Daily Prompt Ready, Set, Done Today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less.
“What do you want us to write about?”
“You don’t have to write ‘about’ anything. Just write.”
“Do we need a thesis statement? What about our body paragraphs?”
“Don’t worry about that. Just put your pen on the paper and GO. Ready?”
“Are you going to grade it?”
“No. I’m not even going to read it.”
“If you’re not going to grade it, why should I write it?”
“OK guys, you’re wasting time. Just DO it. Just give me a break and do what I tell you so I can move this class forward a bit and you can learn what I will teach you next, OK? One-two-three…GO!”
I hear the sound of pens on paper on desks as I have heard for most of my life. This is a moment in a composition class that occurs under two circumstances. First, free writing is a great way for anyone to get ideas, to discharge the detritus in the mind and discover what one has to say. It helps students learn that writing is REALLY about their ideas. Second, sometimes a teacher is just not ready in that first moment of class to launch into the lesson/lecture. This activity gives the teacher ten minutes to catch his/her breath.
The minutes pass, slowly at first as the students struggle with this “just writing” thing and then, their heads bent low over their work, they (most of them) have found a groove. The last five minutes rush by and when I say, “Stop! That’s it. You’re done,” some of them aren’t done. Some of them have more to say. They are exploring something that interests them. “C’mon guys, I’ know you’re having a great time here, but STOP!”
“Do I need to write a conclusion?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what you’ve written.”
“Can you tell me?”
“What do you think? Better still, give your paper to Lamont there and see what he thinks. You guys, listen. Unless you have written something very personal and don’t feel good about it, exchange papers. When you get your classmate’s paper, read it and underline two things you like — it can be a sentence, or a word, anything. Doesn’t matter.”
“I wrote about something I don’t want anyone to read.”
“Yeah, so do that with your own paper. Read it and underline something you like.”
“How can I do that with my own paper?”
My brain is screaming, “Just fucking DO it!” but I never say that. “Try it,” I say. “A good writer reads his own work to see if it’s any good.”
“No way. Read my OWN writing? Why? I know what it says.”
And this year, I’m not doing this…. YAY!!!!!