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Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Assignment Design > Writing
Designing Writing Assignments
Well-designed writing assignments, in short, lead directly to student learning. In doing so, well–designed writing assignments help you achieve your most central student-learning goals.
What's on This Page?
You’ll find a list of general assignment design principles directly below and then a design template that can help you apply best practices and create an effective and clear/easy-to-understand writing assignment.
Some General Principles
- Clearly link each assignment to the course goals and learning outcomes.
- Break large, high-stakes assignments into multiple, low-stakes assignments .
- Identify the purpose, audience, and genre (e.g. book review, reflection letter) for the assignment.
- Design assignments around real-world issues and events to engage and motivate students.
- Link directly to assignment readings (in your course reserves , for example)
- Provide model responses to the assignment from previous students whose permission you've received to anonymously share their work. Make sure to take time to discuss these models with your students in class. Be explicit about what makes them successful.
- Provide supporting structures such as templates, peer review, multiple drafts, and guidelines for library research.
- Provide grading guidelines for the assignment in the form of rubrics and examples of acceptable and unacceptable work.
- Revise assignments for next term based on student performance and feedback . Does each assignment develop student expertise in line with course learning goals?
- Consider how you can create assignments that deter plagiarism . Remember to include plagiarism, re-write, and late work policies in your syllabus.
Writing Assignment Template
Use this one-page writing assignment template to help you prepare for your class's next writing assignment.
Matthew Pearson, Director of the Center for Writing-based Learning, is available to meet with individual faculty members to revamp existing course assignments or design new writing assignments.
Email Matthew for an appointment.
- Designing Writing Assignments by Traci Gardner. This free open text is all about designing writing assignments. Jump to chapter 3 to learn what Gardner argues the "three goals of a writing assignment" are.
- Writing Commons . This site bills itself as a "free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research."
Designing Writing Assignments
A well-designed assignment can focus and guide students’ work as they write papers and develop projects, and it can also make evaluating students’ work easier for faculty. As Rebecca Hacker argues in The Chronicle of Higher Education , creating an assignment sheet is a challenging writing task, one that requires faculty to think not only about what they want students to produce but also what students need to know in order to produce good work.
What makes a good assignment?
Purpose: The assignment should develop students’ understanding of the most important concepts, content, and methods of the course or give students an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding – or both.
Alignment: The scale, form, and task of an assignment should fit with course goals. While traditional essays and research papers can accomplish many things, they’re not the only way to foster or measure students’ understanding of course ideas or methods. Sometimes, informal assignments or alternative projects fit better (and they can be easier to incorporate into your course and your workload).
Context: All writing happens in context, and good assignments specify the context. That might mean saying a few words about how the assignment fits in the unfolding of a course, but it could also mean inviting students to imagine writing for an audience other than the professor or in a professional or civic situation.
Engaging: Good assignments engage students in the concepts and content of a course. In addition, students produce better work when they tackle challenging questions that matter and when they write in ways that build on but also stretch their skills. Good assignments should also be interesting for faculty. Writing Studies scholar Irv Peckham encourages faculty to avoid assigning papers that we don’t want to read.
This Assignment Design MadLib template will help you think about how an assignment can help students learn the key content of your course. Want more help? Check out this example for an informal reading response and another example for a multimedia project .
What, Why, and How: Guiding Questions for Assignment Design
WHAT does the project involve?
- What are you asking students to do?
- In what context are they writing — for whom, with what expectations or needs, with what situational constraints or challenges?
- How should students develop these projects? For example, what kinds of research should they do? Do you want them to use specific analytical approaches or particular course materials or concepts?
- Practical details – form, length, documentation, style, due dates
WHY are students doing the project?:
- What do you want students to learn by doing this project?
- What do you hope these projects will demonstrate about students’ learning?
- How does the project develop, build on, and/or deploy the central knowledge and approaches of the course?
HOW you will evaluate students’ work?:
- Criteria – What qualities are you looking for?
- Rubric – How well does a project need to demonstrate each criteria? Note that some faculty like rubrics, because they make the standards for assignments clear and facilitate grading. Others find them limiting.
Here are two examples that show how the MadLib translates into an assignment:
- Framing Document
- Introducing Your Space
You can also download a Writing Assignment Template to follow as you write your own assignment sheet.
