to First-Grade Students 

“A few years ago, thanks to the generous professional development funds available at Breck, I — along with a team of first-grade teachers — was given the opportunity to attend Columbia University Teacher's College Summer Writing Institute led by Lucy Calkins. Lucy is about as close to a celebrity as you can get in the teaching world, so we were in awe of the work she does and inspired to learn as much as we could and bring it back to our Breck students. In the years since, we have transformed the way we teach writing in our classrooms because of this experience. The results are tangible. If you were to come into our first grade classrooms during a writers’ workshop time, you would be able to feel the motivation — you would feel how inspired our kids are … to write! They learn to write within seven different genres: personal narrative, all about, “how to,” opinion, realistic fiction, and poetry/songwriting. This is pretty impressive when you consider that only a year prior they were learning the alphabet! They learn to collaborate as a community of writers who support each other in their work. In writers’ workshop, we are authors. We work as grown-up authors do: generating ideas, rehearsing, drafting, revising, publishing and sharing. Writers’ workshop is a very authentic learning experience! 

What I think is the most important lesson of writers’ workshop, though, is that children learn from a very young age that your words are powerful. Your words can record your own precious memories. Your words can teach. Your words can share your opinion and persuade others. Your words can be art. Your words can invent stories and ideas that have never existed before. Writers’ workshop teaches that your words are important, your words are valued, and your words should be shared. That's a pretty awesome thing to be a part of. I am thankful that funding at Breck supports this kind of professional development that allows teachers to bring incredibly rich learning experiences like these to our students.”

— Jenny Bennett, First-Grade Teacher