Nancie Atwell Facts
By Charles Martin
Atwell believes that students become better writers if they are given ownership of what they are writing and, perhaps most critical, long uninterrupted blocks of time to write. In order to achieve this she has done away with lectures, assignments, tests and worksheets. Occasionally, when she sees the need, she will conduct a mini-lesson on issues that have arisen in previous workshops or in pieces of student writing, such as process, technique, the difference between revising and recopying, how to show rather than tell, or to introduce different writing modes and genres students may want to try. But for the rest of her class periods students write. Atwellís approach has become a way of life in her classrooms guided by the following seven principles.
Seven Principles That Guide Teaching and Student Learning in the Atwell Curriculum
1. Writers need regular chunks of time -- They need time to think, write, confer, read, change their minds, and write some more. Writers need time they can count on, so even when they arenít writing, theyíre anticipating the time they will be. Writers need time to write well.
2. Writers need their own topics -- Right from the first day of kindergarten students should use writing as a way to think about and give shape to their own ideas and concerns.
3. Writers need response -- Helpful response comes during -- not after -- the composing. It comes from the writerís peers and from the teacher, who consistently models the kinds of restatements and questions that help writers reflect on the content of their writing.
4. Writers learn mechanics in context -- They learn from teachers who address errors as they occur within individual pieces of writing, where these rules and forms will have meaning.
5. Children need to know adults who write -- We need to write, share our writing with our students, and demonstrate what experienced writers do in the process of composing, letting our students see our own drafts in all their messiness and tentativeness.
6. Writers need to read -- They need access to a wide-ranging variety of texts, prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction.
7. Writing teachers need to take responsibility for their knowledge and teaching -- We must seek out professional resources that reflect the far-reaching conclusions of recent research into childrenís writing. And we must become writers and researchers, observing and learning from our own and our studentsí writing.
Source: "In The Middle: Writing, Reading and Learning With Adolescents," by Nancie Atwell.
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