Fifteen Assignments to Practice the Work of Writing

Although end-of-term papers force students to write, they require a lot of time to grade and do little to improve student writing. Professors wanting to include writing as an important class component may want to require two or three short papers and then several other kinds of assignments, less time consuming to grade, but effective in practicing one or more important writing skills.

This teacher-friendly approach also results in good learning. Research has shown that four five-page papers stimulate more student engagement with the material than one twenty-page paper. Writing steadily throughout a semester, students learn more about the material, more about writing, and more about critical thinking.

Below is a list of assignments less difficult to grade than complete papers, but focused on skills needed for effective thinking and writing. Be sure to utilize several different types of assignment during the semester since the various assignments teach slightly different skills.

3 Minute Response Paper
Outline of a Paper (or Paragraph)
Single Idea Development
Objection Development Exercise
Two-Sided Exercise
Article Review
Précis Work
Article Précis
In-Class Essay
Process Set
Journal or Log Entries
Study Questions
Double-Entry Paper
Double-Entry Journal
Meta-Cognitive Journal