Reading, Writing, and Talking

Do you read? Do you write? Do you talk?

You must do at least one of these (I hope).

These questions were in the survey, and the students had a LOT to say. Students were very honest in these surveys (they were anonymous, which probably helped).

About 75% of students feel they listen more than they talk in class. Only 25% say they talk more than they listen. This seems like an accurate breakdown from my experience.

Several of the most interesting answers were the following:

“I listen because I prefer to learn directly rather than interact. I’m also a quiet person due to the fact that I have autism.”

“I listen more in the classroom because I don’t want to miss anything important that is said.”

“What the professor is saying is important so I listen (even though I’m a talkative person outside of class).”

“I’m afraid of saying something wrong or sounding stupid in front of everyone so I stay quiet and let other people who are smarter do the talking.”

Why did these quotes stand out to me? Because they gave real explanations for why students don’t speak in class especially the one about being afraid of looking stupid. Most times I open my mouth and have a horrifying moment of wondering if I actually know what I’m saying… And most of the times I do.

Sometimes we don’t know and that’s okay too: Learning from Failure

The Fears of Writing

Biggest concern when writing? Here’s what the first-year students have to say!

“Will I get done on time? Is my thesis good? Does this make sense? Did I use enough quotes? Will the professor like it?”

“Will this get me an A?”

“Are my transition sentences good enough? Is my thesis okay? Will I have enough to meet the page requirement?”

  • Meeting page requirements
  • Balancing formal and informal
  • What will the grade be?
  • Adding more ideas
  • Separating ideas into paragraphs
  • Organization
  • Not sounding vague in dialect (dialect? Really? Huh.)
  • Structuring
  • Flow
  • Grammar
  • Is it attention-grabbing?
  • Will people read this?
  • Understandability
  • Clarity
  • Losing focus
  • Thesis statement
  • Could it be better?

Gee, that’s a ton of concerns! Most of them are very broad concepts, but some are more personal fears. There are always fears when writing. Everyone panics about topics and grammar. It can’t be helped. If you don’t have any concerns, I commend you for your confidence. If you do, you are not alone.

Take a deep breath, exhale, and realize that writing is like any skill. You want to get better?


Sit down and write even if it is only a fragment of a sentence even if it is only six words.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

(See Hemingway was practicing)

Here is a link to another post you might like: Writing

“Good” Writers

“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”
~ Anne Tyler

So, you write (most of us do). Writing is one of those unavoidable parts of life that can be quite tiresome if you tend to think “you’re bad at it.” Okay, if you’re bad at writing, I’m probably bad too. Do you even have an idea of what you consider “good” writing? If you feel the urge to say I’m a good writer, thank you, and perhaps you’re right (or perhaps you’re wrong). What constitutes good writing is as subjective as beauty (or taste in food).

Either way writing is so diverse that there is no true measuring stick for deciding what good writing entails. In fact, I gave out a survey to two first-year writing classes to hear what new college students think about writing, and here is what they thought were skills good writers have:

  • Good balance of formal and informal language
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Making good points
    • Thesis statement (topic sentences)
    • Good paragraphs (organization)
  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Details
    • Perfectionism
    • Discipline (focus)
    • Interest
  • Showing not telling
  • Grammar (Saw this one multiple times)
  • Preliminary thought (outlining)
  • “They can shoot lasers out of their eyes” (Really? I have never mastered that skill, but maybe that’s my failing as a writer)

So how do you stack up in the list of good skills? Honestly, I’m not sure I stack up as well as I thought I would (and I consider my self a good writer… though I’m always needing some improvement!).

Out of the first-year students that I surveyed, 58% thought they were good writers, and 42% did not consider themselves good writers. Shockingly, even though the question was Yes or No, I got two responses of “7/10.” It was an interesting response. Naturally, laser-eyes said that “I can’t shoot lasers out of my eyes :(” So, can you shoot lasers from you eyes? If not, don’t fret. I’m fairly certain most writers can’t… But I’m only about 7/10 sure!

Yet, if this list is what is required, how many of those students consider themselves in possession of those traits… They may not comprehend that they possess those skills, but I’m positive many of them do.

How many papers do you write?

How many papers do you write a semester?

This is one of the first questions I asked on the survey. To me it is an important one because a paper is considered a fairly significant portion of writing and can tell you a lot about the workload of students (and what they consider a paper). To me this blog totally counts… But, maybe you don’t think so.

So, here’s what the students had to say:

  • 0 papers: 1 (The exact wording was “I’m a bad college student I don’t write any”)
  • 3-4 papers: 8 (“An average number – 3”)
  • 5-8 papers: 9 (“Anywhere from 6-8 I’m really not sure.)
  • 10+ papers: 6 (One person wrote down “Roughly 15”)

So, most of the students had written at least a couple papers, except for one (Now, I don’t want to say this student is a slacker, but I know for a fact that this survey was given in an English class so how did they manage not to write anything!). Perhaps, the student lied and didn’t like my survey, but the fact remains that they were certainly an outlier.It seems like anywhere between 3 and 10 papers is the norm. This sounds like about a paper every few weeks, which seems average based on my experience.

What do you think about the number of papers you write? Too many? Too few?

So you write papers, but how does that link in?: Practice, Practice, Practice

If you are looking for some outlining help, here are some links:

Pretty basic outline, but it has a nice structure.

Okay I know this site looks cheesy but some of these outline/webs are great!

Yes, this one is weirdly long… But, it is a link to a sample MLA paper format!