The English Teacher

Impromptu Writing

When I had my students write impromptu themes, I realized that some students were writing them better than outside class themes which meant that they might be spending more time in class than outside of class in their writing. Others, however, were writing not as well. I thought that I might give guidelines to my students so that they could write their impromptu papers as well as possible. These are the guidelines I gave them to follow when they were sitting in class, reading their topics for the first time and preparing to write.

1. Breathe:
Explanation- When we are alarmed, startled, etc., our first physical reaction is to stop breathing with a contraction of our chests. In that situation, when we aren't breathing, we're not thinking. Then, depending on the stress, we go into shock. A very tense student seeing the topics for the first time, may waste time going into and recovering from the shock of 'oh no, what do I write on?' When they see the topics, the first thing that they should do, is breathe.

2. Think for 2-5 minutes:
Explanation- Time in stressful situations is very subjective. Students see other students writing and they feel more stressed thinking that they don't know what to write about. Sometimes only 30-45 seconds has passed, but they don't realize this. Knowing that they have 2-5 minutes to think relieves a lot of this stress. Also 2-5 minutes is a lot of time to prepare when done calmly.

3. Organize your topics:
Explanation- I have my high school seniors write their topics in divisions of three sub-topics. [Why three topics is not the subject here.] So next they choose their three sub-topics making sure to avoid 'topic blur' and begin writing. *Regardless of the manner in which the teacher wants the students to organize their themes, a deliberate organization helps the student write better impromptus.

4. Proofread:
Explanation- Tell students to save time to proofread at the end of the period and to make sure that the papers are stapled in the correct order. It is sometimes very difficult to tell what the order of the pages should be otherwise. I allow my students to use dictionaries and electronic spellers if they wish.

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