teaching with writing
in large classes
"You want the assignment to teach writing so that
you dont have to."
don't use any writing in large classes because teaching writing in
addition to course content will further increase their workloads. These
suggestions for using writing in large classes are designed so that
writing becomes a help to teaching the course content, rather than
a hindrance. The following "riffs on writing" in large classes
offer general principles for incorporating writing assignments into
Reward all writing that is done. Any writing assignment you give should
be taken up and evaluated. Comments can be minimal, especially if you
have made the guidelines for the assignment specific and clear. But
unless the writing is made to "count," students probably
won't perceive it as worth their effort.
Give writing assignments that allow students to think about their own
learning process in the class. In-class writings and informal, out-of-class
assignments can give students a chance to evaluate their own progress
and success in the course.
Consider the distinction between formal and informal pieces of writing.
Formal pieces require more time spent teaching and evaluating the writing
process; informal assignments give students a chance to use writing to
explore the course content without too much emphasis on the writing process.
Be sure that all student writing assignments have someone else's input
and response. Use writing partners or groups so that students can get
feedback from one another as well as from you.
and Structure: Give writing assignments that have small, definable
segments, controlled structures, and easy-to-follow steps.
some ideas for informal writing assignments in large classes:
students write proposals for larger, more formal writing assignments
or course projects.
requiring short memos or responses periodically throughout the quarter
to monitor students' progress in the course and their understanding
of course material.
- If you
assign a longer, more formal paper, use informal writing assignments
to help students frame a research question and report on the progress
of their research.
particularly complex or crucial lectures, have students write a 5-minute,
in-class response to the lecture, identifying issues that are unclear
or which warrant further discussion. Begin following classes by addressing
two or three key quotes or passages from assigned readings. Have students
write informal responses to these passages, then use the writings to
initiate group discussions.
larger assignments are due, have students write an accompanying memo
that evaluates their performance on the assignment.