In this guest post, Brenda Yang introduces us to a Daily Writing Challenge. Brenda and her colleagues developed this challenge as a way to hold one another accountable for their writing and turn writing into a daily habit rather than an occasional task. If you are like me, it is easy to save writing for "when there is time", when in reality, every day should have a block of time (be it small or large) dedicated to writing. I am excited to share Brenda's writing tool with you, and to start using it myself. Read more below to learn how the Daily Writing Challenge works, and find links to templates so you can start your own Daily Writing Challenge!
As Brian mentioned earlier this week, grading is not always our favorite part of the job, but there are some things we can do to make our lives a little easier.
We previously discussed some grading tips and tricks in previous posts (find them here and here and in this guest post here) that could apply to writing assignments. Some of those include setting a time limit per assignment, grading by section (if you are grading a paper with multiple sections), and grading a small amount of papers at a time to break down the big task into smaller ones. Another strategy discussed in those earlier posts is creating and using quality rubrics.
When I first started teaching, incorporating writing into my classes was not a focus. The idea of grading more than one paper/class in a semester was daunting. But in the last year and a half or so I have come to realize that if I’m not giving my students multiple opportunities to write within the discipline, than I am not preparing them for their futures.
All too often we hear complaints about how poorly students write, but it seems like part of the problem is that we are expecting to students to carry forward skills they learn in their freshman composition classes without giving them much of a chance to practice and develop over the course of a semester, and eventually their four years here, if all we do it assign a literature review paper in each class. We have to be honest with ourselves, students will not remember the feedback they get on their writing if they don't have to use until the next semester or the next research paper. Because of that I have taken up my fair share of writing instruction by requiring several different kinds of writing assignments in my classes from reflections, application assignments, and online discussions to today’s topic, the essay exam.
Learning to write and how to do so effectively is an important part of a college education. Writing assignments can be easily incorporated into upper level classes, but sometimes it can be a challenge to integrate writing in lower level courses. When I had the opportunity to teach intro, I wanted to try to incorporate low-stakes writing assignments to get the students feet wet and also get an idea of what my student’s writing abilities are. I tried to do this in a couple different ways.
When we first started brainstorming about our writing in the classroom series, my mind immediately jumped to the ‘writing workshop’ I hold twice per semester in my introductory psychology course. However, this writing workshop is quite similar to the exercise detailed by Karly in Monday’s post for this series. I agree that making a draft of their essay due for an in-class peer reviewed activity helps keep students accountable, develops editing skills, and allows students to learn from the positive and negative aspects of the other papers they review. I like to have students review multiple papers during one writing workshop so that they are exposed to a range of papers (in terms of quality) and so that students can see the edits or comments previous reviewers left. I encourage students to comment on or respond to remarks left by previous editors, because paying attention to editing style also helps students learn by example. My writing workshop also incorporates structured class discussion where we talk about beneficial and detrimental aspects of the papers students reviewed most recently. The discussion touches on micro-, meso-, and macro-level elements of the essay. At the end of each semester, students comment that the two writing workshops help them improve their essays dramatically, and I can attest to this as well as the average grade for essays in my class has increased since the introduction of the writing workshop. While I agree whole-heartedly with Karly about the benefits of using class time to help students become better writers and editors, I wanted to add something new to the series.