Students benefit from doing assignments that reflect
the kind of writing done in that discipline. For example, students
need to learn how to write a lab
report for chemistry, a
care plan for nursing, or
a literature review for
sociology. Not only will this type of writing make the content
of the class more meaningful, but students will feel the instrumental
benefit of learning a skill that will serve them well in a future
job. However, these are types of writing that are not taught
in English Departments, but which are essential for students to learn.
The first step in helping students to increase
their writing proficiency in a particular genre is to point out
the key characteristics of that genre. Students may have
read material with these characteristics, but they need assistance
in identifying them. It is important that students understand the
analytic processes involved in the writing rather than merely
imitate form. For example, often students will copy form by
using similar section headings, number of pages, etc.
When you introduce a particular genre of writing, provide a sample
of the form and help students to identify and analyze the key characteristics:
Analyze models of the form; give students Form Guidelines;
give students practice opportunities to write in the form.
Sources for good professional models:
- Professional Journals
- The Workplace
- Student-authored samples from the web
- Student-authored samples from previous classes.
Tips on how to analyze the model:
Use class discussion or homework assignments
as the forum for analysis of a model
Analyze models before students make attempts
to write in that form
Have students write an outline of the model
Have students create a chart that represents
the content for different parts of the model, e.g. purpose, necessary
information, key components, format
Ask students to answer a list of homework
questions about the model.
- What is the primary purpose of the model?
What are possible secondary purposes?
- Who is the audience? What assumptions about
the audience does the author seem to make?
- How is it organized? Why is it organized
- What is the function or purpose of each section?
How does each section contribute to the whole?
- What information is included in each section?
How did the author get the information?
- What do you notice about the language, style,
and length of each part?
- How do the characteristics of this model compare
with characteristics of other forms of special writing
that you have written or read?
- What documentation does the author use to
refer to outside sources.
Use Student-Authored Models
Demonstrate the possibilities for achievement
by using a student-authored model. Choose models that are
good but which have some imperfections so as to provide opportunities
for assessment. When you use a student-authored text, the
following approaches can be taken:
- Ask students to examine the model and ask
these questions: What works well? What could be
- Compare two student-authored models and
ask: What are the similarities? What are the significant
- Ask students to revise a student-authored
text and discuss their revisions. Use shorter models for
GIVE STUDENTS FORM GUIDELINES
Once students have studied the models, they
will be prepared to do the necessary reading, investigation, and analysis
for their own writing. Follow these steps to help them with
- Summarize the key characteristics of the form,
(e.g. assumptions, methods, and structure)
- Create form guidelines for the students, OR
do a class activity in which students collaborate to create form
- As you review the guidelines, offer tips for
following the guidelines
- Encourage students to use the guidelines as
- Ask students to use the guidelines as a checklist
that they submit with their draft
- If you use peer feedback, the guidelines can
be used to give direction to peer responses
- If the guidelines are well-written, they can
also help with instructor feedback on student drafts.
Heres an example of form guidelines
for a review article: