Considerations for Writing Assignments
Types of Writing Assignments
Freshman Rhetoric courses require at least 30 pages of writing that the instructor reads and responds to, and that counts towards the student’s final grade in some way. Because this is a writing course, students should be engaged in writing in some form throughout the entire course. The following list describes the major forms of writing that instructors assign. 1. Essays (out-of-class papers). Instructors usually assign three to five essays. These essays are 3-5 pages on average and address overall themes of the course that the instructor is also working through in readings and in-class discussion. 2. The research paper (assigned in 102, 104, and 105) is the biggest single project that students accomplish in the course. These papers are at least 8-12 pages and are the focus of at least 5 weeks of the semester. This project is a culmination of the skills taught throughout the semester (105) or year (102, 104). Instructors may assign a topic or scope of topics that also addresses the themes of the course, or instructors may work closely with the students to choose their own topics. 3. In-progress writing. Essays and especially the research paper should be developed through a structured process. In addition to full drafts, such processes may involve students writing topic proposals, mini-drafts (e.g., a 3-page draft of a 10-page research paper), annotated bibliographies, short oral presentations that include textual supports (handouts, screen projections), genre variants (e.g., collage dialogues, narratives), in-progress reports and reflections, and so on. 4. Response papers are typically shorter papers (1-2 pages) that respond to a reading or in-class activity. Instructors may treat these as formal papers and assign a grade, or they may be treated as informal papers and receive assessment based on a number system or check mark system. The goal of these papers may be to ensure students are engaging with readings and to prompt class discussion. 5. Journals can be used for class preparation, essay and research preparation, or as an inducement to write every day (a journal is literally a "daily writing"). They can be assigned outside of class or as a topic to prompt discussion during class. Instructors vary on the ways they assess journals. Some may give the entire journal a grade at the end of the semester, and others might treat it as informal writing and assess it based on a number system or check mark system. 6. Moodle posts or other online writings. Moodle is one of many online forums available for students writing. Instructors can easily request and build their own Moodle site and post topics for students to discuss about outside of class. This is another way to reinforce themes presented in class or prompt discussion for future classes. Instructors use other online forums such as wikis, blogs, websites, webboard, Illinois Compass (some of which are available from the University, and some from outside sources) for many of the same purposes. Instructors are encouraged to assign some kind of online writing as it fits into the themes of their course.
7. In-class writing. Informal in-class writing makes students more comfortable with their own and their peers’ writing. It also allows students to discover and engage with ideas for their paper assignments. Instructors also assess these in various ways, for example, in the student’s participation grade. Inclass writing could be journal entries, responses to in-class activities, reflections on the assignment that they are handing in, or online posts done in class. 8. Peer reviews. This writing could happen in-class or outside, in response to a draft of a peer’s paper. Sometimes instructors form writing groups for students and require them to respond to several students (3-4 students per group). These writings could also take the form of letters written to peers. This kind of...