As a student mentor you will often face problems with writer’s block, whether for yourself or your students. This is the inability to produce new work or to express yourself creatively. The reasons for this may vary: running out of inspiration, being distracted by other events, or having a sense of failure. It’s time to introduce the new to-do list for your virtual classroom assignments. Images are easily remembered and are often used for classification. Therefore, visualize your ideas about the project in order to see the bigger picture and key points.
Focus on the goal
Every assignment has a certain goal. Help your online students ignore the perfectionist within themselves and, instead, to focus on a particular task. There is no need to build Rome if the task is to find it on the map, right? However, this doesn’t mean that they will not need to invest effort in your virtual classroom assignment. It means that they know the goal and need to complete it without distractions. If your online students feel uncertain about their writing, you can always ask them to share a sample of their writing with another online student. Furthermore, you, as their mentor, can provide additional feedback.
Ask your students to be realistic and kind to themselves
Let your students think of themselves as novices. If writer’s block is new to them, give them some time to accept it. Moreover, try to understand the underlying cause. Maybe you have provided the students with a completely new assignment or you have changed the format, or maybe the task is for your students to present it in the virtual classroom later on. Whatever the reason, help your students focus on the writing itself and to leave their fears behind. Writing is a complex process so there is no place for judgement.
Start somewhere, anywhere
You really don’t have to be perfect to start. Let your mind freely begin the task and try to maintain a certain pace.
Create a plan and follow it
Usually, in order to overcome doubt, all you need to do is act. However, since the goal is for your students to complete a particular assignment in the virtual classroom, they have to create an action plan, which can also be used in your own work as an online tutor.
Make your writing personal
Figure out ways to make the task more interesting and closer to home by looking for common traits, examples of success, or by digging up personal stories. The more you are involved in your project, both emotionally and intellectually, the more motivation you will have to complete it
The problem with isolation
Online students usually lack personal contact due to the specifics of the virtual classroom. Moreover, those who work longer on a project are not connected at all with the online tutor or the other online students. Therefore, in order to feel more connected and supported, motivate your students to actively use their group communication channels. Also, help them look for a support contact as soon as they need it. This will help them decrease their anxiety levels and avoid writer’s block.
Often, online students who are experiencing a block or anxiety may also have a poor opinion of their own performance in the virtual classroom. Therefore, have them make a list of all their strengths and use them as a starting point for their writing. If a student is better at researching, motivate them to do that first. After all, the best thing is to be happy at whatever it is you are doing.
Muse? What muse?
Online students can often get stuck in their homework process. Undoubtedly, it is great to be in the flow. However, this doesn’t always happen. Furthermore, since you have experience in the learning process and your students are familiar with devoting time to completing a course or getting a degree, both of you should know that there are obstacles. Instead of defeating them by trying to be their muse, encourage them to go get the work done and just start the assignment.
Small bites for big success
First, forbid your students from trying to do everything at once. Let them start with reasonable expectations. Secondly, make sure they understand the task. Then, help them divide their assignment into small logical pieces. You can also offer them the opportunity to create a mind map to better understand the initial idea. Don’t forget that completing an assignment is a process. Therefore, let them use their journey and build a stable bridge that will lead them to the success.
Little things are a big deal
It’s time to start collecting positive experiences related to creating or completing an assignment in your virtual classroom. No matter what obstacles you or your students may face, always remember how far you’ve come. Figure out a success point, which may be something as tiny as finding the best title or writing the first paragraph, and celebrate it. You can decide what the prize will be.
In the next article I will show you 10 ways for students to overcome writer’s block in the virtual classroom.