Students tend to see written language as completely separate from speech. They see writing as an impossible task. In order to break down this way of thinking they should be encouraged to freewrite, or to write the first things that come into their heads. Assure students that just doing the assignment or mere quantity is everything and that spelling, grammar and usage will in no way be considered in the evaluation of their written pieces. Don’t even look at their works; merely glance at the page to make sure it is the appropriate assignment. The ideal scenario is to have the students read the freewritten essays to a group of their peers, peers they choose, so that they feel free to express themselves openly and honestly.
When the verdict of not guilty came down for the four Los Angeles police officers who had beaten the Afro-American motorist, Rodney King, riots or revolts broke out all over downtown Los Angeles, April 30, 1992. The statement made by Rodney King at the end of the first week of the revolt is one of the most powerful ones I have ever heard. It was clearly not a prepared speech and is therefore an excellent example of freewriting. Its power lies in the direct and heart felt truth of the plea. Because King was talking to the people that he felt connected to, he spoke in the first person plural to make his plea:
People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? And I mean, we’ve got enough smog here in Los Angeles, let alone to deal with the setting these fires and things. It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice. They won the battle, but they haven’t won the war. We’ll have our day in court, and that’s all we want. And just, I love, I’m neutral, I love every, I love people of color. I’m not like they’re picking me out to be. We’ve got to quit. We’ve got to quit. You know, after all, I mean, I can understand the first upset for the two hours after the verdict, but to go on like this, to see the security guard shot on the ground, it’s not right. It’s just not right. Because those people can never go home to their families again. Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try and work it out.
Although this speech was not written down beforehand, it is a beautiful expression of how natural speech can retain its life in written form. What might be an effective writing method for many students is to have them record their spoken words. Have them talk into a recorder or record their discussions or what they say in class. These are forms of freewriting. The goal is to have them create, that is, to get their thoughts going and to communicate. If they can be aided by speaking their thoughts and by writing all their ideas and feelings they will be well on their way to writing more often and with greater ease.