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Teaching Writing in First Year Courses

students in library

Teachers of first-year students devote time to improving students' writing in many ways:

  • outlining procedures to follow when composing an essay;
  • providing models of the kinds of writing students will be doing;
  • explaining the criteria by which essays will be marked;
  • helping students to understand why their writing succeeds or falls short;
  • insisting on clarity and coherence.

When students encounter such concern for order and expression in all the courses that require them to write essays, they usually make the effort to improve their writing habits.

At the end of their two English courses, students must demonstrate the ability to write essays on literary topics with the following qualities:

(a) understanding of the content and form of the material studied;

(b) control in writing, including:

  • keeping the topic in focus
  • organizing the essay
  • building paragraphs clearly and coherently
  • observing basic conventions of syntax and mechanics

Some Approaches to Teaching of Writing in First-Year English

These are the procedures generally followed in first-year English courses:

  • assessing by tests and essays the writing ability of each class;
  • discussing marked essays and texts with the class to make clear the level of performance expected;
  • giving blocks of class time to such areas as diction and syntax, sentences and paragraphs, essays and organization;
  • presenting models of coherent unified prose, written by their peers, a professional writer, or the instructor;
  • showing students how to phrase topic or thesis sentences and how to maintain a focus based on the intention of the thesis sentence;
  • advising or requiring students to rewrite defective essays or paragraphs;
  • setting assignments of graduated difficulty;
  • teaching the necessity of close critical reading of sources, the standard methods of documentation, the use of the library, and the ways of incorporating quotations into the text of a paper;
  • offering tutorials for students who need to clarify their ideas by talking about them before they can lucidly reshape their work;
  • writing specific comments on papers to show students the value of exact statement and logical organization.

In summary, analytical writing on the level of the sentence, the paragraph, and the essay is regularly required of students, with the principles and strategies such writing entails being consistently brought to the students' attention through explanation, and comments on their papers.

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