Political Science/JSIS/LSJ Writing Center
Tools for TAs and Instructors
In-Class Writing Activities
Tools for Instruction o Writing Center
Writing to Learn
By asking your students to write frequently in class, you can:
- Help your students realize the idea-generating potential of writing
and its value even when it is not graded.
- Give students practice in the sort of single-draft writing expected
of them in exam situations.
- Help students focus their ideas as they prepare for formal
- Discover what students understand and what is confusing to them.
- Improve your ability to give effective feedback on assignments.
Characteristics of in-class writing
In-class writing assignments can take a number of different forms,
but they tend to share similar characteristics. They
- Promote active learning
- Require limited time to complete
- Encourage discussion
- Remain mostly ungraded
- Engage all students
- May be expanded into longer, more formal assignments
Effective Writing-to-Learn Activities
| Assignment Paraphrase
|| To ensure students understand course writing assignment.
|| Ask students to write a 3-4 sentence paraphrase of the assignment.
Several students can read them aloud, and the class can discuss the
degree to which it reflects the work they've been asked to perform.
| Draft of Introductory Paragraph
|| To help students clarify their ideas and learn how to identify and
construct a thesis statement.
|| Ask students to write a draft of their intro paragraph (it may be
easier to have them do this outside of class and bring it in). Ask
to read their paragraph aloud, and then discuss the components of a good
paragraph and thesis statement.
| Progress Statement
|| To ensure students are working on a project or paper, and find out
help they need.
|| Mid-way through a project or paper, ask students to write a short
evaluation of their progress, noting what they have accomplished this far,
what they are most satisfied with, what work remains to be done, and what
questions they have.
| Assignment Cover Sheet
|| Gives grader a good sense of the kinds of problems students had and
responding easier and more focused.
|| On the day students turn in a paper, have them write for 5-10 min.,
reflecting on the paper. What problems and concerns did they have? What
insights did they attain? Ask them to pose 1-2 specific questions for
the grader to respond to.
| Response to the Response
|| To encourage students to look at and consider the graders' comments
|| After handing back a graded assignment, ask students to respond for 5
min. after reading the teacher's comments. Ask them to identify one
strength and one area to work on that is evident from the comments. ||
| Beginning of class writing primer
|| To get students to think about the topic(s) for the day and to
generate ideas for class discussion.
|| Ask students to spend the first 5 min. of class responding to a
question that will be addressed in lecture or discussion. Let them know
they will be asked to read their responses out loud, so they will prepare
their compositions with care.
| Closure Statements
|| To facilitate student learning of course materials and give the
instructor feedback on discussions and lectures.
|| At the end of class, have students summarize a lecture or discussion,
identify he key points, or pose a final question.
| Micro-theme Writing
|| To encourage students to be concise in their writing, and to give
instructors quick feedback.
|| Pass out 3x5 cards and have students write on a specific topic.
Questions or topics may be expanded into more formal essays.
|| To develop critical thinking skills in students by enabling them to
identify strengths and weaknesses in arguments.
|| If an argument has been raised in class or the reading, or more than
one theory has been advanced, stop for 5 min. and allow students to write
down all the counter-arguments or evidence, or present the case for
accepting one theory over another.
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