Students come to us with a writing history, a story that influences how they feel about writing and any writing task. They may have had a teacher that made them copy pages out of the dictionary when they misbehaved. They may have been in the “slow” readers group as a kid, so they believe they have trouble reading and writing, or they may just have a history of mediocre grades in writing.
Thinking about students’ writing histories can help us, as faculty, read and respond to student writing in a reflective and intuitive manner. Acknowledging these histories can also help us understand student reactions to writing assignments and grades. A writing assignment is not always a seemly simple task that students need to receive a grade. Sometimes, a writing assignment is a mental and emotional mountain students have to climb just to face the blank page. Foggy and painful histories can cloud the mind and stop writing.
When I teach writing, I often start the semester having students talk about or write about their writing histories. This gets them (and me) thinking, and it helps us stare our fears in the face and move past them.
In honor of thinking about our writing histories, watch this Vintage Typing Machines slide show:
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