Cassandra O’Sullivan Sachar provides excellent tips for reestablishing a student’s youthful enthusiasm for writing in“Establishing a Writing Community in the College Classroom” in this week’s Faculty Focus. She reminds the reader that when students were in grade school, they used to be proud and excited about writing, especially when sharing it out loud. She credits this to the safe space and support students received and hypothesizes that that environment fades as students get older. This phenomenon occurs most likely because writing becomes more difficult and involves less individual choice. She recommends four steps for writing teachers to try and recreate that environment and thus procure a better attitude and improved ability in regards to writing.
- Provide choice
- Giving students several variations of the same prompt is one small way to give back students some control, as well as provide them a greater chance of writing on something that interests them. Teachers can keep the purpose of the assignment the same and still provide ample options to pique students’ interest. Writing about something a student likes is more likely to cause them to do a better job.
- “Make yourself part of the community”
- Letting students see you attempt the drafting process shows them that you are not a perfect writer and lets them see that the writing process can be a struggle for everyone. Showing the steps it takes to get seemingly perfect writing rather than solely the end project detracts from the impossibility of the task.
- Acknowledge effort and achievement
- You know the age-old adage of “if you can dream it, then you can do it.” Students base their ability to write upon perception of achievement, so recognizing any effort might make them put in more. Sachar also recommends that students not be measured by grades alone—find other ways to measure progress for a student to keep them motivated and, in turn, improving.
- Build trust and teamwork skills through collaborative writing
- Assigning group writing projects lets students see what the writing process is like for others rather than only themselves. Not only does this mimic the type of communication they will have to do post-education, but it could also lead to more open and honest peer review processes.