More Ideas and Resources
- Backward design can help ensure that assignments advance course goals
The goal of a course is for students to understand a set of ideas, concepts, materials, or methods, so assignments ought to focus on generating and demonstrating that understanding. If we begin course planning by articulating the end goal in concrete terms – what could students do if they understood the core ideas of the course? – then we can design assignments that emphasize those goals.
- Consider breaking big projects down into smaller parts
Students generally produce better work if they develop large projects over time, rather than doing all the work at the end of the semester. Scaffolding assignments by asking students to complete several parts of a project over the course of a semester will generate better papers at the end. While responding to incremental assignments takes time, doing a little more work in the middle of the semester can make grading final papers easier.
- Multimodal assignments challenge and engage students
Digital and multimedia assignments – what Writing Studies experts call “multimodal assignments” – generate interesting and meaningful work, and they can be both engaging and challenging for students and more interesting for faculty to review. Yet they also pose some particular challenges, because they ask students to integrate words with images, sound, and video, and they often involve learning new digital production skills. Faculty also evaluate these projects differently. We’ve posted some ideas about how to approach these assignments under Assigning and Assessing Multimodal Projects .
Instructional Design Blog
from the Dynamic Duo!
by MU Instructional Designers September 29, 2021 5-7 min read
Design authentic assignments.
Writing assignments are a common and essential form of assessment in the classroom, but a key to their success is to make them authentic and meaningful beyond the classroom. Similar to our best practices for discussions , you should first examine whether a writing assignment is the best (or even the only) approach to students accomplishing the learning goals (framed as “separating the means from the ends” in UDL on Campus’s article about learning goals ). When you assess whether or not a writing assignment is the best route, you’re able to more clearly articulate for students why this assignment is meaningful and authentic. This is particularly relevant when you explore types of writing assignments beyond the traditional academic paper, like web articles, interviews, white papers, etc., which might help students see real world relevance to the assignment (critical component of andragogy).
Provide opportunities for student voice and choice.
Providing room for student voice and choice in some of the options within an assignment is an excellent way to increase access and inclusion for diverse students (consider UDL and CRT frameworks for inclusion ). As you plan a writing assignment, examine different aspects that could provide students with flexibility in how they complete the task. Could there be options for the topic/focus of their writing or for its style/format (e.g. scholarly essay, popular publication, etc.)? For example, a course goal might be for students to express themselves in an APA academic paper, but they can have a choice in what aspect of the course content they write about. Or, perhaps the goal is for students to analyze a film or composition, and they could choose to do that in a traditional essay format or in the format of a magazine article.
Set clear expectations.
Students need clearly defined expectations in all their assignments. The assignment instructions should articulate the expectations regarding both content and mechanics — how long should the final work be? Is external research expected, and if so with which citation style? Are there style and/or tone expectations (e.g. avoiding the use of first person voice)? Beyond the assignment instructions, samples of student work as well as detailed analytic grading rubrics can greatly clarify expectations ( rubrics in Canvas ).
Provide options for feedback and reflection.
As with any assignment, mastery-oriented feedback is essential for writing assignments ( UDL checkpoint 8.4 ). In particular, feedback opportunities throughout the writing process scaffold student learning effectively. This can take the form of teacher or peer feedback on stages like research question/thesis development, outlines, annotated bibliographies, early drafts, etc. ( peer review in Canvas ). Once again, rubrics can come in handy here ( UDL checkpoint 9.4 ).
In addition to feedback from others, it’s important for students to give themselves feedback on their writing process in the form of reflections and/or self-evaluations. A formalized approach to this would be for writing assignments to be submitted in a portfolio format, with additional documentation and reflection on the revisions made to earlier drafts. Less formally, surveys or brief written reflections can prompt students to develop those metacognitive skills when it comes to writing ( UDL checkpoint 9.3 ).
Scaffold ethical behavior.
When we think about academic integrity and digital ethics in the context of writing assignments, three concerns come to mind: plagiarism , information literacy/validation , and privacy .
