Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Look Inside

Once again, the novelty of GoogleDocs amuses me. I got an email this evening that a student had shared an assignment that's been missing for a while, and so I clicked over to see what he had done. To my surprise, when I opened the document, he was still composing it, and I watched as the third paragraph appeared at an excruciating slow pace.

It revealed quite a bit about his writing process, though. He is a distracted kid-- it's hard for him to get started on an assignment and hard to sustain his attention. He also embraces any sidetrack he can while attempting to complete a task; sharpening a pencil, getting a tissue, throwing away a piece of paper, all become top priorities.

I know that's why he shared the document with me before he was done; it was a way to avoid actually doing any writing. As I monitored his composition, I also noticed that he was a stickler about spelling. If something was misspelled, he would sometimes go back to it within a word or two, which indicated that he had to be re-reading a lot, but most often, he would try to fix it right away.

I watched in fascination as he typed stratigys, and then stratageys, and then stratigeys, until finally, unable to stand it any longer, I placed my cursor on the word and fixed it myself. An instant message popped up a second later thanking me. I replied with encouragement, "You're doing great! Keep going!" but told him I was signing off and would check in later. It had taken him two minutes to type a single word, and I just couldn't watch anymore.

Later I imagined what it would be like for someone observing me as I write. I'm sure it would be maddening in its own way. Writing is hard, and the only thing that makes it easier is to stick with it. How do you teach that?

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