Maybe you remember the insight I had on Saturday morning?
We spent the full class hour today working on brainstorming, focusing, and bubble-mapping the short response essay due on Wednesday. I hope they found it useful.
The thing is, it's sort of fun, working through how to write a response paper.
We started by listing. I had them list on their own paper, then we put a big list on the board.
Then I asked them to choose one thing from the list and freewrite.
Then we went back and expanded the list a bit, and I talked about how important starting over can be.
And then I asked them to choose something else from the list and freewrite, to just put aside their inner editor (or inner English professor) and get ideas down on paper.
We talked again about how important it is to start off exploring and thinking freely.
Then I asked them to freewrite about why one of the things they wrote about already is important, or what they learned from that aspect of the project.
Then I asked for a volunteer to tell us what s/he'd written about, and the person who volunteered gave us basically the topic and thesis. I had the class freewrite for a bit about the topic and thesis, and then we bubblemapped the essay together. (And I said that no one other than the volunteer is allowed to use that bubblemap for his/her paper.)
I know it's hard when you're a college student to take the time to freewrite and list and list and freewrite and bubblemap, but I hope that at least some of them left class with a couple really good ideas from the freewriting and a strategy for organizing those ideas and using examples. If they left with that, then I did a good job.
Of course, it's difficult to judge. If a student turns in a fabulous paper, then it's unlikely that it's my doing in a big way in that one class hour. And if a student turns in a poor paper, it doesn't mean s/he didn't get something helpful from the practice we did in class. It might be that a given student isn't quite ready to click with that aspect of the writing process. Or maybe that poor paper is a huge improvement over what the student would have turned in.
Students aren't widgets.