The most effective strategies for promoting academic honesty and avoiding plagiarism are not reactive (e.g. Turnitin ) but instead proactive . First, clearly outline your expectations regarding what constitutes plagiarism; international and non-traditional students especially often need this clarification. Second, empower students to be successful without resorting to academic dishonesty. The Writing Center (undergrad) and Heartful Editor (grad) can give students direct feedback and guidance. Self-service tools such as those available on Messiah’s writing program website , the Library research help site , and the Messiah University Writing Center Resources web page can also equip students to research and write effectively. (Check out our annotated bibliography on academic integrity .)
When research is involved in a writing assignment, information literacy/validation is also important. A key component in digital citizenship is the critical thinking skills required for evaluating potential sources for credibility and authenticity. The Library offers extensive support in this area, including asynchronous resources and classroom visits.
Lastly, it’s important to consider privacy in the context of what students write and with whom their work is shared. If student papers will be shared beyond an instructor (e.g. peer review, publication, future samples, etc.), students must be informed early in the process, so that they can choose what to share and not share with others. Encourage students to think critically about the level of personal information they choose to share about themselves.
To learn more about the research on writing assignments, check out our annotated bibliography .
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Designing Writing Assignments
- Teaching strategies, Student Writing, Pedagogy, assessment
By Traci Gardner Digitized by the Colorado State University Libraries
Table of Contents
Open the entire book: 6.7 MB
1. The Essentials of an Effective Writing Assignment
2. Putting Beliefs into Practice
3. Designing Writing Assignments
4. Defining New Tasks for Standard Writing Activities
5. Preparing for Standardized Testing
6. More Writing Assignment Resources
Appendix: NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing
About the Author
Publication Information: Gardner, Traci. (2008). Designing Writing Assignments . National Council of Teachers of English. https://wac.colostate.edu/books/ncte/gardner/ Publication Date: March 15, 2011
NCTE on WAC
Books in this series are presented on the WAC Clearinghouse courtesy of the National Council of Teachers of English. This book can be purchased in print from the NCTE online bookstore .
Copyright © 2008 National Council of Teachers of English. 109 pages. Available in print from NCTE . Available in digital format for no charge on this page at the WAC Clearinghouse. You may view this book. You may print personal copies of this book. You may link to this page. You may not reproduce this book on another website. For permission to use materials from this book in other publications, please contact [email protected] .
Writing Rhetoric & Discourse, DePaul University
- Course Calendar
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- Pedagogy & Teaching Statement
- Preliminary Writing Assignment
- Sample Page
- Teaching Writing Online Course Project
More recent research, conducted jointly by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Council of Writing Program Administrators (WPA), has shown that for promoting engagement and deep learning, the number of writing assignments in a course may not be as important as the design of the writing assignments themselves .
Good assignments, this research has shown, give students opportunities to receive early feedback on their work, encourage meaning-making, and clearly explain the instructor’s expectations and purpose. — John C. Bean, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom
From Chapter 5 of Bean’s Engaging Ideas :
- Before you create an assignment, consider the kind of writing you want students to produce. What do you want them to accomplish through this writing project? Do you want them to analyze a problem, to persuade readers, to practice or to demonstrate writing conventions in a particular discipline? Do you want them to explore an issue? To engage in truth seeking? How does the assignment support the learning goals central to your course?
Sample Rhetorical Analysis assignment (WRD103, Moore)
- Consider what thinking and writing processes you want students to undertake. How will your assignment create a rhetorical situation—audience, purpose, context, role of student writer, format or genre, and other parameters to guide students as they write?
- How might you design and sequence steps to move students through the process of the assignment and what kinds of informal writing assignments or activities will you use to support students as they work?
- Task : What issue, question, or problem will students address in their writing? What is the purpose of the writing? In what form/genre should it be presented? What are the formatting requirements for this writing task?
- Audience : Who is the audience for students’ writing? You, the teacher? Their peers? Specialists in the field? A nonspecialist, general audience?
- Support for Writing : What support will students have as they write? Will you provide feedback on drafts? Will they read each other’s drafts? Will they be able to revise? Will you hold individual conferences? Will they complete any writing activities in class?
- Criteria : Explain the learning goals of the assignment and on what basis it will be evaluated.
- Make time in class to distribute and discuss your assignment. If possible, provide a model or models of what a finished product might look like.
