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PeterPan

s/o--College/University writing instructor rants on high school writing instruction...

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This website from the University of Chicago states that even for college students the part of your quote in bold is spot on. http://writing-program.uchicago.edu/resources/collegewriting/high_school_v_college.htm

 

From the website:

 

This tells me (1) it is worth it to prepare them for this type of writing and (2) I have reason to worry about pulling it off!

 

Thanks for the subsequent suggestions about starting with something that invokes a strong response.

 

I may just find myself researching writing curriculum again :)

 

 

Thank you for the terrific link. I have used Purdue's site, but not this one and it is definitely worth bookmarking.

 

Before you run off and start researching writing curriculum, look at the second paragraph on the page you linked:

 

"We should note here that a college is a big place and that you'll be asked to use writing to fulfill different tasks. You'll find occasions where you'll succeed by summarizing a reading accurately and showing that you understand it. There may be times when you're invited to use writing to react to a reading, speculate about it. Far more often--like every other week--you will be asked to analyze the reading, to make a worthwhile claim about it that is not obvious (state a thesis means almost the same thing), to support your claim with good reasons, all in four or five pages that are organized to present an argument . (If you did that in high school, write your teachers a letter of gratitude.)"

 

This is academic writing. What tools will you need to successfully teach the listed tasks? Do you really need an elaborate, expensive writing program - or six? I used to think so, but not so much anymore. Now that I have received some outside validation that my son can actually write competent academic papers, I have thought about the tools that I perceive have been the most useful and not a single writing program comes to mind.

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With real, substantive ideas to write about, in an argument setting it may be much easier to distinguish between clearer and less-clear sentences. When you have an opposing side ready to rip apart your argument in writing, that has a way of crystallizing where both the substantive and the language weaknesses are in anticipation of such attacks. The need to persuade, to win by clear communication that your substance is more correct than the other guy's substance, is a great motivation for including clarifying clauses and choosing more-accurately descriptive nouns and verbs rather than over-reliance on adjectives and adverbs. Vagueness is to be avoided. Thinking out loud, I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to replicate having an argument opposition in a homeschool setting, except perhaps by standing over the student's shoulder, talking through it. I'd love to hear ideas how this could be accomplished - have the student argue against himself? (A typical argument schedule involves an argument, a response opposing that, and then a reply to the response.) I don't think that would be as effective as having someone else oppose. Maybe the parent-as-writing-mentor, standing over the shoulder or sitting next to the student with red pen in hand, is the only way?

This is how speech and debate saved my dd from her awful writing teacher (me, in case that wasn't clear!). Now, she loves debate and loves a good argument and is one smart cookie, so she was a natural. Ds is now in varsity debate and I hope the same processes of researching a topic, condensing the info, organizing it, and presenting it help him too.

 

Also, both dc have written advocacy speeches, hence, they are writing something about which they are passionate. Throw in impromptu (limited prep) speeches, and they have some experience thinking on their feet.

 

I noticed great improvement in my dd's writing when she started debate. I love the voice in ds's writing. I pray his awful writing teacher (still me!) doesn't ruin that.

 

Great thread! Thanks, ladies!

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Interesting.  Yes, she's very insightful in that way of taking something, getting to the heart of it, and then making connections.  She doesn't get lost in the weeds the way I do, lol.  

 

Word retrieval is its own beast.  I just ordered some materials to use with ds.  It has to do with who they're organized in the brain, how automatic they are, etc.  So for instance the SLP did some testing on ds this week looking at his language processing.  He was asked to compare a refrigerator and stove.  He thought a bit, and said the one cooks the other keeps things (stumble over words) FRESH.  Yes, my 5 yo tells the therapist one cooks the other keeps things fresh!  Expected answer?  Hot and cold.  So he can't retrieve cold and ends up with FRESH.  Sigh.  I die a year every time one of my kids get evals.  Anyways, um, I guess we'll see.  It's awfully late to go back and work on anything for dd.  For ds, we'll be doing some explicit work on it pretty soon.

