The Chinese philosopher Confucius observed that we learn wisdom in three ways:
- First, by reflection, which is noblest
- Second, by imitation, which is easiest
- Third, by experience, which is bitterest
Confucius’s insights can serve as inspiration for your writing program. Here’s how.
Wisdom by Reflection, Which Is Noblest
Provide your students with many opportunities for personal writing, because it naturally leads to reflection. Personal writing includes journal writing, blog writing, personal narratives and essays, poetry, and so on.
You can make reflection an important part of your academic writing assignments, too, by having students answer questions like these about their completed work.
- What is the best part of my essay or report?
- What part still needs work? Why?
- What is the most important thing I learned from this writing?
- What will I do differently in my next essay or report?
- As a writer, what do I still need to work on?
View minilesson “Starting a Journal.”
Wisdom by Imitation, Which Is Easiest
Select effective writing samples as models for your students. Check out this bank of free models written by real students. After a discussion of a particular sample, ask your students to develop their own writing, following the structure and style of the model.
Also, as a daily start-up activity, post well-made sentences on your white board and have students write their own versions following the structure of the original.
View minilesson “Sentence Modeling with the Masters.”
Wisdom by Experience, Which Is Bitterest
Be sure that your students regularly share their writing so they can experience its effects on others. Sharing sessions may, from time to time, be disappointing (bitter?) for a student writer when responders identify weak areas in the writing. However, if your students conduct effective sharing sessions, these disappointments should be minimal and seen more as opportunities to make the writing stronger and better. (Help your students develop a growth mindset in regard to criticism.)
Responders should always start by pointing out what they like in the writing. Then they can ask questions about problem areas and politely make suggestions. The point is to help students better understand the overall effectiveness of their writing. Responders can record their comments on peer response sheets for the writer’s reference.