One of the most challenging times for a student, especially in a First Year Writing course, or in any class with writing, is navigating the assignment., Often, they don’t think about doing a critical reading of the assignment description, or annotating it, like any other text they encounter. And, oftener still, they don’t ask for help when they are confused.
Several years ago, I came up with a simple activity to get them to talk with each other about the assignment itself. It takes three index cards, and something from which they can be drawn, like a bag, or a cap, or envelope.
After they have read over the assignment description (say for a paper), and the instructor has gone over it, the index cards are employed to get them talking about the doing of the work:
Each student gets a card.
On the lined side of the card, they write the single thing about the assignment they think will be the most challenging. Ask them to be concise and write only that one thing.
All the cards go back in the bag.
Then, everyone draws a new card.
They then respond to what the card says. This could be identifying with the concern, an answer, or suggestions, etc.
The cards go back in the bag.
Each student draws a new card.
This time, on the blank side, the last student builds on what the first two have said.
The third student presents to the class. They read the original concern, the response, and then what they wrote to build on it.
Discussion will begin organically because others will want to respond, etc.; the instructor just needs to guide it.
This not only gets them taking abut the paper they must write, but about studying/writing/reading habits that work, and it eases some of that tension about “looking dumb,” or that “everyone but me gets it” feeling they might have.
Do you want to publish your art or writing? Do you enjoy reading the work of others and talking about writing? Do your friends always ask you to help proofread their papers? Getting involved in a campus publication is a great way to get some résumé-building experience with writing, editing, design, publishing, and even marketing and event planning.
Following is a list of campus publications at St. Edward’s, with links for more information. Note that each publication has different guidelines, policies, schedules, and needs, and most are staffed by students and faculty who juggle many responsibilities. If you want to get involved, be sure to read the information on the publication’s website, if it has one, and be respectful and professional when emailing publication staff. (Here are Five Tips for Better Email.)
Arete, published annually in print, is the university’s academic journal. Submission guidelines are on the web.
Cabra is a student-run fashion magazine on the web. For contact information, see the Masthead section of the website.
Hilltop Views is the campus newspaper, which publishes in print and online. To learn how to get involved, see the Contact Us and Submission links at the bottom of the website.
J-Source: A St. Edward’s Undergraduate Research Journal is the faculty-edited journal of SOURCE (Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression), an annual event. For more information, contact Dr. Victoria Hill.
New Literati is an arts and literary journal published online and in print. See the journal’s website for contact and submission information.
You find the article in an online database but print it out for highlighting. You show up to class with a laptop (dead battery, no charger) and a pen (no paper). You’re reading an ebook, but your style guide is full of advice for citing print books. It’s not just you—today’s reading and writing environment is beautiful mess, a hybrid of the print and the digital.
This hybrid environment can leave all of us writers and researchers—students and professionals alike—confused about how to get started, keep track of research and organize a project, facilitate focus amid constant distractions and massive amounts of text and information, and iterate drafts. But entrepreneurial readers and writers can take advantage of this environment by developing unique combinations of strategies and methods that leverage their strengths and make sense for their projects.
With our pals in the Munday Library, we’ve developed the following big-picture sampler, with links to many resources on campus and online, of strategies that readers and writers might pull from as they develop unique processes.
Serious about developing your writing skills? In the Good Reads on Writing series, we’ll suggest some books and articles in which writers give insider tips, complain about their writing problems, and tell stories about how they got from idea or assignment to published work.
If you’re in a certain mood, you might find the title Good Prose (find it at the Austin Public Library)to be a reminder that most of the writing we do is not going to be great, and that even our best efforts might result in something that’s merely good enough. But it’s also a reminder that writing that good-enough stuff is hard work, real work. Authors Tracy Kidder, a writer, and Richard Todd, his editor for many years at the Atlantic, make no secrets of the many drafts tossed in the wastebasket during the process of crafting articles and books. Over the four decades that Todd and Kidder worked together, they’ve come up with lots of golden advice. Here are a few nuggets from the book:
There are two kinds of rewriting: tinkering with words and sentences, and actually writing the thing again.
Write a first draft as quickly as possible. Then you won’t feel so bad about yourself when you have to scrap the whole thing.
Be wary of using voices that try to nuzzle up too close to the reader.
Sometimes you must sacrifice beloved parts for the survival of the whole.
Don’t mess with chronology unless you have an extremely good reason to do so.
“Something is always wrong with a draft.”
“All prose responds to work.”
The book itself exemplifies clarity we should all strive for in writing. It’s a product of editorial synthesis, the result of collaboration between a writer and an editor who are equally relentless. Few writers have this relationship, but if you happen into one, by all means, don’t let it go.