Classroom Activities to Support Writing

SAGES seminars offer opportunities to connect course content with successful writing strategies. In addition to emphasizing core skills of academic writing (e.g., summary, paraphrase, integrating quotations, analysis, and argumentation) in workshops, SAGES instructors have reported success using the following:

  • Use readings to talk about writing: Select passages from the assigned readings to review in class. Point out rhetorical strategies or other features of the writing; ask students to rewrite passages for a different purpose; ask what effect a particular structure has on the meaning of the text.
  • Have students lead mini-lessons on elements of good writing: These can take the form of presentations of grammar and usage (following the old adage of “learn by teaching”). Alternatively, you might consider asking students to bring in an example of what they think constitutes good writing. In small groups, students could compare their examples and brainstorm a list of qualities of “good writing.” Is there a single definition?
  • Use student texts to talk about writing: One of the best techniques for learning to become a proficient self-editor is to practice. Take sample sentences from your students’ drafts and use them as the heart of a 20-minute writing workshop. Sample sentences can be edited by the whole class or in small groups. It is important to choose both strong and weak examples, so that students see the full range of the writing that the class is producing, and discover that even accomplished writing may benefit from editorial attention.
  • Emphasize techniques in discussion that translate into good writing: For example, follow up statements of opinion by asking students to cite textual or other supporting evidence. (“That’s an interesting reaction – what part of the reading made you feel that way? Can you [or anyone else] point us to a specific passage?”)