This blog was originally posted on April 13th, 2015.
As the end of the term draws near for many of us, we may wish to provide a writing process review for students. We could rehash textbook pages or websites that offer basic information about writing processes, as well as written products and genres of academic writing. But spring has sprung for many of us, and summer looms and attention drifts. How can we offer students opportunities to remember what they have learned about writing—and putting their learning into practice?
A kinesthetic approach to review can help. In kinesthetic learning, students turn away from laptop and tablet screens and use whole-body movement to rehearse significant concepts. For review purposes, the activity I present in class is called “What do we already know about writing and how can we apply our knowledge to our current writing project?”
- Step 1: On the board, create four separate columns: Introduction, Body, Conclusion, Other
- Step 2: Students use sticky notes to write as many concepts as they remember about the writing process and about the appearance of the final product.
- Step 3: Students stick their sticky notes to a blank space on the wall and observe what everyone else has written.
- Step 4: Students divide into groups based on each of the four columns: Introduction, Body, Conclusion, Other.
- Step 5: Each separate group moves the appropriate sticky notes from the wall to the column on the board designated for their column.
- Step 6: Each group of students explains to the rest of the class which sticky notes they chose for their column and why they were chosen.
- Step 7: Students and instructor discuss the choices made, and also clear up contradictions, discrepancies, and overlaps between the processes and products listed on the sticky notes.
Results almost certainly vary between classes, and each group of students can add its own flourishes. One class member, for instance, shared heart-shaped sticky notes left over from Valentines Day. Paired with a variety of dry-eraser marker colors, the final display was detailed and bright, with hearts popping to emphasize significant points. This display brought up design questions that intersect with online multimedia writing.
In another class, students debated about the order of the writing process: should writers always write an introduction first? Or is it possible to write an introduction near the end of the process, even though the introduction needs to be placed at the beginning of the essay? The students decided that it depended on the genre of the writing project. Essay tests might require a more linear process, while a 1500-word researched essay might be more open-ended—or not. Students offered differing versions of how and why they grappled with their individual processes and products of writing.
As the instructor, I enjoyed the experience of watching students demonstrate what they already know about writing and how they could apply it to their current writing project. But perhaps most significantly, it was even more thrilling to bear witness to students’ intellectual engagements and commitments to writing. Through participating in kinesthetic activity and discussing the results, students developed a stronger sense of what they knew as individual writers, and also of what they could create through collective participation. This exercise proved useful as a writing review—and also as an activity for moving forward together.