Methods #9: The Gist of It

In The Middle, by Nancie Atwell begins with the conceptualizing each teacher must go through in his or her professional career. Atwell explains her former process of being a creationist that developed and maintained a curriculum for the first several years of teaching. One difficult student helped Atwell to rethink her system through his own struggles with language arts curriculum she had developed in which students would write about preselected prompts. This system did not work for Jeff; he was able to create completed writing works despite his limited ability through the use of his own methods.

Later, Atwell was presented with the idea of student selected work to which she was completely against because it required the sharing of responsibility with her students. She did not think they would be responsible, yet, she wondered how Jeff would preform in an unrestricted learning environment. Her curiosity, and desire to be a great teacher led her to ask her students if they would care to have the freedom to select and create their own assignments to which they all said yes (13).

Because her students chose to become active participants in their own education Atwell had to redesign her teaching practices from being a meticulous and dominant presence that required a set of expected results of her students to that of a mentor/coach that gave brief instruction and guidance allowing more time for her students to explore the act of writing. Atwell would give short mini-lessons and hold short conferences with students daily to allow students to grow and give them consistent feedback.

Essentially, Atwell created an educational experience that gave her students ownership of their created works. She established classroom safety and comfort for her students through the use of conferencing and lack of grading until the students process is complete.

After starting my own teaching experience and understanding the basics of the process established by Atwell, I must admit that I am skeptical as was she when she learned about student choice.


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