4: Freewrite

I get my students t o freewrite often in sessions to consolidate learning to check to free up and tell them not to stop writing, not to edit not to correct and i thought i’d try doing this in a quick five minutes now to see if i could ahem (again) practice what i preach and am finding that typing is making me err and need to go back and delete which is surely cheating as it’s meant to be a stream of consciousness and i always say they won’t have to share it with anyone and here i am twriting self-consciously and thinking of an audience (because writing is so much more exciting with an audience, and as Helen just said what did Helen just say don’t stop writint scribbles  are writing but an audience amkes a writer and i always say not to worry about putting in a fulll stop or any punctuation rather and not to go back and edit but these typos are driving me nuts and i really want a full stop but that interrupts the flow and did i say this was meant to be stream of consciousness and suposedly a good activity for just getting the words to flow and i thought i didn’t really have time for a blog post and wasn’t sure what to write about because there is simply so much so much so much but this monring i really enjoyed meeting with some of the great minds from the course informamly in a cafe to chat about teaching and the optimisim among us as well as the struggles were inpsiring people have done more reading than i have and i’d like to make more time for that it was great to compare teaching parctice and think about the uniqeuness of my LD role wehere i parachute in, but others have this experience too and it reminded me of the cruciality of checking in with students at the start of sessions in order to picth things right for them. it was interesting meeting a course memeber who said how much she wished we’d been asked what we want help with in our teaching although for those who haven’t yet begun they may not have questions yet, and that’s so often the way with students – they simply don’t have questions yet. where do questions arise from? they don’t come out of nothing, and yet it is so easy to overload the stimulus and dampen the questions that way too anyway i was going to write about highlights of the last few weeks and one thing that stands out apart from this mornin’gs great peer group (friendly, bright, interesting and cosmopolitan) is meeting Heather, who enjoyed my teaching and who’s teaching i enjoyed very much too – it seems that we have similar values and approaches, and so it was really helpful to look at tiny diffferences and especially similarities. i always think you can learn so much from difference, and it’s true, but maybe we actually learn more, less obviously, from similarities – the old mirroring thing. so i’m concerned about things like how to make a session feel focussed, purposeful and disciplined whilst still being fluid and organic so that it responds to people’s needs and goes in a natural direction rather than being preset and perdetermined – because who will preset or predetermine it? me, the teacer, and though i do have expertise and largely know what students want, i don’t always know and should never assume bla bla bla yuck hippyshit. well, this was ten minutes’ freewriting, and i was on a thread but discussion in the office and probably general tiredness and overstimulus has made me lose track but i always say to my students don’t stop write write write write till you resume th flow even if you go off track and talk about absouletly anything at alll like what are my collegagues thinking of my hammering keys as i baltantly am not thinking about what i’m writing…

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4 thoughts on “4: Freewrite

  1. I apologise for this ramble, it was purely for me and I don’t expect anyone to read the drivelling version, though it was a very useful exercise, and I will go back to some of the issues: how to teach in such a way that worthwhile ILOs are met at the same time as meeting students’ immediate needs and interests; the tension between structure and emergence (thanks Heather); checking in to see where students are at – partnership and collaboration ‘university policy’ and real-life necessities (thanks Tom, Shakil, Rob)…

  2. Not ‘pitch things right for them’ but set things up in such a way that pitch doesn’t matter, so that anyone can benefit and the pitch is determined by the individual participant in relation to the others; in practice, (debate and especially) discussion seems one of the best ways to enable this, as long as it’s a topic that interests everyone – if that’s ever possible? How to interest everyone? I think by asking the kinds of questions that are at once personal, general and specific – or rather, can be made specific by the individual, e.g. ‘what matters most to you about this topic?’ That Listening Environment activity (courtesy of Phil Race possibly? via Carolyn Gentle) really has a lot to it – very powerful for engagement. I need some more questions along these lines perhaps (although ‘why?’ and ‘so what?’ also go a very long way. Questions that go a long way… questions that travel… questions that transport… questions that empower, or invite… Questions have to do those things. But getting the students to ask the questions is even more powerful, as then they are determining their own journey, rather than my carrying them along on a journey of my determining – perhaps?

  3. I like this, but I was always taught not to judge or correct my freewriting. Calling yours drivel is exactly that. I am always being reminded that freewriting is a series of processes and what you have published above is not all of it. When I had to do this as a student, the next thing I was asked to do was to answer a series of questions that I had thought up beforehand or had been provided for me. I would also be asked to review my writing and summarise the key points in a couple of sentences. This would give me a better focus for my reading and research.

    I’m not sure your comments cover all of that, so come on eSentito, finish what you’ve started 😉

    • Thanks admmitchell, good suggestions 🙂 I often set students a question for their freewrite, with the proviso that it’s absolutely fine for them to ‘go off track’ (but in using those words I wonder whether I’m making it not so fine right from the start?), and then I ask them afterwards who actually addressed the question, and to feed back on that or whatever they wish to – IF they wish to. (A supporting colleague in an induction session for midwives suggested they keep their freewrite in an envelope to open on graduation, in a spontaneous take on the ‘letter to your later self’ exercise.) I’m concerned though that setting a question or writing a number of questions beforehand might be too unfree as well. What I like most about freewriting is the possibility for properly unpredictable emergence (chaos/complexity theory). In this one, I didn’t know that I was going to go back to questions again (their nature and use), which is what my informal summary and refinements of the key points led to. I set out to summarise what had been interesting in my teaching over the last fortnight – so had quite a wide brief. In a classroom recently I asked students to pick out the most troublesome parts of a dissertation brief – just isolated words or short phrases – and use just those as a prompt for a freewrite. This seemed to work for some of them to an extent, as they reported cautiously how they’d attempted to explore in their freewrite what ‘knowledge as provisional’ meant, and it formed the basis for a good group discussion. Sometimes I use it to move an activity on, with the prompt being just ‘so what?’. I’m still not sure on what are the best prompts. What d’ya reckon Andy? (I will consult the good Mr Ingle too, http://www.thinkingwriting.qmul.ac.uk/apps/005/freewriting/index.html)

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