DePaul Teaching Commons: Assignment Design
From a recent CCC review essay :
The two books reviewed here, Everyday Genres by Mary Soliday and Toward a Composition Made Whole by Jody Shipka, are, in simplest terms, seeking to guide us on how to design good writing assignments. Soliday argues for genre-based, socially situated writing assignments in disciplines other than writing studies, and Shipka argues for assignments in writing studies designed to encompass forms of communication and rhetorical problem solving other than academic writing. The design of writing assignments is a subject under-researched and under-discussed in English and writing studies today.
Beaufort, Anne. “The Matter of Assignments in Writing Classes and Beyond.” College English via DePaul Library .
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Assignment design, assignment design i: designing problem-based assignments, what do we mean by “problem-based assignments” .
We are indebted to John Bean, who in his book, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom (Jossey-Bass, 2001), says this about writing and thinking:
“A basic premise of [this] book, growing out of the educational philosophy of John Dewey, is that critical thinking–and indeed all significant learning–originates in the learner’s engagement with problems. Consequently, the design of interesting problems to think about is one of the teacher’s chief behind-the-scenes tasks” (xi).
We would concede that students do not need to write in order to think. Nevertheless, writing makes their thinking visible , and students need, first and foremost, good problems about which to write.
Some approaches to problem-based assignments:
Writing-to-Learn Assignments (Exploratory Writing)
- Privileges discovery over organization or communication
- May be thesis-seeking rather than thesis-supporting
- May call for reflection or reader response
- Sometimes used as “pre-writing” for more formal writing assignments
Presents a proposition (a focused thesis, not a topic) that students are supposed to defend or refute. Encourage students to use explicitly-stated criteria in coming to a measured conclusion.
Gives students a problem or question (not a topic) that demands a thesis answer and supporting evidence.
Presents students with a data set or graph and asks them to discover a thesis or general statement that gives meaning to it. For science courses, these essays offer practice in inductive reasoning.
Presents a theory, model, aesthetic movement, or philosophy (not a topic). Then ask students to use the defining features of the theory to analyze another text, work of fiction, or data set.
The principles of a given format are usually tied closely to the purpose and audience for the paper. One format might be prescribed or several formats might be prescribed. In the latter case, the formats may function as a heuristic for students to rethink a given problem through different lenses (different purposes, different audiences).
Assignment Design II: Communicating Expectations
Identifying general features of “good” writing, identifying general features of most academic writing.
- Identifying the distinctive features of your assignment
- Communicating the distinctive features of your assignment
Not all of us will agree on what the “general features of good writing” might be, but, to the extent that we do agree, we probably agree on a level of great generality. Some of these generalities are identified here. We think most would agree that good writing:
- Has a purpose
- Is controlled by a theme that is significant or meaningful
- Uses textual features effectively and in a manner suited to the purpose and audience
- Uses supporting detail effectively for purpose
- Is worth rereading (for information, for aesthetic value, etc.)
Just as we probably would agree on the features of good writing at a very general level, we might also agree on at least some of those features that make for strong academic writing. We suggest that, in general, good academic writing:
- Has a focused thesis
- Is effectively organized in a predictable pattern
- Has sufficient supporting detail or evidence suited to the purpose
- Addresses a “distant” audience and is formal in its tone
- Has appropriate diction (typically, this means it is written in standard edited English)
- Is honest or accurate
Here’s the point: Most university students probably agree that the features above characterize academic writing. Even if you don’t articulate these features in your criteria for writing assignments, your students would probably assume that you expect them to include these features. What your students might not understand is what distinguishes your particular assignment might provide your students with a list of the criteria that distinguish your assignment from other possible writing assignments.
Identifying the Distinctive Features of Your Assignment
- What is the purpose?
- How does this purpose differ from the purpose of other assignments?
- Who is the (hypothetical) audience?
- How does this audience differ from a general audience?
- What kind of problem is asked and what methods are best suited to solving it?
- What methods might work against effective problem-solving or effective communication?
You might begin to specify the distinguishing features of your assignment–that is, specifying the rhetorical situation for the assignment–by talking about how those features fit the general aspects contained in the RAFT acronym:
R ole – From what perspective or role should the student consider the subject matter?
