In this final piece from our Students Speak video series, we address the very real challenge of time limits during writing assignments. Our student participants were clear and unanimous in their disdain for short timed writing assignments, such as the expectation of writing an essay during a class period, or as part of a timed test. These make them feel undue pressure, and stymy the generation of good ideas. Andrew, age 15, describes a feeling common to students of becoming overwhelmed by a flood of ideas, knowing he can’t possibly address them all within a short time. He describes a feeling that his “brain stops,” inducing feelings of stress and worry.
In addition to stress, short time limits also prevent students from employing the good writing strategies that they’ve been taught and encouraged to use, such as outlining and revision techniques. Furthermore, the students find the constrained time period to be distracting and distressing. The constant worry that time is running out can cause even the most competent writers to get off track.
The conversation next turns toward a positive use of time limits - to add structure to a writing assignment over a period of days. Interestingly, our student panel members expressed a desire for structured due dates for completing the steps of formal essays and other long term writing projects. A schedule of due dates for portions of large assignments seems to be reassuring to students as these benchmarks ensure students are “on the right track” before proceeding. A structured schedule of due dates also helps students to work consistently towards the goal instead of falling victim to procrastination. Our wonderful moderator Dr. Alice Mangan reiterated the students’ feelings about writing so well when she summed up this piece with: ““Give me some power here, but also give me some structure.”
Unfortunately, timed essays and written portions of exams are often unavoidable. Practice can be a big help and relieve the anxiety associated with this "time crunch". Parents, what do you find helps your students when they are writing against the clock? Students, do you have any special tips for maintaining a level head while working under pressure? Sound off below!