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Archive for April, 2010

If your course includes a formal paper or semester project due in the last week or two of the semester, now is the perfect time to start thinking about what you can do in class to support the writing students are doing out of class. Here are four things you can do to improve student writing in fifteen minutes or less.

1. Review your expectations for source citations and tell students what source citation system you want them to use. To save yourself aggravation when you grade final papers, review source citations in class early in April, and have students turn in at least a partial bibliography the week of April 12. Fear not—you don’t need to spend time correcting formatting errors in the bibliographies. Grade them pass (no glaring errors you could see at a glance) or fail and hand them back the next class period with a reminder of the importance of using the assigned format.

2. Are you frustrated by papers that don’t actually do what the assignment requires? Review your expectations for the final product in an interactive discussion/demonstration. To do this, hand out another copy of the assignment sheet (ideally they would still have the one you gave them originally, but there are always one or two people who have lost it), and give them a few minutes to reread it. Then have students help you generate a list on the board of what the paper will include (content) or do (function).

3. Do students tend to make claims but fail to support them? Take five minutes in class one day to show them the kind of unsupported claim you often see and then the kinds of reasons and/or evidence you want their papers to include. Then start over with a second claim and have students generate the appropriate reasons and/or evidence.

4. Are some students still not using the style or tone that is appropriate for the assignment? Bring in a sample paragraph that includes the casual style or careless errors you want to talk them out of, and demonstrate sentence by sentence as you transform it from casual, careless, first draft to the kind of polished prose you want to see in their final papers.

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