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What Teachers Can Do To Help Students Improve Their Writing

•  Teach writing as a process.

Teachers can accomplish this task by creating effective assignments, assigning drafts and revisions, and making sure that  students receive meaningful feedback on their drafts during their writing process.

•  Assume students have ideas that will be clarified through conversation and the activity of writing.

•  Provide students with opportunities to receive useful feedback on their drafts.

•  Focus on helping writers communicate effectively by responding thoughtfully  and reasonably to their drafts -- or by allowing others (classmates, T.A.s, tutors) to do so.

"The writing workshop depends on a style of response which differs altogether from that of traditional instruction because its concern is not merely to elicit writing in order to judge it, but to sustain writing through successive revisions in pursuit of richer insights and concurrently the maturation of competence" (Knoblauch and Brannon, 1984).

•  Provide students with opportunities to share their writing with peers.

Creating opportunities for students to make their  writing public increases their engagement with it, as well as widens their sense of audience.

•  Help students understand that unintentional sentence-level errors will harm the rhetorical effectiveness of their writing (status-marking errors are most annoying to readers).

•  Shift from editing-oriented comments on papers to revision-oriented comments.

•  Hold students responsible for finding and fixing their own errors.

e.g., Pencil an x in the margins when you see an error, rather than circling them, in order to help students learn to see them.  Withhold the grade until the draft is reasonably error-free.

adapted from John C. Bean.  Engaging Ideas.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass, 1996;  Elizabeth F. Haynes, "Using Research in Preparing to Teach Writing."  English Journal (January, 1978):  82-88;  Knoblauch and Brannon, Rhetorical Traditions and the Teaching of Writing, Portsmouth, NH:  Boynton/Cook, 1984.

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Writing Center
100A Roberts Hall
phone: (570) 577-3141
© Bucknell University 2002
comments to: Sabrina Kirby
last updated:
01/30/2004