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Middle School Journal

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Middle school education -- Curricula, English language -- Composition and exercises, Core curriculum


To gain a deeper understanding of young adolescent motivation and developmental needs as the nation plunges ahead with the national Common Core Standards and their implications for writing instruction, the authors of this article pondered five questions as they studied their own middle school writing team: (1) What intrinsic motivators drive these young students to write? (2) What components create a nurturing writing environment? (3) How can we understand student motivation so that we can nurture student interest in writing within the constraints of large classes and mandates to address Common Core Standards? (4) For students who are already intrinsically motivated to write, how can teachers nurture and even deepen--not lose--this student interest in written performance? and (5) In what ways can a before-school writing team nurture young adolescents' natural craving to write? The participants in this study were students at River Middle School [pseudonym], a high-poverty school. All students in grade level literacy classes were invited to apply to join a special school writing team. Of the 200 students who received the announcement, 26 students submitted short essay applications in December 2011. All applications were accepted with the anticipation that once students realized they were going to have to arrive an hour early to school once a week, without the school providing transportation, attrition would go down. On the first day, 22 students arrived; they were evenly divided between sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. The final distributions of students consisted of seven sixth graders, three seventh graders, and six eight graders. The participants' writings reflected a strong sense of self-efficacy. All 22 students were strong readers, comfortable with rich language, confident in their writing ability, willing to take risks in writing, and willing to take feedback to make their writing strong. Four of them mentioned their intention to work as professional writers when they grow up. They were writing by choice, on topics of their choosing. Students felt a sense of autonomy and control, which is consistent with research on motivation (Anderman & Maeher, 1994; Bruning & Horn, 2000; Daniels, 2010 and 2011). They asked for time, guidance, and the tools necessary to be successful writers. Based on their findings, the authors conclude that schools must find the time to continue to nurture young people's search for meaning through storytelling. If there is not time during the regular language arts class periods, then time needs to be provided through an elective, before school, after school, or even during lunch, for students who want a quiet, safe venue to write about topics of their own choosing with support.


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