Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York


Writing for EP-1 | Notes from Dr. Anne Fernald's seminar

See also the Harvard video Dr. Fernald recommended.

Remember: students should be able to write a decent essay before they get to college. Your job is to make sure they do, to help improve their writing, and to drill them in the conventions specific to your discipline. Have fun!

What we all know...

Teach writing as a process not as a product. Focus students on the art of organization that goes into producing a good essay.

Break the writing process down into separate stages - such as the plan, the draft, and the final edited version.

Try to give students feedback after each stage. You can do this to the class as a whole as well as on students' papers. Try to focus students on one significant aspect of their writing which they can improve - for eg. their use of paragraphs.

What we mustn't forget...

Try to balance the upfront explaining of an assignment (in class and in the rubric) with the in-process updates that highlight where students are going wrong and what you want students to do. Unfold your explanation over more than one class because many of them need to hear what you want more than once.

Mix some "low stakes" writing in with the "high stakes" essays. Try some writing assignments beyond the take-home essay such as writing in the classroom and online forum postings.

Build review of writing into classroom time. There are many ways to do this: highlight good paragraphs in essays or online postings; read and discuss key quotes juxtaposed from different readings; discuss postings to online forums.

Your expectations...

It's up to you, but make sure you're clear on your syllabus and in class about what you expect.

Some things we should all expect!

Expect students to spell check and proof read!
Expect students to be diligent and scrupulous with citations and references. No quotes without citations.
Have your House rules! For egs. expect students to give more than a web address for a reference, to give a page number for all quotes from books, and to know there's any such thing as a Proper Noun.

FACULTY RESPONSES: What was the best idea, comment, technique from the workshop?
Separate writing/grammar from ideas/thesis. Work on argument and points made rather than grammar.

The best idea was the need for clarity in assignments. Make shorter assignments. Assigning one paragraph in class sometimes.

Get students to go over assignments with one another in class. Expose them to the variety of student writing.

Anne's suggestion for how to be positive when grading, even a mediocre paper: pick out one paragraph and show them what the problems are; then pick one aspect for them to focus on.

Writing that engages students freely, so writing is familiar and part of the class; I've been doing this hesitantly and haphazardly, but now I feel motivated to include these kinds of assignments deliberately.

It was extremely useful to think about "stretching out the essay process"; I frequently get locked into assigning the essay and giving only one-on-one help. I think this will help get the students' own ideas out first.

Recommended by Dr. Fernald

John Bean 'Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom' (2001, John Wiley, San Francisco, CA.)

Joseph Harris 'Rewriting: How to do things with Texts' (2006, Utah UP).

Recommended by Dr. Kelemen

David Rosenwasser & Jill Stephen 'Writing Analytically' (2009, 5th edition, Thomas Wadsworth, Boston, MA.)

Barbara E. Fassler Walvoord 'Helping Students Write Well: A Guide to Teachers in All Disciplines' (1986, Modern Language Association of America, New York, NY.)

EP Faculty can pick up copies of both of these books from Cathy Buescher (718) 817 3049

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