This first assignment is designed to get your student writing. The primary goal is to give your tutee an experience of success by asking him or her to do something that is probably familiar. Therefore, this assignment will ask the student to do a "planned journal entry" about a significant experience. It is planned, because the student should do some prewriting exercises before beginning to write (primarily focusing on finding what s/he wants to say and developing it). It's a "journal entry" because at this point the writer shouldn't worry about writing for an audience or sounding "academic."
This assignment will be useful to your tutorial sessions in several ways. At the most basic level, it should help you get to know your student. You'll gain some insight into into an experience that the student feels has been important in his/her life. You'll also get a sense of how familiar your student is with academic conventions of writing. Although the assignment is designed to "free up" the student, s/he will probably still be somewhat concerned with "performance" - so whether or not the student has one main idea, has developed his/her ideas, uses complete sentences, etc. - may tell you something about what s/he knows about the basics of writing. Finally, this piece of writing gives you a starting place for the more academic assignments that follow and something to refer back to when discussing differences in format, process, and so on, for personal vs. academic assignments.
The goals of this assignment are:
How to respond to this assignment: At this point, don't worry about grammar/mechanics, except as they seriously interfere with your understanding (i.e. "I'm not sure what you mean by this word," or "I'm not sure I understand what this sentence says"). Use a readerly response - "Gee, I'd like to hear more about that" - without getting into rhetorical terminology yet (focus, development, etc.). Most of all, be encouraging!
After the initial reading, talk about the next "audience" for this essay (other students/friends, an advisor or teacher who wants to know more about the tutee and his/her interests). Without worrying too much about academic conventions, talk to the writer about how to help those readers understand the experience based on some of your initial responses. This may include looking back at the question s/he is answering - purpose. Then, ask the writer to read the piece aloud to two other people s/he feels comfortable with (ideally, people who haven't yet heard the story) & let them ask questions about things they don't understand or want to hear more about. Ask the student to use those responses (and yours) to revise for next time.
At every stage of our lives, we're able to look back and identify experiences that shape our lives. This first piece is a chance to think back on one of those experiences and explore its significance by writing about it.
The question you'll answer is, "How has this experience changed me?"
You're answering it for yourself. Of course, your tutor will also read it. Eventually, you'll use the same information to write an essay about the experience for an academic audience. But for now, you're just using writing as a way to get your thoughts down on paper.
The goals are (1) to decide on a single experience you want to write about (maybe by trying out two or three to see which one is most interesting to you), (2) to remember as much about that experience as you can, and (3) think about what significant change this experience caused, and try to describe that change in writing.
If you're having trouble getting started, you might try some of the "Generating Ideas" exercises in the back of your resource packet. Your tutor can suggest additional ways to help you get going on this - feel free to ask!