Posts Tagged ‘draft’

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Promising Moments, Part I

posted: 2.23.11 by Barclay Barrios

One of the keys to effective commenting is locating the most promising moments of any student paper, those bits where the student is starting to pull it all together even if it’s not quite there yet.  By identifying those moments for students, I can help them see exactly where they need to focus their work—starting with what they’re already done, thinking about what it needed to be more successful, and then incorporating that insight into their next paper.

Take, for example, some of the comments I made on the first set of rough drafts I received last semester, in response to this assignment.  For this first paper, many of my students struggled with argument. That’s not surprising, really, since it’s not something they’re expected manage well until the end of the semester. But given this particular weakness of the class, I sought out promising moments in several student papers.

I start by making a marginal comment about the promising moment:

OK. Here you have the start of an interesting idea because you’re thinking about the relationship between immigration, value of rituals, and change. You could develop this into an argument.

I then reinforce the point in my end comment:

I’m not sure I see your argument, so that’s where you really need to focus your revision.  I’ve pointed to a couple of places where you have some interesting ideas.  You could start from these places to form a clear argument but, ultimately, without that clear argument your paper is really at risk.  So work on that argument and then make sure each paragraph supports it.

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Categories: Emerging, Teaching Advice
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Grammar Math

posted: 4.9.08 by Barclay Barrios

Sometimes the best way to see something is to look at it in a whole other way.  Have your students review the material in the handbook on sentence construction and then have them create mathematical formulae for sentences.  For example,  subject + verb = simple sentence or subject – verb = fragment.  Ask them to provide a sample sentence for each formula from their current drafts or from the essay under discussion.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Learning Styles, Punctuation & Mechanics, Revising
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Tracking Revision

posted: 4.3.08 by Barclay Barrios

As they work on revising a draft, ask your students to turn on the track changes function in Microsoft Word (or any other similar feature in other word processors).  Have them submit their revised drafts electronically so that you’ll be able to see the extent of the changes in the draft.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Drafting, 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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Hyper Paper Text

posted: 4.9.07 by Barclay Barrios

Ask students to review the material in the handbook on organization. Then have them come to class with a copy of their current draft in which they have circled key words in their writing and drawn lines connecting them. How does this design impact the experience for you and for the reader? Are the connections among the ideas in the text of the essay visible to peers, and, if not, how can they revise to make them so?

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Categories: Drafting, Learning Styles, Revising, Writing Process
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Citing Error

posted: 3.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

Before a draft is due, ask students to proofread their essays for grammatical errors. If they find any, they should copy them to a new sheet, correct the errors, and then provide MLA citations for the pages of the handbook that support those corrections.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Citing Sources, Drafting, Grammar & Style, Proofreading/Editing, Punctuation & Mechanics, Revising
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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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Topic Sentence Paragraphs

posted: 2.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the material in the handbook on topic sentences, paragraphs, and transitions. Then ask them to take all topic sentences from their current draft and copy/paste them into a new document to make a paragraph composed of these topic sentences. Ideally, this paragraph will be readable with some basic flow. Use these topic sentence paragraphs to open a discussion of transitions, topic sentences, and paper organization.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Drafting, Revising, Teaching with Technology
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Condensed Drafts

posted: 2.5.07 by Barclay Barrios

Ask students to review the material on sentence types in the handbook. Then have students take a copy of their current draft (or a portion of it) and revise each sentence down to a subject and verb. Ask students to discuss their condensed drafts in groups: What’s missing when a sentence is reduced to just a subject and verb? Can they make the same argument? What sentence elements are needed for analysis?

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Categories: Argument, Collaboration, Grammar & Style
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