Don’t Correct Composition Papers; Don’t Grade Them. Read Them!

Correcting Papers

When composition teachers complain they have a pile of papers to correct, they are invoking out-dated assumptions about composition, namely that there is something wrong with our students’ papers, and our primary job is to seek out those errors and eliminate them. Such teachers count fragments like a judge bound by the Three-Strikes-and-You’re-Out Law, condemning a paper that has too many fragments.

Even if the argument is persuasive and the evidence convincing.

Image from Red Ink in the Classroom?

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Making Vague Words Specific: Activity for Composition Classes

Examine the two sentences below and decide which version you like better. Why?

It is a way of managing them and getting them down on paper. There is nothing unusual about this, and you can learn to do it well and feel good about it if you try.

Writing is a way of capturing elusive, half-formed ideas, dragging them into the light of day, and herding them onto paper. This process is not alchemy; it is a craft, which can be learned like any other, such as making a bookshelf. If you invest the time and effort, you can learn to write powerfully.

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The Most Worstest Introduction: A Group Activity for First Year Composition

Instructions: Tell students that you are going to do a fun writing activity that reviews the typical steps of an introduction and gets students to consider what separates strong from poor academic writing.

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Parallelism Matching Exercise

Purpose: To introduce the concept of parallelism.

Preparation: Print out two sets of the sentences below, cutting one up and leaving the other whole as a guide to the sets of sentences.

Activity: Introduce the concept of parallelism by writing on the board: “I like karate, to play tennis, going skiing.” Ask students to discuss what is wrong with the sentence and to find three ways to fix it. (I like karate, tennis, and skiing. / I like to do karate, play tennis, and go skiing. / I like doing karate, playing tennis, and going skiing.) Elicit the concept of parallelism.

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Group Presentations on Student Services for First Year Composition

This activity is a great way for students to learn about and teach each other about the student services your college has to offer, increasing chances of student retention and success, and can lead nicely into a writing assignment on a Successful Transition to College.

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Successful Transition to College: Writing Assignment for First Year Composition

Background

More people are dropping out of college than are graduating, especially in public colleges and universities. A student’s chances of success are affected by motivation, study skills, persistence, learning styles and abilities, social factors, family background, economics, social integration, extracurricular involvement, student services, and governmental support. How can we help more students transition successfully to college?

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Issues of Language and Identity: Writing Assignment for Composition

Background

In this unit, we are exploring the various forms of English we use in different contexts and the power relationships that these forms of English create, acknowledging that “standard English” is not necessarily better, but is more appropriate in certain settings, especially academic and professional ones. Becoming a scholar and learning to use standard English correctly, however, does not mean people must set aside their other linguistic identities.

 Your Task

In a 6-8 page double-spaced essay in MLA format, make a persuasive argument, advising a specific group of people to make specific policy changes involving language and identity issues, backed up with compelling reasons and substantial support.

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Connecting Word Matching Exercise: Coordinating Conjunctions, Subordinating Conjunctions, and Transitions

Purpose: To get students to think about logical relationships of connecting words.

Preparation: Print out two sets of the sentences below, cutting one up and leaving the other whole as a guide to the sets of sentences. To make them more durable, you could paste them onto index cards cut in half. Find a chart that shows logical relationships of the three types of connecting words that students can refer to during the activity.

Activity: In class, explain that you have sentences that are cut in half and that students will have to find matches. Show one pair that does not work, then another that you have set aside beforehand that does work. Pass the cards out, then have students look for pairs. You will have to end the activity before all pairs are found.

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