Cheese Straw Confessions


Contributor: Sarra Saffron Powell (Freelance Academic Writing Specialist)

Ingredients: post it notes, pens

Method: This works very well at the start of academic writing workshops I’ve used it very successfully with students and staff. At the beginning of the session, explain that academic writing is complex and not at all a natural way to express ourselves as humans: most people face at the very least three challenges when it comes to academic writing, many people face a lot more. I hand out post it notes to participants. I, to get the ball rolling, offer up my three personal difficulties: I’m dyslexic so invariably I’ll say I struggle with organising my thoughts on paper; I struggle because I need a panoptic view to access the point in hand (which is very time consuming); and, overcompensating – I do a ridiculous amount of research on any and every thing. Then I ask the participant to write the three things they are anxious about in relation to academic writing on their post it notes. I call this a ‘confession session’ and I let them know I’ll share what they identify with the whole group, but it’ll be anonymous: nobody will know who wrote what. The rest of the session will be spent identifying strategies they can be used to overcome the difficulties we’ve identified.  I’ll also let them know that what they put down will be very similar to each other as we share the same difficulties. I collect up the notes and whizz through them, reading aloud. Invariably the issues will always be the same – structuring, how to use quotes, issues with academic voice and so on.

I then go on to structure the session in response to what was ‘confessed’ as difficult – offering strategies to address the challenges and inviting participants to share their approaches: it works really well.

Special Notes: This is an excellent ice breaker – it encourages participants to reflect on what challenges them about academic writing in a format that negates possible embarrassment. The sessions are meaningful to participants as they provide an immediate response to learners’ needs.

Acknowledgements: none that I know of.

References:  none.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

More Starters

Cookbook Homepage