I’ve seen a number of people on my social media feeds sharing what they were doing in class today, or wondering what they would do in class.

At some point when I wasn’t able to fall back to sleep early this morning, I had an idea for how to make space to process the election outcome in my classes today. Earlier this semester, we had used a set of prompts from Sondra Perl’s Felt Sense to identify topics students wanted to explore in writing. On my way in this morning, I came up with a series of writing prompts inspired by the form of that exercise.

I taught two first-year writing classes today–one at ten in the morning, and one just after lunch. In each class, we began as usual with five minutes of freewriting, and then I asked how people were doing. Students talked about why they were afraid, disappointed, angry, sad.  After this initial discussion, I said that I had an idea for doing some writing, responding a series of prompts.

I began by asking students to take a few deep breaths, feel their feet on the floor, and close their eyes if they felt comfortable to do so. (This is how the Felt Sense exercise begins; the way I framed many of my questions is indebted to Perl’s phrasing.) For each question after the first one, we wrote for about three minutes.

  • Ask yourself: how are you feeling? What if anything would block you from writing right now? As a response comes to mind, write it down.  (1 minute)
  • Then, ask yourself: what questions or thoughts or issues are on your mind?
  • What are your hopes for the future? This might be for the next four years, or tomorrow, or more long term.
  • What are you fears about the future? This might be for the next four years, or tomorrow, or more long term.
  • What resources can you draw upon to process or respond to this moment?
  • What readings, discussions, and resources have you encountered this semester that could help you to process or respond to this moment?
  • What experiences or knowledge more broadly can you draw on?
  • Check in with your breath, and ask yourself how you feel in your body. Ask yourself: what questions or concerns are on your mind right now? As an image or word or thought comes to mind, write that down.
  • What would help you to answer these questions or address these concerns?
  • Look back on what you wrote so far this morning. What happened as you wrote? What are you feeling now? What is your response to this moment right now?

After we finished writing, I invited students to share to share their reflection on how they experienced the writing exercise, what resources they had identified, what connections they were making, and what they were feeling now.


About the Image

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. Berenice Abbott, “Queensboro Community Art Center: VI. Students in sculpture class; 36-76 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1939. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-4eb6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99