Really great English teachers are really great about providing students with lots of scaffolding, organizers, and exemplars to bring their students to the final written product successfully. As a department, though, we sometimes worry about what this “help” means for our students’ post-high school writing.
Will they be able to write without us?
I decided to experiment.
It didn’t go well.
(Or it did, depending on how you look at it.)
We’re working on argumentative writing, our final “assigned” writing assignment before my students choose their own topics and genres for our remaining workshops.
My students chose their own topic to argue, and we spent the early part of this week fleshing out our arguments and counterarguments. I modeled and walked them through a four-point argument chart. They took down great notes and came up with three possible solutions and their corresponding benefits.
They were 100% ready.
Today, I gave my students a rubric and graphic organizer and said, “Okay, you’ve got your content. Now…write it.”
They stared blankly at me.
For the first time this year, I haven’t shown them a model essay, and I haven’t told them what content they should put where.
On this first day of drafting, despite having every bit of content they need for this paper, most just could not get started. While four students immediately grabbed a laptop to start writing, the other nine stared blankly into space or doodled. Some made some notes on their graphic organizers before the end of the period, but not much writing happened today.
After today’s classes, I can see that despite our constant work and revision during class, my students still see their writing as a “test” and not as a process.
I know they’ll eventually write Something to bring to workshop by next week, even if it’s a Horrible Something. This might be our longest drafting process yet, and it’s confirming my worst fears, but we’re all learning together.