As I shared before, my students did very poorly on their first essay. They did so badly that I couldn’t even give grades for their papers. So today we spent the entire class meeting rewriting the essay together. The students started rewriting their papers by hand, while I came up to each of them individually and discussed what was wrong in the paper and how it could be fixed.
And a very strange thing happened. A student who had produced a jumbled mess of God knows what in the paper he handed in, crafted a really outstanding piece of work by hand with almost no help on my part. It was original, profound, and a pleasure to read. Another student wrote a completely different paper, and it was so superior in quality to the original essay that I started wondering if the same person was the author of both pieces. And it was like this for almost single one of the students.
So now I’m wondering: how did this happen? Does writing by hand help them to write better? Or is the secret simply that in class there are no distractions, no noise, no Internet, no television, no music, and this helps them write well?
I am very surprised right now. After reading the papers, I felt quite desperate because I thought that this was a hopeless group where nobody was capable of writing a grammatically correct sentence. It turns out, however, that most of the students write very well.
Does anybody have an explanation for this strange phenomenon? And also, what should I do for our future written assignments? This is a Freshman Seminar that, of necessity, has a very strong writing component. We will write several more papers in this course. How do I ensure that no more poorly written papers are handed in to me by students who, apparently, are perfectly capable of writing well?