No More Assuming

Posted: April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about what I assume my students know. In my class, I explain fairly early on that we won’t assume anything, because when we assume “it makes an ass out of you (u) and me.”  5th graders love that I say this; I mean I say the word “ass.” And, it’s not bad advice.

But, it seems I forgot it.

Here’s what happened. We were working on some writing and students had turned in first drafts. I, however, was not that impressed with said drafts. Many of them were riddled with basic spelling and punctuation errors. They were written on a laptop or iPad, so spelling errors should have been minimal. And, the “run-on royalty”, as I refer to those who seem unacquainted with the period, were in fine form.

Then I thought about it. Maybe they don’t know what a rough/first draft is?

So, I asked. “Has a teacher ever explained what a rough draft is and is not? I know I have not said what it is for me.”

“No.” (I am fully aware that this may or may not be true, but they clearly needed a refresher and knew it.)

So, I spent 15 minutes talking about the difference between a rough draft and a final draft. I made a list on the board of things that should and should not be in a rough/first draft (I never use the term “sloppy copy”). You might think this topic would not really grab people, but there was excellent attention and interest. This was news to people.

Here is a basic summary of what I notes about a first draft:

  • could have a few spelling or punctuation errors
  • first attempt at expressing your ideas
  • the best version of that first effort

Summary of a next draft:

  • again your best effort
  • new ideas after input from a peer or teacher reviewer

This seemed very reasonable to folks. Some of the best 15 minutes I have spent this year–just in time teaching.

How do I know it stuck with anyone?

Well, the next writing assignment we did I saw many of the chronic offenders ( in terms of run-ons, spelling errors, etc.) rereading, paying attention to spell check, adding punctuation, and generally handing in a draft that was in good enough condition that I could spend my editing time thinking about their ideas, not just their grammar.

No more assuming.


  1. Maggie says:

    This is a great post. In catching yourself and breaking it down you help your readers reflect on our own assumptions and how we may go about addressing them with our students. Thanks for this!

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