Free-Writing as Pre-writing

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SWBAT use free-writing activities to generate ideas for writing topics and entry into their college essays

Big Idea

Sometimes the best writing ideas come from fooling around with words.


Today (Friday) is field day for our students, meaning our classes are cut short and students will head outside later.   To match the festive attitude somewhat, students will do a couple of fun free-writing activities Bauld outlines in the text, creating a set of possible seeds for essays when they get started in earnest with that next week.

Writing Activities

45 minutes

Bauld has a number of cool activities on pages 55-61 of the book (College Essay Free-writing-1.m4v); I have chosen one called “free association” from page 59 to begin with because it is described as being “more fun with a partner or group.”  Essentially, students in the group (they will choose them) will choose an ordinary object (“a dish, a book, a saw, an egg) and consider it for a minute or two.  Then they will write the word at the top of the page and spend three minutes listing all the words and phrases they associate with the object—it could be physical descriptions, experiences—anything.   After the three minutes (I will time it), they will exchange lists, noting the differences.  Bauld’s lesson from the book for this is that “each of us has a personal vocabulary of associations with even the most common things in our lives—a vocabulary that a writer frequently returns to for material.” This continues the overall message of capturing the authentic ‘you’ in the writing above all else.   To practice this, students will then take one of the items from the list, or a few that are connected, and spend about 10 minutes free writing about it—it can be a story, or defending the item, criticizing it, anything.   I will ask for volunteers to share, or at least to reflect on the process and if they see how it could develop into an essay, mostly to do some formative assessment and see if in fact the activities have value as they prepare for their essays.

Students will also do a second one—the “boring” one.  In this activity, students are asked to choose a boring, mundane activity (taking out the trash, brushing teeth, doing homework) and make it sound exciting and fun to read.  This will help show students how any topic can be used as inspiration for a college essay.  Also, we will turn to the last of the college essay samples in Bauld’s book, in which the writer begins “a lot of great thinking can happen in the bathroom” as an example.  If we have time, we will share these, or we will start next class by sharing a few.