 

 

 

 

About the example with your ds, my take is different:  to me, that looks more like a potentially-gifted-kid answer than a word-retrieval difficulty.  

 

Elizabeth, I had the same reaction wapiti did!

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Thank you for the terrific link. I have used Purdue's site, but not this one and it is definitely worth bookmarking.

 

Before you run off and start researching writing curriculum, look at the second paragraph on the page you linked:

 

"We should note here that a college is a big place and that you'll be asked to use writing to fulfill different tasks. You'll find occasions where you'll succeed by summarizing a reading accurately and showing that you understand it. There may be times when you're invited to use writing to react to a reading, speculate about it. Far more often--like every other week--you will be asked to analyze the reading, to make a worthwhile claim about it that is not obvious (state a thesis means almost the same thing), to support your claim with good reasons, all in four or five pages that are organized to present an argument . (If you did that in high school, write your teachers a letter of gratitude.)"

 

This is academic writing. What tools will you need to successfully teach the listed tasks? Do you really need an elaborate, expensive writing program - or six? I used to think so, but not so much anymore. Now that I have received some outside validation that my son can actually write competent academic papers, I have thought about the tools that I perceive have been the most useful and not a single writing program comes to mind.

 

Yes! Let's talk about the tools that have been the most useful.

 

From this thread we have already identified (1) a firm grasp of grammar (and spelling), (2) understanding a writing prompt, (3) summarizing, (4) developing one's own topic, (5) organizing and arranging ideas before putting pen to paper, (6) thinking, (7) choosing words wisely (elocution), (8) arguing and (9) revising.

 

Are these the types of tools to which you refer or are these the goals and we need to identify tools to reach these goals? Did I combine tools and goals?

 

I think when I look into writing curriculum I lose site of these tools/goals. I want something that guarantees that I cover everything and that I prepare my students for writing. But, a writing curriculum is applying a formula and the more I consider writing the more I begin to see that teaching writing is an art and it is not a science. Can you use a formula to teach something that is not formulaic? Should you? As was suggested in this thread- are the formulas themselves leading to poor writing because the student does not grow beyond the formula? I imagine a formula itself can be an effective tool if used properly.

 

I am finally seeing that the process of teaching writing is not pretty and we just need to accept that fact. We cannot expect our students to master all 1-9 tools/goals (and any others I missed) in one swoop. We need to focus on these steps at different stages and in varying degrees (hopefully always focusing on thinking). At some point, everything comes together. But, the process is not linear and the papers in-between are apt to make us panic. So, we look for writing curriculum to solve the problem for us.

 

I would love to focus more on goals/tools/means to achieve good writing. I think if we ourselves have a toolbox for teaching writing we can help our students to write well.

 

For me, rhetoric is the foundation of good writing. Not everyone needs to approach writing this way but it is what comes naturally to me.

 

 

 

 

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About the example with your ds, my take is different:  to me, that looks more like a potentially-gifted-kid answer than a word-retrieval difficulty.  Hopefully an experienced 2e tester would be able to tell the difference.

For Angie and anyone who cares, the SLP just sent me the scores from the language testing that he did so far, and yes she said he's testing 1-2 standard deviations above the norm.  He's even testing high in things affected by the apraxia (categorizations, etc.).  She has more testing she wants to do to help me target what I'm doing.  She also suggested I put him in with other kids more often to slow him down.   :lol:  

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What's an example of this? I hear lots of mistakes in spoken English, but I can't remember ever hearing this particular one.

I'm guilty of this one frequently. I think what happens is that my sentence starts coming out of my mouth before I've totally decided what to say. So I will start out with "There is..." thinking that what follows next will only be a single thing, but then mid-stream I decide to add something else. Sometimes I will go back and correct myself after I've completed the sentence but not always.

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Yes! Let's talk about the tools that have been the most useful.

 

From this thread we have already identified (1) a firm grasp of grammar (and spelling), (2) understanding a writing prompt, (3) summarizing, (4) developing one's own topic, (5) organizing and arranging ideas before putting pen to paper, (6) thinking, (7) choosing words wisely (elocution), (8) arguing and (9) revising.

