Teaching Writing in the First Year
Many professors coming to Dartmouth's first-year writing courses wonder what, exactly, they should be teaching in the first-year classes. Any first-year writing class seeks to accomplish a myriad of goals, including:
- Bringing students into the ongoing conversation of scholarship
- Educating students in the elements of argument
- Improving students' critical reading and thinking skills
- Instructing students to find, evaluate, and cite sources
- Teaching students to write clear and effective prose
Teaching writing requires that instructors consider their students as thinkers, readers, researchers, and writers. It requires that they understand that students have different skill sets, as well as different interests, strengths, and writing styles. It also requires that they design their courses with an eye to the students and their needs, and that they be ready to make changes should they find that student needs are not being met. In sum, teaching writing requires imagination, patience, sensitivity, and diligence. On the other hand, it provides the opportunity to engage with students in a way that content-driven courses may not offer. Teaching writing—for those of us who make a living from it—is as fulfilling as it is demanding.
It's important to note that teaching writing at Dartmouth does not require you to teach grammar or to diagram sentences, though you may indeed find yourself addressing grammar issues in your remarks on student papers or in conferences. Instead you will enter into your students' writing and research processes, helping them determine what it is they want to argue, asking questions that further develop that argument, offering strategies and models that show them how to structure their argument, and guiding them through the revision process so that they can craft more coherent paragraphs and produce sentences that exemplify clear and eloquent style.
Finally, teaching writing can be daunting, especially to those instructors who have had little or no training. Accordingly, we offer here several methods that instructors can employ, without formal training, to improve student writing.
- Active Learning in the First-Year Classroom
- Conducting Writing Workshops
- Diagnosing and Responding to Student Writing
- Collaborative Learning
- Teaching Style
Last modified: Friday, 12-Oct-2007 15:05:11 EDT
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