Paused or Stuck

Tonight Bud Hunt is moderating an on and offline version of #engchat from ISTE 2011. It’ll focus on thoughtful pauses in our and our students’ reading and writing lives. You can read his post about the chat and contribute to the Google Doc.

I used to automatically assume that when kids stopped writing during free writing time they were stuck (or, a less charitable assumption, up to no good.) I would go up to students and offer to help or give feedback, but sometimes students perceived this as being in trouble. I also (needlessly?) spent time with students who just needed time to do things they didn’t need me for.

Pause 1

This year I started asking, “Are you paused or stuck?” (We had a discussion about potential differences between the two.) If paused, I moved on. If stuck, I could talk with the student about what he or she felt would help get him or her un-stuck.

I think the challenge for students (and for me) is to discern at what point being paused turns into being stuck. I’m not sure that I have the distinction fully formed in my mind. But I’m imagining that you can resume after a pause relatively quickly, the time it takes to retrieve that word you were searching your brain for or to read back over the last couple of sentences you’ve written. To get un-stuck seems like it requires something a bit more drastic.

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2 thoughts on “Paused or Stuck

  1. Thanks for the question to ask students, “Are you paused or stuck?” I usually allow quite a bit of time to pass before I interrupt students’ pauses in writing. I learned this quite early in my teaching from a student who would not write for three days, and then would craft a beautiful final draft on the fourth day, with no revision because he did this all in his head. Can you imagine? Kids need space to gather and refine ideas as well as to consider recrafting the words. Thanks again for the great question.

  2. This would make an interesting whole-class discussion too. I mean, who’s to say *we* need to be the ones to help a student move ahead? So often, with enough preparation, students can begin to take on this role for each other. Seems to me that learning to ask for assistance in getting unstuck, as well as learning to give it, are key skills for lifelong learning.

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