Thursday, April 19, 2012

Teaching Comp Frustrations

My writing students are working on a big essay. It's a pretty good chunk of their grade and we've spent a good amount of time on it in class, brainstorming, bubble-mapping, talking about sources, and so on. They peer edited together yesterday, so today we worked with their peer editing responses to improve the papers. And then we worked on some other improvement stuff.

For example, I asked everyone to go through their essay and note when they'd used someone else's idea(s) or word(s) by marking in the margin. Then I asked them to check for each one that they'd introduced it appropriately and that it was in the works cited section (and to put a check by it there). Then they could see that everything in the works cited section actually had been cited in the paper easily, and they'd made sure they'd introduced sources well.

Good, right?

The thing is, the people who've written really strong drafts and who've cited sources have a lot to check, and it takes them a while to check stuff, revise source introductions and such. So they're busy.

The people who haven't done a strong draft look at their two or three pages and finish in a moment or two. Then they sit in the room looking bored. Because they don't have as much to check, they seem to think that they've got no more work to do. And mostly, they're likely to be wrong.

I can't seem to figure out how to warn them effectively with a general statement about people with fuller drafts taking longer, and those who finish quickly might have more to do overall. And making a more specific statement seems like I'm picking on them.


  1. can't you walk around as they work and poke them with sticks individually?

  2. Maybe say something at the beginning like, "If you get done quickly, then go back through your draft and find ways that you could elaborate on X." Or something like that. I always get frustrated when people get done with peer editing/review early and then sit there with a bored look on their faces. I say something like, "Oh good, you have time right now to work on it some more! Awesome." It doesn't always work, granted. But sometimes it does.

  3. Maybe have all students quickly count up how many times they're using the texts and sharing that information. If James only makes three usages of his sources whereas Jean makes fifteen references, that gap might help them to understand why you're going to say "Those of you who've wrapped up already and have relatively few sources need to identify at least three more citations you can make and note those in the margin before the end of class."