Using writing



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WRITING

USING WRITING
It is almost axiomatic that writing is, as Emig (1977) argues, "a central academic process." Hence, any course that introduces students to the college experience must include writing.

The Writing Across the Curriculum and the Writing to Learn move­ments have given increased focus to the goals and process of writing, emphasizing that "writing represents a unique mode of learning‑not merely valuable, not merely special, but unique" (Emig, 1977). The ob­jective is to use writing as a means to learn, not to "eradicate the prob­lem of poor writers" (Herrington, 1981 ). These movements also suggest that a variety of types of writing beyond traditional formal papers be in­corporated into the learning process. This instructor's manual provides a variety of writing exercises for both in‑class and out‑of‑class activities.


Types of Writing
College courses frequently incorporate a variety of types of writing. These are commonly categorized as free, or informal, writing and formal writing. You will want to incorporate both categories of writing into your course. You might also include both types of writing in the formal requirements and grading of the course.
Informal Writing. Informal writing can be used in a variety of ways. The most important informal writing activity recommended for the course is the journal [LINK to JOURNAL WRITING.doc]. You should also consider using informal writing in class in other ways. For example, have students take 5 minutes at the beginning of the peri­od to write about the previous class, about the chapter just read, or about a program they attended or a speaker they heard; have them do one of the exercises from their textbook that asks them to write on something; or at the end of the class have them write about their reac­tion to that day's class or summarize what was discussed. Writing at the beginning of the class can help focus or encourage discussion of an issue. Writing at the end of the class period can help bring closure or help students summarize what was discussed.

One strategy to get students involved is for you to write while they are doing their writing, and then share your writing on the subject. The prime benefit of free writing is the activity itself‑involvement in the process of thinking and writing. Have them share their writing aloud oc­casionally. You should occasionally collect students' writing and note for their individual records that they are doing it. You might also want to count it in some way in the course grade. Keep in mind, however, that free writing is not judged in the same manner as formal writing. Grammar, spelling, and mechanics are not evaluated or marked. The ob­jective is to get the pen and the ideas flowing.


Formal Writing. You will also want to include some formal writing as­signments. The writing assignments can be used directly in relationship to the various chapters in the textbook, or they can focus on a theme or an area of your own choice.

If you plan a series of assignments, they should be sequenced so that they advance in complexity and so that each assignment prepares stu­dents for the next one (Herrington, 1981 ). The assignments should both specify the topic and define the purpose and audience for the paper. "This specificity will help the writers understand what is required of them and usually will challenge them to something more than restating information for no purpose" (Herrington, 1981 ).


Evaluation
No matter how well designed or creative the writing assignments, if you do not treat them meaningfully, they will have little value. "If the teacher treats the resulting writing as unimportant or merely samples of writing, then the students begin to resent having to write. [Conversely,] if the teacher treats the student writings as important to the course and as worthy of substantive response, then the students can be expected to feel more positively about future assignments and to invest more in them" (Herrington, 1981 ). The process of evaluation should be correlat­ed with the specific assignment, and the criteria for judging the assign­ment should be specified clearly. An assignment from a psychology class provides an example:
Short Paper 3: Erik Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development
The Senses of Trust, Mistrust; Autonomy, Shame/Doubt; Initiative, Guilt; Industry, Inferiority; Identity and Role Confusion.
Question: Using the definitions and the causes of each "sense" for the first five stages of psychosocial development, indicate which "sense," for example, trust or mistrust, is more characteristic of you and why you believe that sense is more characteristic of you than its opposite. Write your essay as if you were writing an Eriksonian au­tobiography to facilitate someone's understanding of your psychoso­cial development.
Requirements: In order to write this assignment, you must:
1. Know Erikson's definition of each sense
2. Know the cause of each sense, as seen by Erikson
3. Be able to recognize each sense in yourself
4. Be able to provide concrete examples of each sense in yourself
Evaluative Criteria: Your instructor will evaluate your essay with these criteria in mind:
1. Did you clearly understand Erikson's conceptualization of each sense, that is, Erikson's definition of the sense and his assertions about its cause?
2. Did you provide lucid examples of how each sense is evi­dent in your psychosocial development?
Note: Your instructor will evaluate each short paper for content only. You will be allowed to write one revision of the content of your paper to try to earn a higher grade. Your instructor will note your grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors, which you must correct in pencil on your paper. Correcting your errors is mandatory. However, correcting your errors will not raise your grade. If you fail to correct your errors, a grade of "F" will be as­signed to your short paper. (Herrington, 1981)
A GUIDE TO PEER REVIEW
The purpose of student peer review of writing assignments is to enable students to help one another improve the quality of their writing.

The process of student peer review involves passing the papers around in the group, reading them, and making specific suggestions and comments. After all members of the group have finished reading and commenting, discuss the papers in the group as a whole.

The comments should be useful. Although it is desirable to affirm that a fellow student is doing a good job, general comments that are not specific are not very helpful. Statements like "Nice job" or "I liked what you wrote" may make the student feel good, but they do not offer much practical help on how to improve the writing.

Reading the paper closely for specific errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation may be helpful, but remember, the paper will most likely be retyped. The most useful information is organizational and substan­tive. Organizational information relates to questions like the following: Is the paper logically organized (does each element or paragraph follow logically from the preceding one/? Does each paragraph make sense in it­self, and is it logically organized internally? Substantive information re­lates to questions like the following: Does the paper address the ques­tion? /For instance, if the question asks for four examples, does the writer give four examples?) Does the paper use an appropriate form of response? (For instance, if the question asks for a description, does the writer give a true description?)


In this assignment the requirements are clearly outlined step by step, and the evaluation criteria are specifically stated (Herrington, 1981).
Drafting
Many first‑year composition or writing classes introduce students to the concept of drafting‑the process of writing, rewriting, and refining. You should incorporate this process in the way that you design your writing assignments, allowing for time between drafts. It is also a good idea to set aside one class period for peer review of papers as part of the revising and editing process. Peer review gives students a chance for someone else to read and critique their papers before they turn in their final drafts.

For peer review divide the class into groups and have the students exchange papers; then have them discuss the papers. You could combine both mechanical editing and content evaluation in the peer review, but you should ask your students to read and comment on only one or two specific types of errors or problems, such as subject‑verb agreement and provision of supporting examples.


Computers and Writing
Computers are wonderful tools for writing and can take much of the drudgery out of the process. Encourage your students to write their pa­pers on the computer. To help them, you should be familiar with your campus computing facilities‑location, hours, software, training, and laboratory assistance. Include the facilities on your campus tour. Check with your students on how much they know about using the computer. You may want to arrange individual training sessions for them in the computer center.

Using computers for writing facilitates and even encourages multi­ple drafts. Computers make editing faster and easier; they can encourage collaboration and can simply make writing more fun (Fulwiler, 1989). Remind students to use a spelling checker, and encourage them to try out one of the new grammar‑checking programs as well. Using a com­puter to eliminate at least some of the irritating mechanical problems can make writing less burdensome and more rewarding for students.


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