Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Best Practicing

When I was taking some basic pedagogy classes, back in the days of purple professorial fingers and dot matrix printers, I learned that writing an essay assignment along with students was a great idea because it would make you really think about the do-ability of the assignment, it would give you opportunities to model the assignment (at varying stages), and so forth.

I have, on occasion, written essay assignments along with students, though, I confess, not often. More often, especially for exams, I'll sketch out a couple possible essay responses, just to make sure that what I've set up in a prompt is do-able in the time allotted. (If I can't sketch out the basics of a response in 10-15 minutes, then students are likely to have a hard time writing an exam, especially since my warped mind WROTE the prompt, and they aren't mindreaders.)

I'm thinking of doing an essay along with my first year writing students. It would be the first time in a long while, but I'm sort of feeling that it might be helpful and interesting. And it's a new assignment, so I think it's a useful check on my perceptions.

I'm thinking of contributing my thesis to the load we critique on thesis day, and to setting up a draft on draft day. What do you think?

For those of you in the comp/rhet business, who know so much more theory about composition teaching than I do:

Do you write along with your students? Does anyone even talk about that these days?

Do you model writing for your students?

Do you have suggestions (if I do this), for doing it as effectively as possible?


  1. Hi- just thought i'd say I think that's a *great* idea. I don't think I've ever had a teacher who does that- although my favourite tutor does the assigned translation homework with us, every week.
    Nevertheless, i think it's a great plan and so is putting it up for critique with the rest of the class' essays. I would appreciate that in a teacher.

  2. This is the idea I am always wanting to do with my students, but somehow never manage to pull off. Not my best moment as a teacher, but there it is.

  3. I do it sometimes - I probably should more often. I have a few friends who do this all of the time. This can really work well if you want to model peer workshop or whole class workshop. You can use your own messy draft as the first paper to be workshopped, which takes a lot of the initial pressure off of students.

    One thing I have done on a regular basis is to bring projects of mine that were difficult for me to navigate (in terms of research and writing). I then go through the steps, the stops, the crises, etc., and how I dealt with them. It is a good way to show how projects can change and how I can get frustrated by my writing (and research), too. Of course, the key is to focus on the strategies that move the project/paper forward.

  4. Anonymous6:50 PM

    I don't think I've ever done this myself, but I too had it presented to me as a productive technique. I have to confess that though I'm sure it's a good idea I'm waaaaaaaaaaaaaayy too lazy (my excuse that I'm not primarily teaching writing ;-D). Though I do try to talk about my own writing as something that goes through the processes that I want them to try, so they realize that 1) I write stuff too and 2) it's hard for me too.