Frequent short papers (2-3 pages) seem to work best for steering beginning college writers through the basics of expository prose. Later 3-5 page papers can be assigned. Although you needn't confine your students entirely to expository writing, it should predominate. Other appropriate expository modes include class newsletters, editorials, responses to aesthetic experiences, personal letters describing a text.
A longer paper (6-8 pages) works well in conjunction with library research and can usefully be assigned in stages, beginning with a bibliography, then a working outline, and final preliminary drafts of each section.
It is always better to give a writing assignment in writing rather than orally--especially if students will be bringing drafts of the assignment to the Writing Center for review. Specifics of an assignment should be "spelled out" and can include:
- Audience (e.g., instructor and classmates)
- Purpose (e.g., generally to inform)
- Form (e.g., generally thesis-driven, expository with introduction, body, conclusion)
- Due Dates:
- When rough draft should be taken to the Writing Center or reviewed by peers or instructor
- When final version is due
- Documentation (footnoting) style, MLA or APA for example
- Any area you may wish to emphasize for evaluation, e.g., thesis, evidence, introduction.
Structuring Time in the Syllabus for Revision
Ten days is probably the minimum turn around time students need to produce the first version of an essay, get evaluative feedback and revise it. Assignment sheets should state this explicitly, for example:
- Complete 1st Version by September 10
- Take 1st Version to the Writing Center for Evaluations September 10-18
- Final Version due in Class, September 20