 

Are these the types of tools to which you refer or are these the goals and we need to identify tools to reach these goals? Did I combine tools and goals?

 

I think when I look into writing curriculum I lose site of these tools/goals. I want something that guarantees that I cover everything and that I prepare my students for writing. But, a writing curriculum is applying a formula and the more I consider writing the more I begin to see that teaching writing is an art and it is not a science. Can you use a formula to teach something that is not formulaic? Should you? As was suggested in this thread- are the formulas themselves leading to poor writing because the student does not grow beyond the formula? I imagine a formula itself can be an effective tool if used properly.

 

I am finally seeing that the process of teaching writing is not pretty and we just need to accept that fact. We cannot expect our students to master all 1-9 tools/goals (and any others I missed) in one swoop. We need to focus on these steps at different stages and in varying degrees (hopefully always focusing on thinking). At some point, everything comes together. But, the process is not linear and the papers in-between are apt to make us panic. So, we look for writing curriculum to solve the problem for us.

 

I would love to focus more on goals/tools/means to achieve good writing. I think if we ourselves have a toolbox for teaching writing we can help our students to write well.

 

For me, rhetoric is the foundation of good writing. Not everyone needs to approach writing this way but it is what comes naturally to me.

 

YES!!!!!!!!  Sorry to shout.  But this is so true, and the realization has helped me to have the confidence to teach writing without the curriculum.  Sometimes, the in-between stages aren't all that pretty.  Sometimes you can revise and revise and turn something ugly into something the student is proud of, and sometimes you just have to let it go and move on to the next thing!  

 

I find that it helps me if I identify in advance what the primary goal of the assignment is.  If the primary goal of the assignment is arranging an argument logically and coherently, I won't worry so much about word choice.  If the primary goal is to choose strong, vivid nouns and verbs and avoid vagueness, I will focus on that.  The key is to not try to make every paper about everything, that's just depressing for you and overwhelming for the student.

 

I think that the "6 traits" model can be helpful when you are figuring out how to teach the goals/tools.  I haven't really liked any of the assignments in the books I've seen, but the focus on the Traits (I don't know why they are called traits - I think of them as goals/skills really) can help me plan out the kinds of assignments to do.  The traits are a lot like what you listed:  Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions, and Presentation.

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Yes! Let's talk about the tools that have been the most useful.

 

From this thread we have already identified (1) a firm grasp of grammar (and spelling), (2) understanding a writing prompt, (3) summarizing, (4) developing one's own topic, (5) organizing and arranging ideas before putting pen to paper, (6) thinking, (7) choosing words wisely (elocution), (8) arguing and (9) revising.

 

For me, rhetoric is the foundation of good writing. Not everyone needs to approach writing this way but it is what comes naturally to me.

 

Another interesting book I found is A Speaker's Guidebook. I plan on adding a speech component to ds' English credit. I have a reluctant writer who is a wonderful talker. He can basically speak an essay without prompting, yet writing it down gives him the deer in the headlights stare and it ends up basic and bland. Much of what is in the book above can be transferred well to writing.

 

I've implemented a 3 part essay assignment for the rest of this semester. He's floundered with every printed curriculum on writing. So we're continuing with argumentation with Workbook for Arguments, doing it orally when it fits. The essay assignments will be divided into: 

 

1. pick a topic and find your sources - For this first one I'm giving him 3 books as sources, period. 

2. thesis and rough draft - we're going back to baby steps. 

3. rough draft to polished paper - again baby steps, me sitting with him with  a marked up draft

 

Writing has been hard for me to teach, I wish he responded well to a outlined book and could do the next step. He doesn't. After finishing MY school year of freshman comp, I'll feel better about guiding him. 

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I have a reluctant writer who is a wonderful talker. He can basically speak an essay without prompting, yet writing it down gives him the deer in the headlights stare and it ends up basic and bland. 

