Archive for the ‘Document Design’ Category

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Visual Peer Review

posted: 3.28.08 by Barclay Barrios

Bring in a pile of different-colored highlighters for peer review.  You can have students use these to visually identify elements of a draft.  For example, students might highlight summary in one color and analysis in another or they might highlight the quotations.  With this strategy students can see at a glance what they’re doing in their drafts.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Peer Review, Revising
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Bad Cover Letters

posted: 3.18.08 by Barclay Barrios

There are a number of sites on the Web with examples of bad cover letters. Have your students review the material on cover letters in the handbook and read these examples of what not to do. Use this to prompt a discussion about the important elements of a cover letter or ask your students to revise a bad cover letter to make it more effective.

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Categories: Business Writing, Document Design, Revising, Teaching with Technology
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5 ways I help students with organization

posted: 1.31.08 by Barclay Barrios

I find that students often have trouble writing papers with strong organization. Sometimes, in fact, it feels like they could swap around all the body paragraphs and it would be the same paper—they don’t logically lead one to the other. Here are some exercises I use to help students focus on the organization of their papers:

1. Paragraph to Paragraph Transition
The most solid transitions, I suggest to students, comes from a statement that directly ties together two paragraphs. Start by having students review the material on transitions in the handbook. Then try this exercise. Have students take two paragraphs from their drafts. Ask them to write a one sentence summary of the first paragraph and then another one sentence summary of the second paragraph. Students should combine these two sentences into one, forming a strong and specific transition.

2. Rearrange the Order
Strong organization is self-evident. That is, when a paper is well-organized each paragraph clearly has a place in the whole. Have students test their organization by bringing in a draft for peer revision with the paragraph order switched around. If their peers cannot reassemble the original order then they need to work on transitions and organization.

3. Model Transitions
Have students locate examples of effective transitions in the current reading. Discuss what makes them effective—is it just the use of transitional words and phrases or is there a sentence pattern at work here? Have students apply what they learn by modeling one of these effective transitions in their current drafts.

4. Trail Markers
Trail markers make sure you don’t get lost in the woods; students can use the same technique to mark the trail of their arguments in their papers. Have students underline key sentences in each paragraph that “point the way” to the larger argument and/or to the next paragraph. If they can’t find sentences that work in that way, then that paragraph might represent someplace their readers might get lost.

5. All Outta Outlines
The strongest organization feels inevitable. Help students to locate that level of organization by having them produce multiple pre- or post-draft outlines, each with a different possible organization; you might in fact ask them to outline until they can’t outline any more. Do some points always need to come before others? Do they need to introduce a term, for example, before discussing it? Looking at multiple organizations can help students see the one that makes the most sense, the one that seems most inevitable.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Document Design, Grammar & Style, Writing Process
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PowerPoint to get the Power of Points

posted: 10.29.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students use PowerPoint or other presentation slides in order to reduce their arguments to the most essential elements. Since such slides are most effective when they contain only a few key points, students will have to locate the key elements of their argument; in designing the slides they should consider how visual elements like color, font, and alignment can enhance an argument. Have students review the material in the handbook on visual arguments and oral presentations to give them guidance in this exercise.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Document Design, Teaching with Technology, Visual Argument
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Visualizing Argument

posted: 3.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the material in the handbook on visual arguments or visual aids. Ask them to come to class with a visual supplement to the current reading—a chart or diagram or photograph. In groups, have them share this material and then consider how incorporating it into the essay would enhance or change the author’s argument.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Collaboration, Document Design, Learning Styles, Visual Argument, Visual Rhetoric
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Audience and Argument

posted: 3.7.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the materials in the handbook on voice, tone, and argument. Have them summarize the argument of their current draft or the current reading and then reword that argument to be sent as a text message on a cell phone, as an instant message online, as a blog posting online, and as a note to their parents. How does medium change message?

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Document Design, Drafting, Grammar & Style, Rhetorical Situation, Teaching with Technology, Thesis Statement
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Worst Formatting Ever

posted: 2.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

Challenge students to bring in the most unreadable draft ever by playing with the format of their papers in a word processor. As part of the assignment, students should read the material in the handbook on formatting papers and/or document design. Have the class vote on which reformatted draft is the most unreadable and use that to start a discussion about paper formatting and what makes a paper readable.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Drafting, Teaching with Technology
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Handbook Letters

posted: 2.5.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the material in the handbook on writing letters, then have them write a letter to the author of the handbook. After a brief introductory paragraph, the students should write about what they find useful in the handbook and what they wish the handbook had or how it could be improved. Review what the handbook has to say about tone and discuss how these letters should sound. Consider giving the finished product to your local textbook rep.

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Categories: Document Design, Handbooks
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Indexing Drafts

posted: 1.16.07 by Barclay Barrios

Ask students to look through the index in the handbook. Word processors usually incorporate a tool for creating an index of a document. Have students use the help files of the software to learn how to use this tool. Then have them produce an index of their drafts: What terms do they use the most? And what terms, ideas, or names do they feel are important enough to list in an index?

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Categories: Document Design, Drafting, Revising, Teaching with Technology
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Alternate Table of Contents

posted: 1.16.07 by Barclay Barrios

Provide students with the following categories or a set of terms you’ve designed yourself: Getting an A, Before I Start My Draft, At the Ready When Researching, Things Not to Screw Up. For the next class, have each student use these categories to create a new table of contents for the handbook: which sections of the handbook would go in each category?

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Drafting, Finding Sources, Handbooks
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