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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Two Sides of the Same Page: Reading is Writing, Writing is Reading

Reading and writing should not be taught separately. A poor reader is rarely a good writer. On the other hand, a careful reader is often an effective writer.

Pink pyramid reading at a Keith Haring exhibit at the De Young Museum

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Sustained Argument Writing Assignment for Second Year Composition

Sustained Argument

2000 Points, as part of Argument Series

Background

At this point in the semester, you have spent quite a bit of time exploring a topic of interest to you. It is now time to take things to the next level. You will create a sustained argument, a research paper making a research-based persuasive argument about an important issue or controversy related to your topic, which you will then break up into about four posts on your website. Although this assignment is a more traditional academic essay, you should still adapt it to conventions of online writing: headings, images (with sources credited in a caption with working hyperlinks), very brief introduction, and shorter paragraphs. Keep in mind that most online readers only spend a few moments on a website, so deliver your main message quickly and offer those who linger multiple points of entry.

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Inquiry Series Writing Assignments for Academic Websites in Second Year Composition

Inquiry Series

3000 points

Background

Now that student-scholars have selected a topic and explained their historical, present and future interest in the topic, it is time to explore the topic through a series of academic moves in preparation for the Sustained Argument to follow. They should use this series to explore the topic with an open mind before they make any final decisions on their opinions regarding the topic.

Students are not allowed to change their topics at this point unless they improve or refine them. If students do want to change focus, they should discuss it with Ron right away to get approval.

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Topic Proposal Writing Assignment for Academic Website, or Research Log

Topic Proposal

1000 points

Background

This semester you will find your own topic, currently in the news, that intellectually engages you and spend the semester exploring, researching, writing and creating content about it, so that you may become an expert on it. As your writing and content will be public, on an academic website you create, remember to pick something that will show a side of yourself you would like future teachers and employers to see.

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