Well I can tell you what I do, and you can see if anything applies.  For us, it's that you have thought to word and word to paper.  Somewhere in there things get glitchy, when you add in the motor control, remembering what they were thinking, organizing, spelling, etc.  So I try to *bridge* that for her.  I'll take out a huge sheet of art paper and a marker and I'll start writing things she says.  She'll say something, and I'll write a word.  Then say something else and write a word for that.  Then start drawing circles and lines to show relationships.  Sometimes they don't REALIZE all the things they've said and they need some help seeing it and getting it out there.  For some projects, it can take a couple of these big sheets and just talking through things.  

 

Then we move over to Inspiration.  Start with your big question and then just start getting all those points on there, everything he was saying.  Then toggle that to outline and see if it's kind of balanced, imbalanced, needs more evidence somewhere, etc.  The process can seem really unnecessary, but it takes all the ideas in their head and gets some organization to it.  Once they have that, they're ready to sit down and write.

 

At least that's what works here. Inspiration software is available for mac, pc, and mobile.

 

One way to handle the sources issue is to require them to physically SHOW you the evidence for the assertions at that level in their map in the software.  

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I don't have anything to add to this discussion only to say 'Thank you!'   We are having a huge problem with writing here.  I have spent most of this weekend reading all of my writing books and curriculum trying to figure out a way to solve our problems.  This thread has helped me see what we need to work on and in what order it needs to be done.  All of my children are reluctant writers.  They say exactly what they need to say in the fewest words possible, that doesn't translate well into an essay paper.  I have found a few ideas  from this thread to help us with this dilemma.   Again  thank you.

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For Angie and anyone who cares, the SLP just sent me the scores from the language testing that he did so far, and yes she said he's testing 1-2 standard deviations above the norm.  He's even testing high in things affected by the apraxia (categorizations, etc.).  She has more testing she wants to do to help me target what I'm doing.  She also suggested I put him in with other kids more often to slow him down.   :lol:  

 

Great news! Thanks for sharing this.  :001_smile:

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As regards essays and other professional writing, I include that as part of reading. Also, we read something aloud every day and discuss if there is something worth talking about.  Our main focus for composition is some part of the writing process every day.  We use good materials that work for us, keep writing, and I provide feedback.  I've written in the past that I learned so much from Julie Bogart about being a writing mentor.  Through her, I learned to make the process collaborative and smooth.  Fwiw, we've never had advanced writers, so it's been enough for our children to work through high school level materials and do a good job with that work.

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Why amazon??  I bought mine as a download directly from the Inspiration website, cost maybe $25 on sale.  There's also an app.  You can move the files between them.  And yes, it's exceptionally good and highly recommended for people with any sort of organizational or writing issues.  

 

Two reasons.

1. I want a disk in hand.  I've had troubles with downloads in the past.

2. I'm in Canada.  Amazon.ca is a terrible price, but I can get the Amazon.com to ship it to an address 40 mins from me.  I already have a small pile to pick up there anyway, so might as well add some more. :)

 

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I think the thread has moved on from the original questions to things like comparing curricula that I'm unqualified to do (my oldest is only 8), but as one of those college instructors who's complained here about writing I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

 

Many of my students don't know how to structure an essay.  I would like them to write an introductory paragraph (or maybe two) that introduces a topic briefly, states what their argument or point about that topic is going to be, and very briefly introduces the types of evidence they're going to use.  Then, I'd like them to write something x-y pages long (with the length appropriate to the assignment) in which each paragraph makes a point related to their argument.  This could be a discussion of something that supports their argument, or a discussion of one of the major arguments against their argument and why it's not really a fatal flaw.  Finally, I'd like them to end with a conclusion that summarizes how they've drawn all these different pieces of evidence together into a convincing body of support for whatever their argument is.  In a longer assignment there are other things they could add, but this is pretty typical, and I make it as clear as possible that it's what I'm looking for.