A udience – Who will be reading the paper and what background knowledge assumptions might they have?
F ormat – How does the organization reflect awareness of purpose (appropriate methods for solving problems) and awareness of audience (effective methods for communicating solutions)?
T heme – What is the problem under discussion?
You might be more comfortable specifying the role, audience, and theme than you are specifying the format. Following are some examples of the distinguishing “format” features of some different kinds of writing:
- Background and preliminary material
- Summary of opposing views
- Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing views
- Presentation of arguments supporting your own position
- Anticipation of possible objections that your audience might make to your position
- Rebuttal of objections to your argument, including a concession to those weaknesses that seem insurmountable
- RAFT (consideration of Role, Audience, Format, and Theme)
- Background info
- Gap in info: justification
- Problem (approach, summary)
- Results – foreshadows discussion by summarizing patterns
- Discussion – interprets significance of results; acknowledges limitations & constraints
Five Paragraph Theme
- Introduction ending with a thesis that foreshadows subparts
- Conclusion, possibly relating issue to larger web of issues
Note: Although this basic form is an ancestor of most academic writing, overuse of this form may blind students to formats more suited to their particular purposes and audiences.
- Written as a monologue–that is, in the “voice” of one character (not the author’s own “voice”).
- Written as with a fictitious audience rather than the actual target reading audience in mind. This gives the work the effect of the reader eavesdropping on the monologue.
- Written in the diction and syntax of a particular speaker (therefore, the chief “organization” might appear to ramble, as in speech).
- Refrains from explicitly stating a thesis.
- Suggests something important about the character (and possibly about a larger life context).
- May make use of irony (possibly distance between listener and speaker).
- May make use of concrete imagery.
- May make use of poetic devices (alliteration, assonance).
- Detail is selective, but sufficient to develop the character or problem.
- Purpose may be simply to entertain, or may be to offer some form of critique (social, cultural, etc.).
- A theme (however general) is illustrated through a specific situation.
- May possess narrative elements, such as character, setting, and conflict.
- May refrain from explicitly stating a thesis.
- May make use of concrete images.
- May use hyperbole, understatement, irony, and/or figurative language (simile, metonymy, metaphor, etc.) .
- May violate our expectations or surprise us in its content, characterization, imagery, or form.
- Presentation of issue including background
- Brief summary of opposing view(s)
- Presentation of writer’s proposal
- Reason 1: Proposal addresses a serious problem / issue
- Reason 2: Proposal solves the problem
- Reason 3: Additional reasons for enacting proposal
Note: A review may address the following questions:
- What is the QUESTION or hypothesis that the article attempts to answer?
- How significant is this question?
- What is the CLAIM or the thesis of the article?
- What is the RELATIONSHIP between author and reader?
- What is the METHOD by which the author attempts to answer the question?
- What are some ASSUMPTIONS underlying the article?
- How respectable is the EVIDENCE?
- How does the article make use of REFERENCES?
- How consistent are the CONVENTIONS of this text with the currently accepted conventions of the discipline?
- What are some of the IMPLICATIONS of the article?
- Introduction (presents issues but not the student writer’s position)
- Sympathetic summary of opposing viewpoint(s)
- Recognition of common ground between opposing view(s) and the writer’s initial position
- Recognition of minor differences
- Modification of argument demonstrating some compromise or synthesis of positions
Scientific Letter (not an experimental report)
- Summarizes some noteworthy research
- Identifies a problem
- Acknowledges competing hypotheses
- Critiques each competing hypothesis (and provides reasons why each is limited)
- Presents an argument for the student’s hypothesis (and provides reasons why this hypothesis is superior)
- Summarizes the evidence supporting this hypothesis (though does not explain methods or materials, nor does it report any raw data)
- Provides figures (though usually not tables)
- Concludes with a major claim
Note: Students may need to be cautioned about distinguishing a summary from an argument. With a summary, the writer is briefly presenting someone else’s claim, not his or her own. It may also be helpful to students to note the importance of condensing argument in proportion to the original argument.
Communicating the Distinctive Features of Your Assignment
While we advocate communicating your expectations, we believe that the most important element of assignment design is identifying a good problem rather than just a topic. The following framework for communicating assignment features is premised on the assumption that you have first posed an important problem or have guided your students in discovering their own good problems.
