Fortunately, as teachers in various disciplines have added writing to their courses, they have discovered that writing assignments bring great benefits. Not only do they enhance students' general writing ability, but they also increase both the understanding of content while learning the specific vocabulary of the disciplines.
Despite these benefits, teachers outside the English class have been reluctant to create writing assignments because they have so little time for grading papers. By disregarding the importance of planning time and continuing to increase student contact time, school boards have ironically decreased writing instruction despite their commitment to improving the quality of education.
Since inadequate planning time seems to be the greatest impediment to making writing assignments, a handy list of tips to cut grading time should be a tremendous help. Because I gathered these over the years, I have lost track of their sources, and I apologize to their originators for not acknowledging their ideas. For a general background on grading student papers, check A Method for Grading Essays in Any Course but don't be scared off by it! In-depth grading is not necessary on all writing assignments or even in all courses.
The Joys of Peer Evaluation with Rubrics
Asking students to evaluate their own and their peers' writing with rubrics is an amazingly effective teaching technique, and one which is easily incorporated into cooperative learning lesson plans. One interesting activity is to have students evaluate their team members' papers using a rubric and then select their team's best paper to read aloud. I've never seen students edit as ambitiously as when they are preparing to read their papers to the rest of the class. It is, perhaps, even more gratifying to hear students complain about one another's writing using terms you have struggled to make them learn.
Rubrics are effective because they help students focus on the points you consider important. In addition, the more they use the rubrics, the more they internalize the criteria listed on them.
Scoring holistically with a single grade or number, as is done for the Florida Writes Assessment, provides a way to manage a large stack of essays. Coupled with the use of detailed rubrics by peers and opportunities for revising and peer proofreading, students can receive quite a bit of feedback without your having to do any in-depth grading.
Using a holistic rubric such as the Florida Writes Rubric or the Six-Trait Analytical Writing Assessment Model in conjunction with other tips to cut grading time , should make it possible for you to to motivate students to do their writing assignments and to work on their writing skills while keeping the paperwork manageable.
If you don't normally teach writing, you might feel more comfortable if you briefly review instruction before making writing assignments. It might also be helpful for you to talk to the English teachers at your school to see what kinds of essays students have been taught so that your assignments can function as practice for those types rather than as an introduction to a new type.
On the other hand, if you feel you must introduce a new type of writing, you can find a wealth of writing resources on the Internet . In fact, I will continue posting exercises and worksheets that I've created and found useful.
Reviewing Writing Instruction on the Internet
The following pages have been selected because of the high quality of information they contain. If you are in an academic discipline and plan to assign writing, I suggest you limit your review to a few of the following Net links so as not to be overwhelmed. Begin with key words since you will use these when making your writing assignments and then read about the type of writing you think you would like to assign. Paragraph Instruction
- Paragraph Structure - all types
- Tips for Various types of Paragraphs from The Writing Den Compare/Contrast
- Rules for Writing Real Good is a clever exercise in which students complete the worksheet correcting a sentence by using the rule it states.