 

The organization I've just described is, I think, what the infamous "5 paragraph essay" is supposed to teach younger students.  The problems come up when it's made into an overly formulaic grading tool rather than a teaching tool.  "Five paragraphs" is just supposed to force students to write a coherent introduction, explain 3 supporting points, and write a conclusion that matches the rest of the essay.  There is nothing magic about the number five!  In fact, when the essay is only 5 paragraphs long, writing an intro and conclusion gets to seem kind of silly-- who is going to lose track of the thread of an argument in 1-2 pages?  The format should be a training tool to help students learn the structure for longer and more complex pieces of writing, not something to be slavishly followed under all circumstances.

 

Often, my students worry much, much more about the number of paragraphs to include, the sizes of the font and margins, and things like the use of first-person and passive voice than they do about conveying any meaningful information.  Essays written like Yoda, one receives.  Horrified, one feels.  I can only assume this is the result of silly grading practices in younger grades, when a swamped (or not-so-good) teacher has graded by skimming and looking for formatting errors rather than paying attention to what the student is actually discussing.  Students end up thinking it's okay to turn in papers that sound like incoherent rambling as long as they avoid whatever those "grading triggers" were (passive voice and first person seem to be the biggies where I teach).

 

Once people get the issue of organization figured out, style and content are also big tripping points.  My friends who teach college courses were reposting this like mad on Facebook and laughing: http://www.collegehumor.com/post/6941975/if-everyone-still-wrote-like-they-did-in-college.  (Caution, that website's language and content are not child-appropriate.)  People above referred to this too-- students need to be comfortable with just making a good argument for something without feeling like they ought to pretend to have a brilliantly original idea or a life-changing epiphany every time they write a class paper.

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...

 

Many of my students don't know how to structure an essay.  I would like them to write an introductory paragraph (or maybe two) that introduces a topic briefly, states what their argument or point about that topic is going to be, and very briefly introduces the types of evidence they're going to use.  Then, I'd like them to write something x-y pages long (with the length appropriate to the assignment) in which each paragraph makes a point related to their argument.  This could be a discussion of something that supports their argument, or a discussion of one of the major arguments against their argument and why it's not really a fatal flaw.  Finally, I'd like them to end with a conclusion that summarizes how they've drawn all these different pieces of evidence together into a convincing body of support for whatever their argument is.  In a longer assignment there are other things they could add, but this is pretty typical, and I make it as clear as possible that it's what I'm looking for.

 

The organization I've just described is, I think, what the infamous "5 paragraph essay" is supposed to teach younger students.  The problems come up when it's made into an overly formulaic grading tool rather than a teaching tool.  "Five paragraphs" is just supposed to force students to write a coherent introduction, explain 3 supporting points, and write a conclusion that matches the rest of the essay.  There is nothing magic about the number five!  In fact, when the essay is only 5 paragraphs long, writing an intro and conclusion gets to seem kind of silly-- who is going to lose track of the thread of an argument in 1-2 pages?  The format should be a training tool to help students learn the structure for longer and more complex pieces of writing, not something to be slavishly followed under all circumstances.

 

Often, my students worry much, much more about the number of paragraphs to include, the sizes of the font and margins, and things like the use of first-person and passive voice than they do about conveying any meaningful information.  Essays written like Yoda, one receives.  Horrified, one feels.  I can only assume this is the result of silly grading practices in younger grades, when a swamped (or not-so-good) teacher has graded by skimming and looking for formatting errors rather than paying attention to what the student is actually discussing.  Students end up thinking it's okay to turn in papers that sound like incoherent rambling as long as they avoid whatever those "grading triggers" were (passive voice and first person seem to be the biggies where I teach).

 

...

 

I appreciate you sharing this.

 

My oldest just finished her first semester as a college freshman. At home, I struggled to teach her how to write. Starting in junior high we did a lot of five paragraph essays. Then in high school, when I tried to get her to move forward from that format, she wouldn't let go. "I don't know how to write two paragraphs!" Somehow she managed to place into the advanced writing class in college. The entire semester the students would argue their opinions on controversial topics in presentations and papers. She came out with an A, and I think it's because of all the five paragraph essays she wrote while hsing. She had the basic essay organization down, knew how to support an argument, and stick to the topic. So while it would have been nice if she had been more flexible earlier on, that format served its purpose.

