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Writing Across the Curriculum

  • Minute papers are an excellent way to introduce writing into practically any course. At the end of the class, leave a few minutes and ask students to write down what they got out of the lecture. You can have the students identify themselves on their papers and use the papers to take attendance. Or, instead of collecting the papers, you might have your students keep their summaries in a notebook that you collect part-way through the semester. (Note: if you have your students identify themselves, you're obligated to give them some feedback.)
  • Worksheets are another way to get students to practice their writing. This is an excellent technique if you find that your students aren't coming to class prepared. Create a worksheet with 3 to 5 questions on their reading assignment and collect their answers at the beginning of the class. These papers can be worth a few points that count towards their grade for the semester, and your students should be much more prepared to engage in discussion of the assignment.
  • Ask your students to keep a journal. Use the 3 column approach originally by Jane Kirkpatrick, a Nursing Professor at Purdue. She was not pleased with her students' journals the first time they were assigned. She thought the content was superficial and that the students didn't delve into the thinking process as much as she would have liked. She now uses a 3 column approach where students divide their papers into three columns. In the first column, the students write a description of the event. In the second column they write an analysis of it. And in the third column, they answer the question “How will you apply this in the future?” Her results are much more satisfying.
  • For longer papers, make sure the assignment is written out and then explain it as clearly as possible. Give your students a rubric for how the paper is going to be graded. Shortly after the paper is assigned, ask them to submit an outline and meet with them to go over it. This should help to reduce procrastination, give you a chance to give each student a pep talk, and answer any questions they may have about the assignment.
  • To avoid plagiarism, make the topic of the paper specific to the class. For instance, don't assign a paper on a famous person, like Christopher Columbus. Instead, assign a comparison-contrast paper between Christopher Columbus and Ponce De Leon.
  • Teach your students the art of proof-reading. Give them time in-class (and encourage them to do this out-of-class as well), to exchange papers and edit each other's work. Don't just set them loose without some instruction for editing and offering feedback.
  • Encourage students who are having difficulty with grammar or the basics of writing to go to the Writing Lab in Heavilon Hall.
  • Use a rubric for grading papers. For instance, if a paper is worth 100 points, you could assign a scale from 1 to 10 points for the outline that was submitted. And then 1 to 10 points for the thesis statement, etc. This makes grading much more objective.