We think that it can be beneficial to students to give them explicit direction and to discuss assignment features and expectations frequently and in multiple ways. Here are just some ideas for different situations and methods for communicating assignment features to students. It can even be beneficial for students to be reminded of assignment expectations or features after they have already done it. Reminding students of these important aspects in written feedback can be a way of reinforcing their importance for the student, and they can also serve as part of the “justification” for your comments and grading practices.
We would recommend discussing assignment features with students at any of the following points:
- Before the assignment
- In the assignment handout
- After the assignment is given
- In peer review guides
- In five-minute workshops
- In scoring guides
- In written comments
Designing writing assignments: designing writing assignments.
In this chapter, Garder addresses the reason why students might fail to meet our expectations: we didn’t communicate what we thought we did. I am guilty, as Gardner says, of simply trying to provide an assignment sheet, but we need to do more. First of all, when I define tasks, I’m not sure I have thought of “suggest[ing] steps in the process that students can complete” and “indicat[ing] different ways that students can work,” though I do usually “schedule multiple opportunities for students to write as they complete the assignment,” particularly if it’s a lower level or lower grade—9th graders versus 11th graders, for example (36). I think I should give all of my students more opportunitys to write in class than I currently do. It’s all about the balance of time, isn’t it?
In helping students comprehend our expectations, Gardner suggests we
unpack the meaning of the assignment, as described by Jim Burke, by explaining the assignment to create a shared understanding of the activity provide model responses and demonstrate how to read and compose example texts share rubrics, checklists, and other resources that highlight the requirements and goals for the assignment (36)
I do share rubrics, but I need to be more consistent, particularly as I use rubrics to grade. Checklists, my students also have. Models are an area in which I feel I’m weak. I do some modeling, but usually after the first draft. When I asked students to write a poetry explication, they asked me for models, and though I pointed them to one I found on the web, it didn’t appear to be enough. Over and over students told me they weren’t sure what to do. Jay McTighe describes a teacher who had a target on her bulletin board. A-papers were in the middle of the target, and B- and C-papers were farther out. Students could see exactly what they needed to do to earn the grade they wanted. On the other hand, does that encourage too much imitation and not enough creativity? It’s something I wrestle with when I use models.
Next, Gardner describes the importance of support and resources. When I have designed UbD units, my performance assessments have typically been really good in terms of support and resources, but I haven’t done it for all of the essays. And why not? I have a blog and a wiki! I can gather all kinds of resources for students to use with Web 2.0 tools.
Gardner models the process for creating three types of writing assignments, ending each vignette with an assessment of how well the assignment meets the criteria set forth in the General Writing Assignment Design section (defining task, expectations, and support and resources). In the vignette on expressive writing, Gardner mentions blogs. It sounds like she has used LiveJournal (she describes being able to add emoticons and what music the writer’s listening to, both LJ features) with students, but Ning would be great. It can be closed or open, and students can all be blogging in the same space. I can’t decide if I’m going to do some blogging with all my classes. I am already launching interactive notebooks, and I just don’t know. I don’t want to do too much that’s different or I’ll go crazy, but Gardner makes a good point about the audience for expressive writing being narrow if it’s just the student and me who read it. I really like commenting, too. Now if my students all had the same note-taking tools (like Curio , perhaps), we could probably make the interactive notebooks more of a shared item. I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.
As I read Garder’s process for reflecting on how she has met the criteria for designing assignments in each of the vignettes, I’m reminded again of the UbD process for designing any assignment—the filter in particular. If you want to see one of my filters, I created one for Beowulf when I wrote my UbD unit plan . As a side note, what’s great about the essential questions for that plan is that when I discovered Joe Scotese had some good close reading assignments for Beowulf , I was able to use them to explore the same questions even deeper. I need to revise my unit to include Joe’s ideas. I actually had an idea as I read Gardner’s description of her persuasive writing assignment. I have asked students to write Beowulf’s résumé in the past; I think a persuasive essay in which they are trying to convince someone to hire him on as a hero, perhaps even written from the viewpoint of King Hrothgar? Something’s always niggled at me about that résumé in the past. I worried that though it’s an authentic task, it wasn’t all that challenging, which is why I added annotations. A persuasive essay would definitely make me feel better about the performance task and make it more of a writing exercise. What do you think? If I remember right, Jim Burke even has a great graphic organizer for constructing an argument that would work well.
