Successful Writing Assignments and Strategies 

Writing to Learn | Discipline Specific | Peer Review

Writing to Learn

Carol Rhoder

Students are required to respond to each assigned reading on a 5x8 index card. They are given specific instructions to reflect on and respond to, not summarize, what they have read. They are asked to integrate their responses with other theories and ideas they have read as the semester proceeds, and with actual classroom practices that they may observe or participate in during  their field work or when student teaching.  This often is an uncomfortable task for them, since many of the readings present conflicting theories and ideas. However, by constraining space, while asking them to do a high-level, thought-provoking thinking and writing task, they are required to think through the readings, process them at a deeper level and form and clarify their own ideas. I respond to their cards and return them each week, and often a dialog takes place that lasts throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, their collection of cards helps them to apply theory to practice as they complete projects, curriculum units and take-home exams.

Directions on my syllabus is as follows:
Response to each weekly reading assignment, on separate 5 x 8 index cards, due on the same day the reading is assigned. Print directly on the card or print on a separate page and staple to the card. You need not summarize what you have read; I have already read the articles. Rather, respond to it. Give your opinions, reflections, personal responses. Integrate with previous readings, your field work or student teaching as appropriate.

Students keep a "learning log"section in the back of their notebooks. At the end of each class I take about 5-10 minutes to have them respond to the following three questions.

1) What is one thing you learned in class today, one point that you want to
be sure to remember?

2) Is there anything that confused you, that you did not understand or that you would like

3) Is there anything you disagreed with or want to discuss further?

We then take a few minutes to share, if they choose to. This is completely risk-free; they don't have  to share their ideas if they don't want to.

Discipline Specific

Jeanine Meyer (CIS)


1. Write a 3-page essay on a computer topic.  Pick something you can write about such as your first experience with computers or your changing experiences with computers or how you expect to use computing in your major.  Another category of topics is how computers are shown in use in a movie and your reactions.  Another category is your summary and observations on a news event.  Do not pick a topic that is so technical that you do not fully understand it and will just copy from sources.  Do pick a topic that interests you.  You can use this assignment to explore a new area.
2. Send me an e-mail message describing your topic.  Put “Essay topic: ....” in the subject line.   Include your full name in the From line and also in the message.  I will make an individual reply.  Make sure you read this reply because I may not have given approval for your topic or I may have given specific guidelines or suggestions.  The topic is your responsibility.  Make a printout of my reply to attach to your essay.
3. Use word processing.  This is a requirement!  This means that you should read what you write: reflect, revise and edit.  Print out a draft and proofread the hardcopy.  Use spell-check and grammar-check.  If spell-check flags a particular term that you know is correct, you hit IGNORE or SKIP and go on to check the next word.  The absence of spell-check or grammar-check on the computer you are using is not an excuse. Make corrections and improvements.  Read the final draft and make sure it is perfect.  If it is not, make the corrections and print out a new copy.  If there are problems with your printer, arrange to use a better printer.
4. Use standard margins (1.25 inches), line spacing (double space) and fonts (12 point).
5. Justify both margins.  This means that both left and right margins should be straight.  In Microsoft Word, this is done using a button on the toolbar.
6. The body of the essay should be 3 pages (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pages).  A title page, perhaps with clipart and the title in large letters plus your name, is always a pleasing addition.  If you use a title page, do not repeat the title and your name on the inside pages.
7. If you use sources, include a Works Cited or Bibliography page.  If you interview someone, cite the interview.  If you use on-line sources, they must also be cited.  The citation should include the date you looked at the Web site.  Use a standard format (check at the library) for all sources.  Modern standard format uses bold and italics.
8. The style of writing should suit the topic.  Informal writing may be appropriate for certain topics, but you still need to be clear and careful about grammar and punctuation.  Avoid slang, clichés (“a mouse click away”) and exaggerations (“...cannot live without computers...”).  If you are taking a strong position on a topic, guide the reader through your argument.  Consider other points of view.
9. You may make use of features such as italics, bold, fancy fonts, and color, but only if it helps communicate your message.  One typical example would be putting the names of computer products in bold and/or computer jargon in italics.  Be consistent in what you do.
10. The Writing Lab is available (second floor, Park Row and basement, Willcox).
Gerard Vallone (PHILOSOPHY)


People, places and language were factors that influenced the development of Anna’s abilities to think (philosophically).  Considering the contents of Section 1 in Christian’s text focusing on Chapter 1-3, especially the section “Critical Skills,” and Chapter 1-4, especially “How to Do Synoptic Philosophy,” on one or at most two sides of a page:

1.  State what you think is involved in thinking philosophically.

2.  Select one incident involving either people, places or language from Mr. God,  This is Anna, which shows her thinking philosophically.

3.  Say why you think the incident you chose is an example of philosophical
      thinking, i.e. indicate the “places” in the example where you can “see” her
      thinking philosophically.

Peer Review

Gerard Vallone (PHILOSOPHY)
See Disicipline-Specific Introduction to Philosophy Writing Assignment


                  Absence of any aspect of C.

        1.  Subject Matter   2.     Form
                                                    a.  typed
                                                    b.  length
                                                    c. structure
                                                          i   introduction
                                                         ii   body
                                                         iii   conclusion
                                                     d.  language
                                                          i   spelling
                                                          ii   punctuation
                                                          iii   grammar


         1.  Clarity of Expression
         2.  Quality of Examples
          1. Uninformed Reader's Comprehension


I.  Mr. God, This is Anna

A.  Definition of key term  _____________________________________________

B.  Example  =================================================

C.  Reason(s) for example  -------------------------------------------------------------------

II.  Epistemology Paper

A.  Explanation of Processes  ___________________________________________

B.  Aspects that may be believed  ===================================

C.  Aspects that my be known  ---------------------------------------------------------------

III.  Question of Concept Paper

A.  Is the question clearly stated?

B.  Is the question a question of concept or a mixed question?  If mixed, what are its components, and is the conceptual aspect clearly isolated?

C.  How is the paper developed?

D.   Is there a resolution?


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