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Msk, since I was the one who started the thread, I especially want to thank you for replying!  That was VERY helpful.  I don't know what grades you're teaching at home, but I find myself thinking in high school we're supposed to be doing something more, something more, as if there's this elusive thing we haven't covered yet.  And yet, as you're saying, if you can bang out just the basic argumentative format, you've learned a lot and are giving them something to work with in college.

 

So here's a question to follow up.  IF the student is really nailing those basic essays, what would you like to see done NEXT?  Obviously there's compare/contrast, etc. etc., which I mentally lumped in with your comments.  SWB/WTM is advocating putting them through something for rhetoric.  How would you prioritize?  My dd really enjoys her creative stuff and fan fiction, to the point where, even though I like the idea of rhetoric and would like to dig into some with her, I'm not sure how much is essential and how much is frosting, sweet stuff to add if you can.  

 

If that's the wrong question, then tell me the answer to what I should have been asking, lol.   :)  You know what I liked best about your reply is that you made it sound within reach, that if we hit these basics and just do the basics WELL, we're fine.  Somehow it's all gotten lost in mom guilt that we're not doing enough if we don't get through Aristotle's rhetoric or this or that, blah blah.

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OE,

 

If your student can write solid paragraphs, 5-paragraph essays, lit response and analysis, then consider longer papers; i.e. 2 paragraph intros and conclusions with more paragraphs for supporting points, reviews - movies, plays or music, as well as the types of assignments found in a good college textbook (I suggested "The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing" in another post. It also has a chapter on formal arguments. With oldest dc, we only got through the "if" part of my suggestions. He did very well in his English classes, but getting to the "then" would have made his life easier for his freshman and sophomore years. Also, check out Julie Bogart's class on Textual Analysis. Rhetoric has already been suggested.

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OE,

 

If your student can write solid paragraphs, 5-paragraph essays, lit response and analysis, then consider longer papers; i.e. 2 paragraph intros and conclusions with more paragraphs for supporting points, reviews - movies, plays or music, as well as the types of assignments found in a good college textbook (I suggested "The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing" in another post. It also has a chapter on formal arguments. With oldest dc, we only got through the "if" part of my suggestions. He did very well in his English classes, but getting to the "then" would have made his life easier for his freshman and sophomore years. Also, check out Julie Bogart's class on Textual Analysis. Rhetoric has already been suggested.

Good points!  I really like your genre suggestion for her. Lots of ideas are going through my head now on how we could do that. Thanks!

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OE (and others), my oldest is 8 and I am just supplementing her public school.  So, I don't really know what/how to teach in high school level writing, just what I wish the "end product" were. I teach primarily archaeology.  Many of my courses are geared towards non-majors, so I've tended to focus on writing arguments (and writing clearly and convincingly in general) as skills useful to non-majors and majors alike.  Papers in my field are usually science-based arguments.  Creative and descriptive writing are a different ballgame whose rules I don't really know at this level.

 

When students have a basic paper structure down with clear organization, proper grammar, etc, the first thing I do is breathe a sigh of relief and wish everyone understood how much just doing those things improves the way their paper is percieved (and thus their grade), regardless of what their paper's content is!  Then I look for other things. 

 

One thing many students have trouble with is turning a paper about a topic that's new to them from a description into an argument.  Often people need help finding a "thread" that winds through their paper and holds the different sections together.  If they can find that thread and phrase it in the first paragraph or two as the point their paper will be arguing for, it makes the descriptive paragraphs much more interesting as readers feel there's a point to it all.  Again, that "thread" doesn't need to be ground-breaking or hugely controversial, just something it's possible to argue for or against or try to convince someone of.  It takes practice to figure out how to articulate this thread clearly at the beginning, keep highlighting it as they go along, and tie things back to it at the end.  I think this is something people get exposed to in high school (or at least they should) and refine early in college (hopefully) in classes like Tiramisu's daughter had.  (I had a class like that my freshman year, and in hindsight it was one of the most important courses I ever took.)

