Category Archives: Activities

Tip #3: Are there other kinds of writing students can do besides essays?

There are many types of writing that you can infuse into your courses.  While the level of reflection varies in these different types, you can still  gain many of the benefits of WAC with even a short writing assignment. Here are some writing activities that don’t require much time and preparation of instructors, but that still can deepen students’ learning[1]:

  • “Talk-back” notes: jotting down important points, confusing spots, places of disagreement as if talking to the author.
  • Reading logs: making regular, free-choice responses that link personal experiences with the content of texts.
  • Focused reading notes:  tracking a key theme or concept in a flow chart or under column headings.
  • Summary/response notebooks: dividing a page in half to summarize on one side and to comment on the other.
  • Interviews: inventing questions & using a text to provide the “interview responses.”
  • Genre switching: responding creatively to a traditional text format, e.g. the autobiography of a pancreas, a poem about an isosceles triangle, a newsletter about what students learned in a 3-week period in chemistry.
  • Microthemes: summarizing reading assignments concisely on note cards.
  • Translations: writing a difficult passage in one’s own words, deliberately avoiding any language that the author uses.
  • Explications of visual aids: interpreting the meaning of a graph, map, table, image, etc.—or designing a visual aid to clarify a particularly challenging textual passage.
  • Multiple-choice or short-essay questions:  turning in weekly questions on reading assignments that become part of an exam the next week.
  • Headline essays: collecting newspaper or magazine headlines on a topic (e.g. math in the news) and writing a short summary of how those headlines add up.
  • Visual to Verbal Mini-projects: Putting together posters, power-point slides, or handouts that summarize a reading assignment.  Students orally present, then write reflections on what they learned.
  • Ticket-out-the-Door:  writing down the key lesson from the day’s class and/or questions or lingering confusions.  Instructors collect these before students leave class.
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