Across the Curriculum
IDEA # 1
- Tips for Creating Good Writing Activities and
Assignments by Karen Carlisi, Pasadena City College
The following suggestions can help
you to design interesting and motivating writing activities
and assignments implementing the principles of WAC:
- Use writing assignments to encourage
students to think about subject matter. The purpose
of WAC is to teach students to think.
- Design writing assignments that encourage
students to discover new relationships and to restructure
the frames which shape their ways of understanding the
- State clearly what thinking and writing
tasks are expected. Otherwise, and even in spite of
it, students may make up their own.
- Create a "cross-discipline" prompt
which allows students to apply knowledge from different
subjects or classes, although it may not require such
- As each assignment is introduced,
reinforce the objective of "writing to learn" and de-emphasize
"writing for evaluation". Also, explain the specific
objectives of a particular assignment and how that assignment
helps to achieve the objectives for the course.
For example, journals help students explore their own
thinking, while other assignments, such as summaries,
help them improve their reading
skills. Process logs teach them about data-collection
techniques, while synthesis of journal articles improves
their analytic skills.
- Give students an assignment sheet
that guides them through the thinking and writing processes.
The assignment sheet can include information on the
audience (e.g., peers, field professionals), purpose
(to demonstrate, illustrate, or persuade), and genre
(research proposal, critique).
- Provide students with suggestions
on how to get information, organize their first draft,
edit, and even use a word processor.
- Find out if students have done the
kind of writing required for an assignment. For example,
students may be familiar with analysis of short stories
and novels, but unfamiliar with analysis of the methodology
in a research report. Help them to apply what they already
know to the new kind of writing. Clarify the requirements
for the kind of writing that is unfamiliar to them.
- Let students know how much and what
kind of written feedback you will give them.
- Inform students whether you are available
for conferencing on the assignment and whether or not
they can revise what they hand in.
- When you ask students to revise an
assignment, clarify what they should address in a revision
and give examples of effective revision.
- Imagine how you would do the assignment.
This will help you to discuss predictable problems and
suggest useful strategies.
- Whenever possible, ask students to
think about relationships between theory and practice,
principles and experience, facts and their applications.
- Encourage students to draw on assigned
readings, class discussions, and personal experiences
as "data." They don’t necessarily have to go to
the library to develop an understanding of what "research"
- Make the assignment interesting and
inspiring so that students are motivated to write. Challenge
their imaginations to "play" with the subject and yet
treat it seriously.
- Before students begin writing, discuss
and give them a written criteria for evaluation. Also,
give them assignment guidelines. Continue the discussion
as students proceed through the assignment.
- Use examples of student work from
previous classes that represent varying skill levels.
Design an activity in which students assess the models
using the criteria given.
- Share your own writing with students
when it serves as an effective example of professional
writing. For example, show them your summary of
a philosophical critique, or your observation log done
on a geological field trip. Even if it is in rough draft
form, it demonstrates the value and relevance of the
IDEA # 2 -.
Guidelines for formal writing assignment,
concept by Laury Fischer, Diablo Valley College:
begin a formal writing assignment pass out a worksheet
asking students to quickly identify aspects of their assignment
by writing a very brief answer to each topic. Download a Word document
which includes the following topics:
- Writing to learn assignments
- STARTING THE CLASS: Have
a question on the board to stimulate that day’s
discussion/lecture (What question do you have about
last night’s reading? What examples of cognitive
dissonance did you see on the way to school today?
What is the most important element of last night’s
reading that you would tell someone who forgot to
- MID-CLASS: In the middle
of class, have students summarize the lecture/discussion
so far. If there’s been a dispute or too much
quiet, have the students write their thoughts as a
way to cool things down or re-stimulate conversation.
Write questions about the material so far.
- Collaborative Activities (by
Bonny Bryan, Santa Barbara City College)
a class session of mine slip by without some collaborative
activity. Part of my task is to foster in my students
a sense of "buy in." The more connected they are to each
other and the more they feel a sense of community, the
more they feel accountable-to their peers, to the material,
and to the class.
I am quite sure none
of the following is new (I am not a big fan of reinventing
the wheel). I have learned a great deal from watching
others in action and from my own trial and error. I try
different collaborative activities each semester and tailor
those I can rely on to fit particular groups.
Panel Presentation ideas that foster collaboration click
- Facilitating Class Discussions
by Jack Ullom Santa Barbara City College
Design a graphic organizer that delineates the
four areas of a Developmental discussion. Then pose
a question to be discussed by small collaborative groups
(four in each group) who write in their individual responses
to the question in each of the four areas of the graphic
organizer. Have groups share the finished product and
turn in the graphic organizer for credit. Be sure the
organizer has the name of the contributor for each area.
discussion question that is introduced by a common or
personal event and then by a controversial event. Ask
the students to state facts in support of their hypotheses.
Question the students about the question to solicit:
information, analysis of the information, and evaluation
of the information.
Take one single
topic and design a comparative, evaluative, and critical
question on that topic.