Writing to Learn

What all this means in practical terms is simply this: When we write to ourselves in our own easy, talky voices, we let the writing help us think and even lead our thinking to places we would not have gone had we never written, but only mulled things over in our heads. Thought written out becomes language you can interact with; your own thought objectified on paper or computer screen becomes thought you can manipulate, extend, critique, or edit. Above all, the discipline of doing the writing in the first place guarantees that you will push your thought systematically in one direction or another.


1. Describe one time when you were stuck trying to figure something out and you had that "Ahah!" experience like the chemistry student in this chapter. What circumstances helped create this insight?

2. Think about one problem, personal or academic, you are currently trying to solve, and explore it using at least two of the modes—free-writing, mapping, listing, etc.—discussed in this chapter.


1. Describe the greatest problem in life or school that you remember solving. Explain the role language played in identifying or solving the problem. (To begin this assignment, use one or more of the problem-solving strategies described in this chapter; append a sample of this to your completed paper.)

2. Think about one thing you are especially good at (sports, hobbies, etc.). Describe the kind of problems you face, and explain how you go about solving those problems. (Begin this assignment as an exploratory journal entry and append this entry to your finished essay to show how you helped solve this writing problem.)


1. INDIVIDUAL: Conduct a library search on the literature of problem solving and create a bibliography of what you found. Write a report in which you describe the use of problem solving strategies in a field that especially interests you.

2. COLLABORATIVE: In addition to (or instead of) searching the library, conduct interviews with people who work in a particular field or discipline and ask them about how they identify and solve problems. Divide up the interview tasks, but share the results and write (or orally report) about the problem solving strategies in the field you investigated.

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