Nancie Atwell teaches her students that adults write for a variety of reasons. In her book In The Middle, she identifies various topics, audiences and forms as her "Writing Territories." This week, I also plan to share my own writing territories with my students to demonstrate that writing is a life-long skill.
I'll share with my students my published poems, short stories and all of my rejections. I show them that just because you're turned down, you shouldn't give up submitting work for publication. I'll also share with them the letter to the editor I had published this week in LEO Weekly, the local "alternative" periodical. The article I wrote in response to was about school busing, and we'll read the original article before my letter. I'll then have them write in response to the issue, and we'll begin practicing persuasive writing techniques, clear articulation, focused paragraphs and idea development. I'll allow the students time to share their opinions in base groups or with the whole class, depending on time, and continue building our community of writers.
I'll then have my students make lists of their own "Writing Territories" in the Journal section of their binders. They'll be able to turn to these lists whenever they're having bouts of writer's block throughout the school year.
Nancie Atwell's best practice writing instruction will improve any classroom - Title I or otherwise. Combined with lessons in code-switching and a structured management system, her lessons and philosophies work well in a classroom such as mine, where students long to have choice, ownership over their writing and an ability make their voices heard as they intended. A friend sent me the following link to a Times article about Atwell today. Enjoy! http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/30/books/30reading.html