Saturday, March 15, 2014

SOLSC #15: Hold Tight

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for a slice of life stories TWT.
GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories.

Have you ever met a celebrity? Well, today, I met Nancie Atwell. I mean, we didn't sit down for coffee or anything, but I asked for a picture, and since there was no one around, it was a selfie:

Isn't she beautiful?

I'm so excited. This isn't just anyone - but the teacher-researcher who wrote In the Middle - a guide to reading and writing workshop in the middle grades. When I began to study literacy development in grad was one of the first important books I found in my hands:

I heard her speak this morning at breakfast. Although it was a 7am breakfast, it was so worth it. She reaffirmed everything I believe about literacy instruction: It's not about fads or a "magic bullet" or a new set of standards or basal readers and questions. It's about two things:

When kids read - voluminous reading - and they read great stories, they escape and live the lives that the characters are living. They have those "lived-through experiences" that take them to another place, make them consider different situations, and become immersed in the lives of others. As Nancie said, this really is a super power of English teachers - to offer up beautiful stories to all students, including their most reluctant - and bring them into a world of literature.

Additionally, when students use writing as a form of self-expression, not only do they learn how to be good writers, but they find ways to be funny and express feelings and record memories. When there is an authentic audience, students strive to entertain their peers and they care about what their community thinks about their writing. 

Nancie reaffirmed what I've always believed: If we "hold tight to that thread of stories and self-expression," everything else will come. We don't need to substitute close reading and worksheets to achieve the CCSS. Stories and self-expression through writing will naturally do that, and then some, because our students will leave our classrooms with powerful skills and tools to change the world. What worksheet could ever do that?

This, and nothing more, is why I love what I do.

Happy Saturday!


  1. A good conference or workshop is so validating and inspiring. So glad you were reaffirmed and inspired by Nancy. We need more teachers like you at the middle level.

  2. "Stories and self expression". It is what is in our hearts, yet we are at risk of forgetting the simplicity of it aren't we if we let the the testing and wksheet era have it's way. I especially liked the line : "when kids read, voluminous reading. . . ". This whole paragraph really . Thank you.

  3. Ooo I love how us teachers have our own "celebrities!" I'm excited for you both to have met her and to have a reaffirming experience that makes Monday morning an exciting prospect!

  4. I felt the same way when I "met" Nancie at a conference several years ago. I still have a poem that her students wrote to my class in response to a poem they wrote to her. Those two poems are among the prized possessions in my classroom.

  5. Wow! What a day! The first edition of IN THE MIDDLE is still one of the most important books of my professional career. I bet this is a day you will always remember!


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