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Taking Time to Understand Your Students

Ureka Williams"When I first began teaching, I was very concerned with returning papers the next day. One evening I forgot to grade a set of essays, and I was frightfully nervous about arriving to campus the next morning without papers to return. The entire day, not one student asked, “Where’s my essay?” That weekend, while grading the essays, I found myself to be more relaxed and more in tune with my students’ writing voice, rather than the fact that there were homonym errors and that the students forgot to insert a comma or two. I actually got to immerse myself in their prose."

"Now when I conference with students about their writing, in addition to discussing the grammatical and structural errors, we discuss their varied life experiences. Now my students know that I’m interested in them, as individual human beings, and because of that I’ve seen their writing improve."

--Ureka Williams, Tulsa Community College, Oklahoma
7.5 years teaching


Related NCTE Resources . . .

ReadWriteThink Lesson plansReadWriteThink offers hundreds of free lesson plans and other resources on finding students' voice in writing.

"Liberating the Student's Voice: A Teacher's Story of the College Essay" In this March 2005 English Journal article, Mark Holding High school teacher Mark Holding created a unit to help uninspired seniors write personal essays for college applications. The carefully developed steps help students move away from formulas to regain their freedom and voice in writing.

Teaching Composition: A Position Statement.  This NCTE guideline was created by the Commission on Composition in 1985.


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NCTE - The National Council of Teachers Of English

A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts