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Writing to Learn-Using Informal and Formal Writing Inside and Outside the Classroom Rifat A. Salam, Ph.D. Borough of Manhattan Community.

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Presentation on theme: "Writing to Learn-Using Informal and Formal Writing Inside and Outside the Classroom Rifat A. Salam, Ph.D. Borough of Manhattan Community."— Presentation transcript:

1 Writing to Learn-Using Informal and Formal Writing Inside and Outside the Classroom Rifat A. Salam, Ph.D. Borough of Manhattan Community College- The City University of New York

2 Elements of Good Writing Assignments Think of the best and worst writing assignments you were either given as a student or that you assigned to students What are the characteristics of successful assignments and those which did not “work” “Good” assignments engage the student, incorporate writing process and incorporate course learning goals “Writing” does not always need to be graded in order to be worthwhile

3 Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) WAC is a pedagogical movement that started in the 1980s Promotes student-centered learning, the development of critical thinking and the idea of “writing-to-learn” Fostering active learning of students through writing Encourages thoughtful response to student writing to promote revision

4 Basics of Using WAC Process over product and the use of informal writing Careful development of formal assignments— using scaffolding and sequencing Privilege active learning strategies in the classroom-in class activities De-privilege grammar correction Avoiding “correction” while promoting revision Give students feedback which will help them develop their ideas and their writing

5 Informal Writing Writing-to-Learn—students use writing as an activity to help them learn the subject or topic or help them to understand the readings Informal writing is not graded (though it can “count” like participation) “Freewriting” encourages students to think through writing—give students a prompt to encourage thinking and writing on a topic or problem

6 Informal Writing In the Classroom In the classroom, students can do quick writing activities to help generate class discussion on the topic under study Students can respond to a writing prompt and then share with a partner (“Think, Pair, Share) and discuss what they wrote An instructor can use a quick writing prompt at the end of class to gauge student learning of a concept or topic (use last 5 minutes of class)

7 Informal Writing Outside the Classroom Reading or response journals—do not need to be graded or can be “lightly graded” Give students questions to answer about readings Informal activities can be done as steps towards a larger assignment e.g. brainstorm a research question, develop a thesis statement, an annotated bibliography for a research paper Students can complete writing activities which were started in class

8 Developing Effective Formal Assignments Give students a written assignment guideline, breaking down requirements of the paper Writing assignments should reflect the learning you want to “assess” or have happen For longer papers, break down tasks required to write the paper i.e. library research, analysis questions Build in time for drafting and revision Provide clear grading criteria/points breakdown (See handout from CSI-CUNY WAC Program)

9 Promote Revision Students should be encouraged to get in the habit of writing and revising drafts Give focused, effective comments (see Nancy Sommers)—more is not more when it comes to commenting on student papers Ask students to re-read and revise their papers; encourage and provide guides for peer reviews Grammar and spelling are important but encourage them to work on “higher order” issues first and then focus on proofreading. Students often do the latter and think they are “revising.” Provide strategies, as well as college and web resources such as Purdue OWL

10 How do I know this is a “good” assignment? Go over the writing assignment guidelines in class and note the questions that students have about the assignment itself Do drafts reflect an understanding of the assignment? Is the focus of the paper too broad, too narrow or just right? The student papers you receive will let you know Do the final papers (not all of them will be perfect!) reflect what you wanted your students to learn? If a larger number of students do not hand in the paper, you may have to go back to the drawing board

11 Conclusion: Students: Write Early and Often! Writing for Show (what they write for the professor, for a grade) versus Writing to Learn The more students write, the more they will develop that skill and develop their thinking—create a culture of writing in your class so they expect it When asking students to write, remember and remind them that their efforts will pay off in the long term, in their thinking and writing skills For more, see John C. Bean, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking and Active Learning in the Classroom


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