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Writing Across the Curriculum

Preparing Writing Assignments And Selecting Writing Topics


Once you realize essays can be graded almost as quickly as short answer tests, you're ready to take steps to make your writing assignments successful. Preparing the Writing Assignment 1. Determine the type essay you will assign.

Although you could assign many different types of essays, it would be most helpful to provide practice on the type your students will be asked to write for any upcoming writing assessments. Thus, you will want to check with your English teachers for this information and for copies of any rubrics they are using. 2. Find out how English teachers are teaching and evaluating this type essay and decide how you want to grade it.

Although you may not want to use the rubrics the English teachers are using, they should be helpful in showing you current expectations. You should feel free to develop your own rubric which can be as simple as a single score, overall quality rubric or the traditional two grade method of content/writing. It is imperative, however, that students understand that that writing as well as understanding content matters (affects their grade). 3. Provide students with a model.

Many students cannot (or will not) follow only written and oral directions; thus a sample paper which meets your expectations is extremely helpful. Although some say samples hamper creativity, using the guess-what-I-want approach when you expect a particular product is unfair to the student. You can write your own sample or get one of your better students to write one as an extra credit assignment. Models of various types of essays which you can use for your sample are readily available on the Internet. When presenting the sample, which need not be perfect, evaluate it with the class according to the rubric or guidelines you will use to evaluate your students' papers. 3. Provide students with a proofreading guide.

It is critical that you emphasize proofreading since proofreading helps students learn writing conventions. I have included a proofreading guide which you can use to speed up your grading. When using it, instead of writing a phrase on their papers such as "run on sentence," you simply write the code from the proofreading guide such as S1. Students will then will be forced to look at their copy of the proofreading guide and, perhaps, begin to internalize rules. Since I am given to inexplicable optimism, I plan to add page corresponding numbers from our English book to each item.

It is quite helpful to have students proofread one another's work using the proofreading guide. Having students sign their names beside the "phrase proofread by" and getting some kind of credit for a job well done or using some other scheme to let proofreaders know their work will be spot checked helps them take the task seriously. Proofreading in cooperative learning teams also works nicely.

Selecting Writing Topics

1. Identify Your Goals

Once you know the type of essay or paragraph you want to assign, and you have secured a sample, a proofreading guide, and a rubric, you are ready to select a topic.

Regardless of the academic area, the goals for written assignments are probably, mastery of content and improved written expression with emphasis varying according to the agenda of your total school program. When important assessments are in the immediate future, focusing on general topics or topics related to your discipline, but not requiring specific information from it, will provide better practice for your students than those that require specific details from your content area.

2. Check Our Writing Topics List or Write Your Own

I have posted a number of expository and persuasive essay topics which includes general topics and topics related to various academic areas. Most of these topics were written by tenth grade students. I often ask my students to write essay prompts because they seem to have an easier time writing about topics they find interesting as compared to what I find interesting. When assigning topics, I usually list two or three from which students choose one. I the change list of choices for each class so my reading will be more interesting and to reduce the likelihood of undue collaboration.

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