Bianca Falbo, CWP Director
If you’re teaching with writing for the first time, here are some strategies you might find helpful for responding to drafts:
If a paper seems to you to have a lot of surface errors, consider the following:
Finally, a concern expressed often by FYS and VaST faculty is that talking about writing in the ways suggested here takes time from talking about the course content, especially if you do so during class time. It can if you talk about writing in the abstract—if you spend a lot of time, for example, teaching them to write the perfect introductory paragraph (as if there were such a thing). What you want to do is use student writing to talk about the course topic—especially to get a sense of how students are understanding what you’re teaching them. Make them do some informal writing about the reading and use that as the basis for class discussion. Photocopy excerpts from papers that will focus class discussion on the course issues you want students to pay attention to. If the writing is awkward, that generally means the student is struggling to comprehend the reading. And that’s not a bad thing. That is, if you’re really challenging your students, their writing will become more complicated. If there’s no sign of struggle, then there’s likely no learning taking place.
Another common concern is that the FYS doesn’t seem to really help students “improve” their writing. But it’s worth considering what kind of “improvement” we’re looking for. Remember that in FYS, writing assignments should focus on process rather than (simply, or only) product: Writing to learn rather than learning to write. Your students know how to write; what most struggle with is understanding their processes of composing, and gaining control over them. Students have to improve their thinking about writing before they can improve as writers.