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Writing Groups Can Help Students with Papers

A group of writers working on an essay or paper.

A group of writers working on an essay or paper.

This is the VOA Learning English Education Report.

Writing an essay or paper for school can feel like – and often is – a big challenge. But an expert from Duke University in North Carolina has some ideas to make the process easier -- and produce better results.

Jennifer Ahern-Dodson is an assistant writing professor. She also helps organize writing groups for both students and teachers. She believes getting advice and suggestions from others can help.

Ms. Ahern-Dodson says that students usually share their writing only when it is completed and ready to give to the teacher. Instead, she suggests that you prepare an early draft version. Then, ask yourself who can give you helpful feedback, or reaction, on what you have written.

“Who can I share it with? Who can give me feedback? What I like to describe that as, is finding the right reader at the right time.”

Or, Ms. Ahern-Dodson says you may want more than one reader to comment. You may want a writing group.

“A lot of my work with students and faculty (teachers) is helping them form writing communities to share writing on a regular basis.”

She says starting a group takes “a little bit of cultivating.” One requirement is that everyone taking part must offer their own work for comment.

“Like any community, you don’t build trust immediately. Part of it is, everyone has to be willing to share their own writing. And you have to establish ground rules. Rules of the road, right?”

Ms. Ahern-Dodson says these rules should include what kind of feedback is needed.

“Usually folks don’t want someone to be mean. But you want your readers to be specific, and give useful feedback.”

She says that means much more than saying “Good job!’” or “Great!” without real thought.

She says sharing writing can reduce the stress that many students feel when they write a paper just before the deadline, the time limit. This is the idea of a student who goes into a room alone and 12 hours later comes out with a good paper. She says some people call this “binge” writing.

“Yes, some people can do that successfully. But it’s not a positive experience that you want to do again and again and again.”

She has other ideas for what she called “a sane and enjoyable writing life.

Ms. Ahern-Dodson says some people form writing groups where they live. Others establish groups with other students from their classes.

“Some just meet in a coffee shop (store) and bring whatever writing that they’re working on at the time. You know, finding a community of writers cannot only get your writing going but it can keep your writing going.”

And she says that is very valuable for writing well.

And that’s the VOA Learning English Education Report for today. I’m Jeri Watson.


Words in this Story

challenge n. a stimulating task or problem

draft – n. version of something (such as a document) that you make before you make the final version

cultivating - from cultivate v . – developing or forming

mean – adj. unkind, unpleasant, cruel

specific - adj. particular to , special to, especially about something, not just general

stress - n. mental tension and worry in life, work, etc.

binge - n. a short period of time when you do too much of something

ultimate – adj. happening or coming at the end of a series of events, etc.

Now it’s your turn to use these Words in This Story. In the comments section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.

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