Nancie Atwell introduces her students to daily writing workshops by explaining writing territories to them. Essentially, a writing territory is a something from the author’s personal experience. Writers generate a list of there experiences from which they can access a wide variety of topics to write about.
The way I shared this with my own students was to have them make a list of friends, family, pets, likes, dislikes, enemies etc. I told them that the more that they generated for a territory list the easier it would be for them to tackle any writing assignment they would face in future classes. My students enjoyed the idea of writing about topics they were familiar with such as narratives about family activities.
Within a day I had students complaining that the still didn’t know what to write about so I found an excellent video on youtube that I paraphrased with my kids to explain how to use their territories.
This particular teacher shares mining territories with his Fourth Grade students, but the lesson worked very well with my 7th and 8th grade students.
I decided that I could not completely permit my students to generate their own writing assignments as Atwell suggests because they struggle with finding value in writing and simply choose to be lazy and pretty much refuse to cooperate. As a result I developed a system in which my students must complete approximately ten pages of writing per quarter. The students can select any topic they choose to write about in any format.
After implementing this format last quarter, I feel as though I will likely need to provide more focus to many of my students because without ridged guidelines many of them are indecisive and struggle making choices. In order to overcome this I will probably generate a list of choices of which the students will have to complete so many of each type per quarter. For example, I would require two poems, two narratives, one research paper, and so on in order to score an A. Currently my students earn five points per half page and must earn one hundred points per quarter for an A.