 

Another issue for many people is balancing evidence, experts' arguments, and their own opinions.  It's important to have the student's voice in the paper as the person pulling evidence together to support the "thread" I mentioned, but their opinions need to be backed up with arguments they've read (and original data for students farther along who have some to work with).  Pure opinion or "common sense" without research to back it up doesn't work in this context.  Obviously this involves library research skills, but students also need to be comfortable reading others' arguments, understanding the pieces that will be useful to them, restating those arguments entirely in their own words, and weaving them into their own arguments in a way that seems both logical and natural.  It's hard to break people of the habit of quoting all the time, but (as I repeat approximately 1 million times per semester) being able to put something into your own words shows a much deeper understanding of it.  I think this is what "reading comprehension questions" and "summarize the main events in this story" type activities in the lower grades are building towards, but in college those skills are getting pulled into an original essay in a way many students aren't quite comfortable with at first.  The descriptive "reports" and personal opinion essays students write in earlier grades are also pieces that feed into this-- again they've (hopefully) built skills students can now combine in new ways.

 

With people who can do the things above, I focus on improving the logic of their argument, whether the evidence they use supports their argument well or could be interpreted a different way, whether their references are balanced without overreliance on a specific school of thought, how well they critique opposing views, whether they notice flaws in their own argument and have a way of hedging against them (even if it's just to point out some uncertainty and say "more work is needed on X"), and things like that.  In an ideal world, this is the level I'd expect people to be working on early in college-- they'd have the skills in I described earlier down pretty well and just need a little refinement.  They'd have some experience working on the skills in this paragraph, and be working to improve them with input from someone with expert knowledge in the field they were writing about.  In my mind, this process of refining ideas by working with someone with expert knowledge in a subject is why students pay to take classes with someone who has an advanced degree, and this is where I think my kids should be when they start college.

 

As people get farther along, writing becomes more field-specific; I think about whether students referenced key theories and seem familiar with the major arguments and "big names" for a topic or region, etc.  In my field, there's more of a focus on working with original data at this level, and fitting a student's analyses into both a specific research question and a larger theoretical or methodological issue of importance in our field more generally.  Hopefully this is what a student will get to later in college once they settle on a field, and if they already have those earlier skills it will be much easier to focus on this level of work.

 

That got really long, but it's something I think about a lot when I'm trying to help my beginning college students, hopefully it will help somewhat.

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Msk, that was absolutely fascinating, and I'm glad you take the time to post here!  :)  I couldn't help thinking, as I read your comments, that these are the very things an NHD (National History Day) project requires you do.  I think we were doing them without realizing or making them intentional.  Your list is much more specific and would create a great advanced rubric for a mom.  Thanks!!

 

So what kind of archaeology do you teach?  Biblical, all kinds, ??  

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@OE-- It does sound like the NHD projects help with these skills.  So does debate (which some people mentioned above).  Its kind of comforting in a way-- it seems to me that many, many different programs (if done well) teach the same set of skills, just in slightly different ways and with different labels.  I feel like writing instruction is one of the areas where involved parents (in the whole spectrum from HSing to just giving their student's papers more thorough comments than an overwhelmed teacher in a poor-to-average public school would) can make the biggest difference.

 

I should have mentioned that most of the students I see who are at the level I thought early-stage college students ideally should be are in the honors programs at the community college and state university where I teach.  I think the average student at the fancypants university where I did my undergrad was at that level, but it's not "average" in most places.  I don't think people bothering to read this thread are going for mediocrity, though.  :-)

 

PS-- I teach prehistoric archaeology, especially New World but a lot of general prehistory too.  I don't know much about Biblical archaeology, it's a pretty specialized field and my knowledge tends to end around the time written records start proliferating in any given place.

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