During my first semester in teaching school we had to survey students on their writing habits. These are the results and our analysis.
Do you like to write?
YES (16 students) NO (6 students)
What do you like Express myself (10 students) Express myself (4 students)
“I like to talk so why not write it in words”
“Stringing together sentences full of
expression using good vocabulary”
What do you not like hand cramps (6 students) finding ideas, long stories
about writing? writer’s block (6 students) time involved
grammar (4 students) finding ideas within the
“ I don’t like people reading my ‘ context of the assignment writing when it is bad” “The answer to this question”
What is your first
step? Mostly everyone said brainstorming
Some reasons why students write outside of class:
for entertainment, expression, one student said she wants to be an author and needs practice, to vent, “because it is fun to make stuff up”
When asked what types of things they like to write, we received a whole smorgasbord of answers:
poetry, short stories, news articles, e-mails, blogs, Myspace.
Some that we found interesting: Comics, lyrics, letters to my grandmother (not emails)
Gauging the level of difficulty for different aspects of writing, 1 is easiest, 5 is hardest:
Grammar: combined score 45, most prevalent score = 2 with 5,
only 3 students said it is the easiest or hardest
Revising: combined score 43, most prevalent score = 2 with 7,
1 student said this is the easiest, 0 said hardest
Orhanization: combined score 39, most prevalent score = 2 with 5
4 students picked easiest, no students picked hardest
Brainstorming: combined score = 35, most prevalent score = 1 with 9
Brainstorming: combined score 25, all students picked 3-5
Grammar: combined score 17, most prevalent score = 2 with 2
Revising: combined score 17, most prevalent score =3&4 with 2
Organization: combined core 12, most prevalent score = 2 with 4
no students picked 4 or 5
No matter whether the students answered yes or no to whether they like writing, the majority of students, when asked what they liked about writing, said something along the line of liking to express themselves. This information is useful for planning writing assignments. Keeping a personal focus to the assignments will keep student interest level high and result in better work.
Writing dislikes are different between people who like and dislike writing. The reasons for people who don’t like writing to begin with are complaints with actually having to write something, they consider it a waste of time or hard being forced to write to a particular prompt. The dislikes for people who do like to write are hand cramps, implying that they write so much their hand hurts; writers block, they don’t like not being able to write; and they also get caught up in the grammar
Mostly everyone said brainstorming; I do not think we were asking the right question because in high school it is almost law to “brain storm” as your first step. A better question would have been how do you come up with ideas?
The rating list we gave yielded interesting results. The students who said they like writing find it easy to develop ideas but have the most difficulty with mechanics. This isn’t alarming as those things can be practiced. The opposite was true for students who don’t like to write. It may be that these students will learn to like writing if they can be taught how to think up and develop their ideas.
Also interesting is the fact that students who received encouragement from their family and friends are more likely to enjoy writing than those who don’t. Perhaps a way could be found to get family members more involved with student writing.