Assigning Brief Writing Exercises

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

Assign Brief Exercises Early in the Writing Process

Assigning brief writing exercises early helps students clarify their ideas, receive early feedback, and put themselves on the path to a more successful paper.

Use Brief Writing Exercises to Focus on Specific Skills

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
  • Analysis
  • Introductions
  • Conclusions
  • Dealing with contradictory evidence / counterarguments
  • Outlines
  • Proper use of citations

Download a brief writing assignment on close analysis of texts as a Microsoft Word document.

Download a brief writing assignment on outlining as a Microsoft Word document.

Download a brief writing assignment on annotated bibliographies as a Microsoft Word document.

Use Brief Writing Exercises as Building Blocks Toward the Final Paper.

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.

Want Help?

The Harvard Writing Project offers free workshops to all FAS faculty and teaching fellows, with proven strategies to help you work more efficiently and to help your students learn more effectively.  Contact us.