Writing to Improve or Maintain Writing Skills

Any writing activity can help maintain or improve writing skills and text correctness. If writers in your field use a particular format or style, this is an excellent opportunity to give your students practice.

Hints

  • Bring in samples of published writing in your field as models.
  • Allow students to pre-write. Give them a chance to free-write, make lists, talk to others, keep a journal, before beginning the formal writing of a paper or even test. A chance to deal with ideas informally can improve the clarity and organization of the final product.
  • Provide students with feedback from you, classmates, or the Writing Center. Let them know whether they have written what they planned to, whether they have fulfilled the assignment before they hand it in.
  • Allow students to rewrite. Give them the chance to redo a paper (or test) if they have not met their (or your) goals.
  • Save editing until the end. Separating getting-ideas-down-right from getting-the-forms-right (checking for spelling, punctuation, grammatical correctness) can help people write more fluidly, clearly, and effectively. It's easier to say what you want, if you know you don't have to worry about correctness yet. This doesn't mean correctness is not important; it is, at the most effective time: after the ideas are down and clear.
  • Provide students a chance to "publish." After they've put effort into their papers, give them the chance to share their work with someone other than you. Have them present to the class, produce a handbook, post papers in the hall.
  • Read the papers for what you consider to be most important. If clarity of ideas is most important to you, then that's what's most important in your students' papers. If your students need to be able to support ideas with examples, read the papers primarily for that. If people in your field need, above all, to use semi-colons correctly, read for that. You don't have to read their papers for everything. This is writing for your purposes and the purposes of your field--use your response to train your students to meet these expectations.
  • Similarly, make these expectations clear to the students before they write. Handouts, even example papers can help students write the paper you want and make your job as reader much easier and less frustrating.