In this great article by Nancie Atwell, winner of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize, Atwell says that the most powerful innovation in her 40 years as a middle school English teacher was giving her students time and choice as readers and writers.
That's a powerful idea in an era of textbook and test-driven solutions for education's failures, and of course it is the same philosophy we adhere to at Parker. Read Atwell's article! It is filled with great examples of students who tune in to their intellectual lives through developing a passion for reading and writing.
Our eighth graders are preparing the oral part of their thesis projects now, looking for ways to make a compelling presentation about an idea for which they have developed expertise. 6-7's will be preparing persuasive speeches about third world uses for hydrogen fuel cell engines after a week of building such engines. They will deliver their impassioned talks to executives at local company Plug Power.
Reading, writing and speaking that is attached to themes, big ideas, and high-interest topics is a huge motivator for kids. Their hunger for more drives the practice that is needed to become more skilled. Teachers don't need to wheedle, push or pull the kids along. They can set the stage for discussion and intellectual curiosity to blossom, make DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time a daily ritual, and stand back. A great librarian helps, too.
Read more in 2-3 teacher Lynn Schuster's blog Here in the 2-3's or in K-1 teacher Jennifer Gresens blog posts about writing and reading.