Suggestions for Teaching Writing
During the Planning Stage
- Talk with your team about successes and challenges you've had with teaching writing. What assumptions do you bring to this part of teaching? What strengths? Sharing these truly will help clarify the types of writing you might ask students to do based on your experience with writing. You can also encourage each other to overcome any fears or frustrations you have when teaching writing since one of your frustrations may be a colleague's strength. However, you won't know unless you talk!
- Share writing with each other. How do each of you approach your own writing? Talk about your individual writing process. Be overt about establishing what each of you defines as good writing. Where do you differ? How can you use this knowledge to reach some consensus on how you will approach assignments for your program? What's realistic for the types of students you think you are teaching this quarter?
- Determine the types of writing you might assign and the purpose for the writing. Write paper assignments carefully. Often faculty assign one kind of writing that won't produce the intended results for the writing. The Writing Center can be a good resource to help you with these decisions.
- Create a syllabus that scaffolds the writing process. Students will produce better writing if they are encouraged to brainstorm, draft, revise, edit, and proofread in discrete pieces. They also are much less likely to have the opportunity to plagiarize. If your students will work weekly with tutors in the Writing Center, you should offer a suggestion for a goal for each session and place this in your syllabus.
During the Program
- Begin each quarter with a writing assessment. One suggestion is to ask students to write a letter about their history as readers and writers. What are their fears and frustrations with writing? What challenges them? What thrills them? What are the best conditions for them to produce their best writing? What was the worst experience they had with a teacher around writing? What was the best? Be clear with students that knowing this information will help you understand each individual writer. It can also help your team develop realistic goals for improvement for each individual writer.
- Create a community standard or rubric for assessing writing. The Writing Center can help facilitate a conversation between faculty and students about the expectations for a particular writing assignment. Again, you and your students are breaking down assumptions you bring to the program. The list you generate becomes the criteria you use to assess drafts and evaluate final writing products.
- Have a conversation about plagiarism with your program. The Writing Center offers a workshop on how to avoid plagiarism. If students are doing research, show them how to document sources using the style you prefer in your profession.
- Encourage your students to meet with a Writing Center tutor early and often. The tutors have received training on how to tutor all phases of the writing process. They have embraced fully the value of breaking the writing process down and can help students plan their writing to produce stronger writing.
- Use program peer review and student self-assessment. Employing these tools, you can increase students' ability to critique their own and others' writing and cut down on the time you need to read papers and comment. The Writing Center offers a workshop on how to peer review effectively, and programs may also use the Writing Center's self-assessment tool, "The Author's Note".
- Have at least one face-to-face conference with your students to discuss their writing. You'll be amazed how much information you can share with students about their writing in a 15-minute conference. While it's time consuming, you will save the time you'd take to write on their papers. In addition, you will have a real-time interaction.
- Read a paper and assess it as a faculty team to see how each member applies the rubric before you read your seminar's papers on your own. Consider the types of comments you make on student papers. Composition theorist Nancy Sommers discusses how students process written feedback on their papers. Her article can revolutionize the way you comment on papers and will allow you to cut your time in half. Also consult the Writing Center's handouts on higher- and lower-order concerns.
- Ask students to produce a portfolio of all their writings at the end of the quarter including all draft work, final versions, self-assessments. Review the entirety of their work to see progress over time before you write their narrative evaluations. Encourage students to review their portfolio before they write their self-evaluation. When students can produce all their work product, you can feel more confident that students have not plagiarized.
- Marvel at the wonderful ideas your students have shared with you!