April 29, 2007

In the Middle thoughts

Posted in education books, job search at 9:12 pm by mrsmauck

I just received my copy of a language arts pedagogy book I’ve heard referenced so often, Nancie Atwell’s In the Middle. So far, her classroom sounds like heaven! But I find myself wondering how realistic her methods are for a first-year teacher who doesn’t have a stocked adolescent literature library, and who does have a textbook the admin expects her to “cover.” My style of teaching is really different from hers: I think in terms of units centered on texts, with reading and writing integrated into that unit. For instance, we study reading and writing historical fiction as a class when we read My Brother Sam is Dead as a class. I guess it’s probably difficult for any teacher to imagine relinquishing so much control over her classroom: we put so much thought and effort into methods and materials and units that will make students good readers and writers, but she does this simply by letting them read and write whatever they want! It almost seems too simple. Her setup is ideal, too: she has a ninety-minute block class, so she can do reading and writing workshops and minilessons in both every class period!

One way she suggests teaching using the reading and writing workshop when you do have a curriculum to cover is to use one semester to do writing and reading workshops exclusively, and one semester to cover the curriculum. I don’t like this, though: it seems like it would stop the momentum of the workshop format to switch over to a textbook halfway through. I like the idea of integrating the two throughout the year, but am wondering how I could both assign reading and writing assignments, AND expect students to self-select reading and writing assignments for workshopping. Anyone had any luck in integrating her workshop format into a textbook/anthology curriculum? Anyone brave enough to throw the textbook/anthology curriculum out the window and implement the reading/writing workshop outright?

Reading In the Middle has also gotten me really interested in teaching at the middle school level. I had an interview Friday for a middle school position! Looks like it would be four eighth-grade language arts classes and two seventh-grade ones. It’s only about 20 minutes from our house, and a small school, about 80 kids in each grade. I had thought that I only wanted high school, but the more I think about my favorite young adult literature, the more I realize it’s written for kids in this age group, and they’re still young enough to get really excited about books written for kids their age. Basically, though, wherever I can get a job will be the perfect place for me! I even found myself volunteering for a summer Gifted/Talented part-time job at this school, thinking it would help my chances in getting the job, and be a fun way to get to know the kids and get my feet wet in teaching. If the principal does decide to hire me for that summer gig, though, I might be a little freaked out at the idea of prepping a curriculum during the first month of my (still incubating) daughter’s life, and then leaving her when she’s only a month old for half a day everyday!

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1 Comment »

  1. Courtney said,

    Yes, I’ve thrown the textbook out the window and supplanted it with a curriculum of my own design, but like you, its units based around texts, with writing integrated in. But I do a horrible job of integrating the writing- that is a HUGE area I need to work on!


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