Informal Writing Opportunities
Informal Writing Opportunities canbe structured into your syllabus to insure that students interact with material found inreadings, lectures or class discussions. Through writing, students arrive at ahigher level of understanding and engagement with the material.
- Take ten minutes at the end of a lecture to have students write a summary and read a few aloud.
- Take five minutes during a discussion to have students think in writing. Then use this writing to continue the discussion.
- Ask for summaries of assigned reading to begin class.
- Have students write you an informal letter about their intellectual growth, problems, thoughts about the course, etc.
- Assign study questions on current material. Answers can sometimes be developed into essays.
Journals/Blogs provideanother useful means of developing writing fluency and engaging students with coursematerial. Journals don't have to be graded, but they should be regularly collectedand commented on, however briefly. Entries can be written in class or out ofclass--the above writing to learn activities, for example, could become part of a studentjournal. Entries can be assigned, left up to the students or a combination ofboth. Also, if so encouraged, students can develop journal entries into largerpapers.
Class Journals make very successful blogs. See www.blogger.com for a user-friendly blog creation site. When using blogs for journals or any other activity, it's best to divide the class into groups and keep the blog groups small--say 4-5 students per group; otherwise, the blogs get too long to read. On the www.blogger.com site, you can set up as many blogs as you want for your class. Then you will invite students to join the creation of a "team blog."
- Group Journals kept on a blog offer students a chance to see what each other think about various course related issues in an informal way. As part of course requirements, have five students make one entry a week in a group journal in response to an issue you raise or one they consider important.
- Class Debates can begin in journal assignments. Have students write a response to one side of an argument they will defend orally the next day in class.
- Double Entry Journals record a student's initial response to course material or study questions on one side of a page. On the facing page students record reactions, other questions, thoughts, etc. they have about what they just wrote.
Faculty Highlight: Report on Use of Computer Bulletin Board
By Dr. Gaile Pohlhaus, Religious Studies
"I required my 16 Core Humanities Seminar Students to use a computer bulletin board atleast 8 times during the semester. I would make an assignment for some activityoutside of class (e.g., review the Sesquicentennial exhibits in the Connelly Center, attend a lecture) andthen ask some question which required the students to express and defend an opinion on theassignment. They had a week to post their answer on the electronic bulletin boardand were to incorporate some response to postings made by other students. Throughoutthe semester students progressed from writing three lines to posting more than a fullscreen on the topic. They seemed to enjoy being able to express their opinionsfreely.
This project worked far better than I had hoped. At the beginning of the semesterthere was some resistance, but by the end of the semester most of the students seemed toenjoy the exercise."