Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Topic: 10-Minute Essays

10-second review: Bonnie Rubenstein in 1967 introduced ten-minutes of writing each class period. Since the teacher’s remarks were non-corrective, they could be read quickly and commented on reasonably quickly outside of class. The purpose was developing the writing habit and fluency. A student chose the topic and the rest of the students wrote on the topic.

Title: “The Five-Minute Writing: An Aid to Teaching Composition.” G J Jones. College Composition and Communication (No Date), pp. 194-195. A quarterly publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: the author reduced the amount of time to five minutes and used the writing for a variety of purposes, including fluency. Again, a single student gave the topic and the other students wrote on it. They were interested in how different students had different ideas on the topic.

Students could write various types of paragraphs—narrative, descriptive or argumentative. Another idea—write one good sentence on the topic. Vary the diction—a 4-year-old, a “hood,” a sophisticate. Another topic might be response to a piece of literature.

Comment: I also used the ten-minute essay. Students chose their own topics on anything in which they were interested. I asked them to write as well as they could. Then I corrected grammar, style, clarity and smoothness by actually rewriting the problem on the paper. I would rewrite, for example, a dangling modifier, a misplaced modifier, parallel structure, etc. In style, I would change the sentence beginning with “There” to the same sentence beginning with the subject of the sentence. Students responded well to this technique, saying, “It gave me confidence in my writing.” If you wish more details on how I used the technique, write to

As the author said, this practice is not a substitute for writing instruction; it is a supplemental tool. RayS.

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