Before an Assignment Is Due

Course readings and model essays can introduce assignments and demonstrate the kind of writing valued in your field.

This means you can use your existing course documents to show students how your field puts into practice the writing concepts they learned in Expos.

Leading section discussions with an assignment’s keywords and requirements in mind helps students see what’s expected of them. It will also motivate students to participate fully in the course. They’ll read with more purpose, become more active in section, and begin to use the methods for inquiry that scholars use in your field.






What You Can Do

Explain Assignments

Explaining the requirements and goals of assignments helps students understand why they are writing a paper and how they should approach it.


Why take extra time to explain assignments in class?


    • Although the purpose of assignments may seem obvious to you, students who are unfamiliar with the intellectual practices of your discipline often have misconceptions.


  • Helping students understand requirements and goals before they begin assignments decreases the time you have to spend clearing up confusion once they start writing and correcting misconceptions when grading. As a result, students are better able to master the content and intended skills of an assignment.

For more information on explaining assignments, click here.

For sample handouts and assignments, click here

Provide Models

Modeling is the practice of using exemplary papers—both good and bad—to communicate expectations and standards to students.


Why provide models?


  • Providing models helps communicate your discipline’s standards and conventions. Models enable students to better understand what you expect.


  •  Providing models also helps students think through workable strategies for upcoming writing assignments.


For more information on providing models, click here.

For sample handouts and assignments, click here.

Assign Brief Writing Exercises

Shorter writing exercises leading up to a full essay can help students break down the writing process into more manageable steps.


    • Brief assignments help students try out ideas that they can explore in greater depth later.


  • Brief assignments also help students produce stronger full-length essays.


For more information on brief assignments, click here.

For sample handouts and assignments, click here.

Incorporate Peer Review Exercises

Peer review exercises — that is, when students read and respond to each other’s writing either in class or outside it — can be a valuable teaching and learning tool at any point in the writing process. Peer review is a concrete way to impress upon students that they need to write with an audience in mind.



Why use peer review exercises?

  • Peer review helps students become critical and objective readers of their own writing.


  • Peer review also benefits instructors by providing students with additional feedback with minimal instructor time. When peers echo comments from instructors, their feedback can persuade skeptical students.


For more information on peer review, click here.

For sample handouts and assignments, click here.

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.