Putting Instructions Back in Instructions-al Planning
What a horrible title for a blog.
In any case, I met some difficulty today when I assigned my students a quickwrite on a simple topic: Who’s to blame for the growing problem of American obesity?
“I need one page on this paper.”
If only they heard that the first time.
One page is reasonable enough. This quickwrite idea has nothing to do with quality of their essay — it’s quantity I’m after. In the long run, it’s easier to fine-tune a nine-page paper into something readable than it is to bolster a two-page paper with seven pages of filler.
The students haven’t written enough to appreciate the simpler, better edict: write until complete. So, for now, we’re stuck with quickwrite.
The secondary goal of a quickwrite is that students write for a sustained period of time, and get used to the feeling. Consider it a sort of resistance training.
In any case, when I reminded them of my one-page requirement, the more vocal students raised the most vocal protest. They hadn’t been paying attention, scribbling at most two half-hearted paragraphs in 15 minutes.
They told me that their usual teacher — my master teacher — lets them off with half a page of chicken-scratch, which for her usually suffices for a quickwrite.
I held my ground — “I did say I wanted one page.” — and a few students towards the front of the class confirmed this, but my credibility was up a creek. Until the end of the period, I had students whining their woes for some time.
I got it right with the next class, emphasizing my one-page dictum before we started. They groaned, but the bulk of them still finished their response in the same 15 minutes.
Moral of the story? Even if you repeat yourself thousand times, let them repeat you once.