1. Ask students to do a lot of writing, but don’t make every assignment count for a grade. If students are in the habit of responding to texts and information in writing, the formal paper is less daunting. Read some student texts as a “real” reader, responding to content without seeking to correct it.
2. Give students some class time to start brainstorming on a writing topic after you’ve given an assignment. As little as 5 minutes can be effective.
3. Encourage a variety of prewriting and planning strategies. Students sometimes need to do some writing before they know what their thesis will be. Some students work well from an outline, clustering, or creating a tree diagram. Others may benefit from generating a series of questions they have, or think their readers will have about their topic. Yet others benefit from visualizing a scenario in which they communicate the information (like a t.v. news report or speech in a courtroom). Others can visualize by drawing scenes. See our Online Writing Manual for more information.
4. Assign students to peer groups to give each other focused feedback on drafts. Prepare some guidelines for peer responders, so that they can look for specific textual features, and ask them to provide written feedback to the student authors. Peer group sessions can be held in class, face-to-face out of class, or in a computer environment (email, bulletin board, BC-MOO, etc.).
5. Encourage students to ask you questions about their writing, as they are working on papers.
6. Practice formative assessment.
7. If at all possible, schedule brief face-to-face conferences for discussion of student writing. Consider framing your comments in terms of questions, like, “What do you mean here?” or, “Can you tell me more about this?” rather than in evaluative statements.
8. When students produce multiple drafts of an essay, you can hold them to very rigorous standards for the final product.
9. Weight end-of-semester revisions and writing more heavily than early writing when you determine the final grade.