Low-Stakes Writing in Large Classess

Decorative: A Post-It on which is written "Let's Write!" with the tip of a pencil showing as well

 

1. "Integrating Low-Stakes Writing into Large Classes" (post; pdf) "provides guidelines and methods for incorporating low-stakes writing into your class without being overwhelmed with work."

a. Below, you'll find an overview/synopsis of the following:

  • Benefits, challenges, & practical considerations
  • "Responding (or Not) to Low-Stakes Writing"
  • 8 [+5 in the infographic] practical, useful, and easy-to-implement writing strategies for large classes

b. Supplements

  • Process Journal Exercises (pdf)
    • "Process Journal Exercises for a Research Essay"
    • "Process Journal Exercises for an Analysis Essay"
    • "Process Journal Exercises for a Narrative Essay" 

2. Benefits

  • "[S]tudents learn more when they are required to articulate their knowledge in writing."

"Low-stakes writing" ...

a. "[H]elp[s] students ..."

  • "keep up with reading"
  • "better understand course concepts"
  • "take a more active role in the course."

b. "[O]ffer[s] students the opportunity to ..." 

  • "think critically about course material"
  • "grapple with disciplinary concepts and terms"
  • "practice problem solving without the pressure of evaluation."

c. "[O]ffers unique learning benefits because it ..."

  • "honors students’ developing knowledge"
  • "lets them articulate their ideas before perfecting their language or sentences."

d. "[P]romotes more active learning by ..."

  • "asking students to explore course concepts in writing"
  • "offering opportunities for students to share their writing in class."

3. Challenges & Considerations

a. Challenges

"[M]any instructors of large college classes are hesitant to assign writing because they believe" ...

  • "it will be too time consuming"
  • "they must also dedicate significant class time to teaching writing skills"
  • it will take too much time to mark.

b. Considerations (Each point is elaborated in the text.)

"Low stakes writing ..."

  • "shouldn’t focus on the quality of the writing." 
  • "should be assigned through the term."
  • "should require critical thinking."
  • "should focus on motivating students and fostering conversation and community."
  • "needs to be well integrated into the class."

4. "Responding (or Not) to Low-Stakes Writing"

a. Key Points (Each point is elaborated in text.)

  • "[C]ollect it [at least] at first so that students can see that you’re engaged with the writing they are doing, but will not critique it in a high-stakes manner."
  • Be "less focused on criticism and more focused on positive encouragement or asking questions to further students’ thoughts."
  • "[B]e upfront with students about how you will respond to the low-stakes work they do and how their writing will be assessed."
  • "[T]he syllabus should clearly state how it will be accounted for and whether or not it will count toward participation points or will be assigned a certain percentage in the overall grading breakdown."

b. Methods of Response to Consider

  • "Ask that students share ideas arrived at through low-stakes writing with the rest of the class, but do not collect or grade the writing itself."
  • "Collect and skim over students’ writing, but rather than responding to everyone, select key questions or themes to address with the full class."
  • "Collect and skim over students’ writing and select a few quotes or questions from student writing to share during class discussion." 
    • "Be sure to give credit to the students in class when you use their quotes."
    • "[T]his will signal to the class that you are reading their writing even if you aren’t responding to each student individually."
  • "Allow students to respond to each other in small groups first."
    • "You may create specific questions for them to discuss in their groups to help structure their discussion."
    • "Then collect the writing and give students credit, but offer no response."
  • "Collect and read over student writing and offer only words of encouragement or brief questions."
  • "Collect and read over student writing and respond only with minimal marks that you define in a response key (underlines, checkmarks, wavy lines, asterisks, etc."
  • "Give students incentives for doing low-stakes writing tasks rather than collecting or grading it, such as letting them use their low-stakes writing as open notes on a test or letting them know the low-stakes task will be revised as part of a high-stakes one."

5. Writing Strategies

  • Each strategy is developed in great and specific detail (with variations as well as tips for assigning, sharing, and responding) in the text for practical, ease-of-use application in class.

a. Writing to Learn Strategies

  • "Study Questions"
  • "Concept Papers"
  • "Round Robin"
  • "Class Notes"

b. Writing in Preparation Strategies

  • "Writing about Paper Topics"
  • "Writing Before and After Reading"
  • "Writing about Models"
  • "Writing Stages of the Draft"

6. "5 Low-Stakes Writing/Thinking Activities Brain Blast"

Infographic: 5 low-stakes writing tasks: Skimming & Scanning (uses title, headings, captions, & bolded words for two lists - Impressions, Questions, & Quick Facts), Exit Tweet (140 word summary of topic), Structured Note-Taking (outline & brief summary), Sentence Synthesis (summarize main ideas, share, discuss, synthesize big concepts), Progressive Cinquain (write a cinguain based on key words/concepts)-

 

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