How to Help Your Students Write Faster

Zoom and Bored
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Thanks to my addiction to Google analytics, I now know that the search term “teach students to write faster” brings several people to this blog every day. (Google doesn’t seem to mind that I’ve never actually written on this topic before.) Since so many people seem to be concerned about this topic, I thought that I would share my two cents.

So you would like your students to write faster? I have a short answer and a long answer for you.


Long answer:  Imagine that you are trying to learn how to knit. You are awkwardly fumbling with the needles. The yarn keeps getting tangled. On most rows, you have to pull all the stitches and start over at least three times before you finally do it right. You know that this is normal–it takes everybody a while to get the hang of it–but you still feel frustrated and defeated.

Now imagine a scary old lady standing next to you, staring at every move you make, telling you, “Go FASTER! Knit FASTER! Come on–you can do better than that!”

Do you think that would help you any? Or would it just make you nervous and slow you down?

Wouldn’t it be better if the old lady said something like, “I know it’s tough, but you’re doing well for a beginner. Take your time and just keep practicing. Here, let me help you with that stitch.”

The same goes for students who are learning how to write. I know that standardized tests put a lot of pressure on teachers to get their students to write quickly, but intense scrutiny and pressure will only make a hard task seem impossible.

Writing is difficult. Good writing often takes a very long time. James Joyce famously wrote only seven or eight words a day for most of his career. Worrying about how fast your students write isn’t going to help them write faster; the only real way to get a student to write faster is to let them practice in peace, with supportive feedback (good rule of thumb: three compliments to every criticism).

Why do you think so many teachers are interested in making their students write faster, rather than better? What ideas and advice do you have? Let me know in the comments section!

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