This fall I’m teaching ENG 121, English Composition I, for the first time at Red Rocks Community College. (I usually teach ENG 122, English Composition II, and ENG 131, Technical Writing I.) ENG 121 is a first-semester freshman-composition class in which students have to write at least five essays “that stress analytical, evaluative, and persuasive/argumentative writing.”
The textbook I selected is the eighth edition of Axelrod, Cooper, and Warriner’s Reading Critically Writing Well: A Reader and Guide (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008). The students’ first essay is an autobiographical essay about a significant person or event.
Since most of us can’t write (or even “type”) as fast as we think, it occurred to me that having someone else take notes while the student talked about the event or person. In class, I divided the students into groups of three or four according to where they were sitting. (The room is set up with round tables with four chairs each.) I instructed them to take turns talking about the subjects of their essays while other members of the group took notes and asked questions to elicit details.
Some students hadn’t chosen topics for their essays–despite being instructed to do so for this week. Some groups just talked about their subjects without writing anything down. However, I’m pleased to say that one group did follow my directions and told me later that they found the exercise very helpful.
I intend to try this technique again when appropriate–probably with more detailed directions.