In working towards a writing assignment (whether a draft or a final piece of writing), students often benefit from exercises that help with the development and organization of ideas and analysis.
These exercises break down the writing process into smaller pieces that can be explored and developed in more depth. In their freshman Expos classes, students are assigned a variety of these types of exercises as they work toward their drafts. In your class, introducing one or more exercises during the writing process can help produce stronger papers that better reflect the expectations of the assignment.
Exercises leading up to major assignments can be conducted as at-home exercises, in-class activities, or a combination of both.
Techniques for Using Brief Assignments
Assigning brief writing exercises early helps students clarify their ideas, receive early feedback, and put themselves on the path to a more successful paper.
A good pre-draft exercise will ask students to explore analytical ideas in more depth, or to work on one isolated aspect of the writing process, for example:
- Research and exploring analytical ideas
- Locating sources (e.g., annotated bibliographies)
- Gathering evidence
- Dealing with contradictory evidence / counterarguments
- Proper use of citations
Brief writing exercises are not designed to create extra work, but rather to help students towards completion of the assignment. It is important to communicate with students how these pre-draft exercises should contribute to their intellectual development and essay formation.