Let’s see, this kind of assignment would include an authentic audience—someone in need of a hero who has asked Hrothgar for a recommendation. Students are experts: they’ve read Beowulf and seen him in action (of course, he dies, so I could ask students to complete the assignment before we get to that part or they’ll bring it up for sure). Then again, I might be able to get around that snag by having Hrothgar write to the Geats to explain why Beowulf should be made king. It will set the letter more firmly at a certain place in the story. What do you think? They’ll need to interact with the text to provide examples of Beowulf’s heroism. How about choice? Well, they need to decide which acts are heroic enough to include and leave out things they don’t find heroic. Models. I don’t have any models on this particular assignment. I could provide them, but given the narrow scope, could I get away with sharing recommendation letters? I can include suggested steps in the process on the assignment sheet, and I can create peer review sheets that help the students with structure and audience/purpose. Graphic organizers and a cheat sheet for the grammar handbook students use might be helpful support as well.
I think I have just begun planning a writing assignment.
P. S. If you are a regular visitor or even a vistor whose been here before, you may notice a few differences in this site’s functionality. I was going to tack the description of some changes I’ve made to this post, but I decided they really merit a separate post, which is forthcoming.
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7 thoughts on “designing writing assignments: designing writing assignments”.
For the models for recomendation letters, could you use a movie that they've seen? Perhaps even a popular children's movie? That way you could show how to use concrete examples from the "text" to support in the letters in a way that would be closer to what you're expecting them to do. Or, perhaps it would be good to show both these kinds of letters and some traditional letters. I love this idea by the way.
Could you explain how I would use the movies? I'm afraid I didn't understand. I could probably find some sample letters of recommendation that are NOT based on this topic.
I was thinking of a movie with a hero. What acts of heroism does he/she perform that could be used in a recommendation letter? For example, I like to use Zathura with Beowulf when we talk about Campbell's monomyth theory. We've watched parts of it to show the stages of the hero's journey and compare this to Beowulf's. Why couldn't you use a movie like that one to write sample letters of recommendations for its hero? That way you could have samples without using all the examples in Beowulf. Does this make sense? When we watch that movie, we even discuss the unlikely hero, the younger brother. We talk about what makes him the hero. We even discussed ways both he and his older brother are heroes. These lead into discussions of heroism with connections to Beowulf.
OK, I see. You mean we write one together to show students the kinds of traits they can use in their own letters.
You could do them ahead of time, but I do like to model for the students.
Hi Dana: My kids and I have been blogging for two years and it is a great way to get the resistive ones to write. They do not seem to notice that it is writing! (see blog address above-it is my class blog). I , too, am starting interactive notebooks this fall, and I think that they will mesh. I am planning on using the Interactive notebooks with the juniors, whose notetaking skills need shoring up. I will include a section on each page for their blogging ideas. So far, I have generated the topics on each blog. Next year, they will be doing some of that and the notebooks will help.
That's a really helpful way for me to think about using both the notebooks and blogs. Thanks!
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Issues, ideas, and discussion in English Education and Technology
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You'll find a list of general assignment design principles directly below and then a design template that can help you apply best practices and create an effective and clear/easy-to-understand writing assignment
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In Designing Writing Assignments, veteran educator Traci Gardner offers practical ways for teachers to develop assignments that will allow students to express their creativity and grow as writers and thinkers
While writing specialists broadly understand that writing helps students learn, we also advocate for writing assignments that prompt students to think rhetorically: how writers use texts to convey meaning appropriate to an audience in a given context
How might you design and sequence steps to move students through the process of the assignment and what kinds of informal writing assignments or activities will you use to support students as they work?
Assignment Design I: Designing Problem-based Assignments What do we mean by “problem-based assignments” ? We are indebted to John Bean, who in his book, Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing
The title of this post is not a typo or hiccup. The third chapter of Traci Garder's book Designing Writing Assignments is titled “Designing Writing Assignments,” too