Nancie Atwell presents her audience with a non-traditional way of teaching and assessing writing. When I say traditional, I am referring to the way I was taught to write growing up. In the earlier years, my teachers would teach the students a standard structure for developing a paragraph, and then a “formula” for writing an effective essay. These writing objectives really constrained me and restricted any creativity or desire to explore different genres. Atwell shows us how she approaches assessing her students’ writing.
I’m going to start off by talking about the aspects of Atwell’s approach that work for me. Atwell has conferences with her students about their writing. She strategically chooses questions that make her students aware of the work and progress. She uses these conferences to help her students set goals. There are only a few high-priority goals for the students to really focus on so that they do not spread themselves too thin. What makes Atwell a great teacher-researcher is that she is constantly reflecting on her questions and the responses she receives. For example, she discusses how asking vague questions has gotten her nothing but vague answers and that in order to get the information she wants, she has to be more specific with the questions she is asking.
A few things that I was left unsure about after reading Atwell’s article how she goes about actually teaching writing in her class. How does she go about daily instruction? These would be things that really interest me. Something I am a little bit iffy about is her grading. I just feel that the way she assigns grades is a bit hard to fathom considering that the amount of writing goals each student sets varies and so does the difficulty of each goal.
I still struggle with the grading aspect of writing. It is so hard to find balance between subjective and objective grading. Students need guidance, but how much guidance is too much or too little? I still struggle to think of “formulaic” writing techniques. How can you teach a student to write an intro, a conclusion, a body paragraph without sounding like you are giving a student a fill in the blank tutorial for “good” writing. The biggest aspect of grading writing is assigning a letter grade. How can someone’s writing be given a letter grade? It just does not make any logical sense to me.
When I see articles, videos, and tutorials on how to write an ‘A’ paper I am so confused. It can be an ‘A’ paper to someone and a ‘C’ paper to someone else. I came across a few tutorials. The same channel posted two videos on theses. One was how to get a thesis and another was how to get an A+ thesis. What I liked about this video was that the lady was not giving a fill in the blank formula for a good thesis. Believe it or not, I was given a formula for a “good” in one of my university courses during my sophomore year. What do you think about this video in relation to teaching students “good”writing? In relation to Atwell’s article, what are your reactions to her grading? Would you like to know more about her instruction?