Below you can find an archive of the Writing Program’s curated list of “Resources of the Week” for academic year 2020-2021, supplied by the Curriculum Coordinators. The list suggests exercises appropriate for the different points in the semester, and faculty may find it a useful starting place when fleshing out certain aspects of their syllabi.
Fall 2020 (focus on WR 120)
Weeks 1-4: Preliminary and Planning Materials
- Consider reviewing these materials on inclusive teaching at the beginning of the semester, particularly this page describing making explicit the “hidden curriculum” of writing classes and this page on leveling the playing field for class participation.
- Plan to cover the work of this “Essential Lesson” on summary and analysis in WR 120. Our “Essential Lessons” are fully-realized lesson plans that teach the fundamental skills the Writing Program considers indispensable for each course.
- Use this page to think about some of the important aspects of planning peer-to-peer work and peer review.
Week 5: FLM on Acknowledgment and Response
- The promise of a Flipped Learning Module (FLM) is that, by relegating some of our more “encapsulated” lessons to video lectures and individual student activities that can be completed outside of class time, we might free up more of our meeting time for discussion, group activities, and other interactive work. When teaching remotely, these modules might also serve, in moderation, as asynchronous swap-in classes ameliorative of Zoom fatigue, Zoom shock, and the stressful vagaries of students’ and our schedules.
- Here, as just one excellent example, is the timely FLM on acknowledgment and response.
Week 6: Decoding a Public Genre
- As many of us start to focus on genre and audience, you might find this resource on decoding a public genre helpful; it could be used as either an at-home or in-class activity.
Week 7: Equity in Writing Assessment
- Even if you don’t teach our courses for English language learners (WR 111 and WR 112), you certainly teach multilingual students. If you’re unsure how to assess and grade writing in a classroom where students might come from very different language and writing backgrounds, you might want to check out this guide to equity in writing assessment.
Week 8: Essential Lesson on Acknowledgment and Response
- At this point in the semester, regardless of the courses you’re teaching, it might be helpful to revisit the skill of acknowledgment and response. This Essential Lesson on “Generating and Structuring an Argument through Acknowledgment and Response” can re-emphasize some of the work students did on this topic earlier in the FLM.
Week 9: Strategies for Analysis of Texts (and other exhibits)
- Many of you are discussing a new genre in your classes at this time of the semester. If you think it might be helpful for your students to have some usable-right-out-of-the-box concrete strategies and templates to consult as they analyze works in this genre, you might want to consider having students complete the FLM on “Strategies for Analysis of Texts,” which can also help students make claims about non-textual exhibits.
Week 10: Letter from an “Inner Critic”
- Metacognition is a fundamental component of our curriculum, which often gets assigned formally as end-of-assignment reflection or an end-of-semester portfolio. This assignment, however, is a creative, low-stakes, middle-of-the-semester way to solicit students’ reflection on how they feel about their writing and their progress, including any anxieties they might have, anxieties that might be particularly acute at this point in the semester. This letter from an imaginary “critic” is also something that students might “answer” later in the semester, using reasoning and evidence to correct distorted beliefs, pinpoint fallacies, and more accurately self-assess.
Week 11: Essential Lesson on Clarity
- At this late point in the semester, as students might be completing drafts of a long and complex essay, it can be helpful to give them skills and structures for revising their sentences to articulate complicated and sophisticated ideas in a clear way. This Essential Lesson, “Sentences Tell Stories: A Principle of Clarity” is a great resource.
Week 12: Teaching with the WR Journal
- All of our classes present our students with many examples of excellent writing, but we often don’t give them many examples of the same type of writing we’re asking them to try: college-level academic essays, writing projects in other genres, and more creative writing assignments. Our program’s WR Journal showcases a selection of the best papers and assignments from our courses and includes commentary from both the students and their instructors.
- This guide offers a link to the journal itself and “Teaching Notes by Issue,” with ideas for using specific essays. For example, the notes for Issue 10 suggest that you might use the WR 120 op-ed essay “Full-Colorism Television” by Mariel De Los Santos as a way to focus students on the issue of genre and genre constraints, perhaps by asking them to “translate” a paragraph into a voice that could be used in a more academic paper.
Week 14: No Resources!
- We have so much we want to give our students, from fascinating readings and sage advice to wonderful activities, lessons, assignments, and other resources.
- However, we might honor the old clichés and wisdom: that less is more, that “drawer time” is illuminating for students when they return to a project, and that space for reflection concentrates our lessons and makes them more meaningful.
- Just as our discussions are sometimes better when we “maintain our noble silence,” sometimes our instruction is better when we allow our students time for digestion and application.
Week 15: FLM on Metacognition
Spring 2021 (focus on WR 15x)
Weeks 1-2: Using Pictures to Spark Discussion
- Students seem ready to learn this semester: they know the Zoom drill and have clear ideas about what they want in class: student interaction and collaboration!
- For one instructor’s first day of class in “Family Snaps and Stories,” she shared a photograph she took a few weeks ago, capturing a moment from a CNN interview with Virginia Representative/Former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger. Although her head and shoulders are at the center of the screen, Spanberger’s background is filled with family pictures, most prominently, two enormous black and white closeups of two baby faces (or one baby twice–hard to tell!). In the foreground of the screenshot is text about the Capitol shooting and other distressing news. The students were excited to discuss the competing public and private discourses in this image and even noticed the different kinds of family photos in the image (Spanberger as a bride, etc.). Students found ways to view this image as having both conservative and progressive messages: nearly everyone had something to say. It was a fun opening day.
- Consider using this picture prompt activity for your own class. The New York Times prompts are great, but the selected image could be any one of your choosing, including something captured with your or your students’ phones.
Week 3: Using Course Readings in Multiple Ways
- It’s the third week of the semester, and many of us have already assigned foundational readings for the seminar topic that we designed. Your students are likely reading deeply in a genre or encountering different kinds of exhibits related to the course subject. Your students may be reading background, method, and/or theory sources and building their knowledge base.
- “Summary and Analysis” and “Scholarly Argument as Disciplinary Conversation” are two related Essential Lessons for Unit 1 in different classes. Both lessons address ways that students might acknowledge and respond to sources and learn to recognize that sources participate in a larger disciplinary conversation. Instructors typically use selected readings from my class in order to tackle both: Students learn to summarize and respond to an assigned source, while examining how that writer responds to their own selection of sources. We discuss where the writer’s sources come from and attempt to identify the ones that provide key terms or framing ideas for their claims.
- This awareness of discipline (or interdisciplinarity) created early in the semester should help students find a niche for their research projects down the road. It’s likely you have assigned readings that create the niche for them, so it’s important that your students recognize that.
Week 4: Visual Learning and Schema
- You may want to consider using this “schema” exercise (applicable to both in-person and, using Google Jamboard, remote learning environments). “Schemas are visual representations that help us organize and interpret information.” Working in groups, students map out a selected poem’s language and imagery related to a specific concept.
- Of course, you can use this for any reading you wish: fiction, plays, (graphic) memoirs, etc., or even for critical prose, where students map out major concepts and incorporate images into their schemas. The collaborative schema activity also fosters classroom community and creativity.
Week 5: Reading Strategies
- As our students prepare to launch into research projects, it’s important to create some time and space for them to consider their reading practices. Students often start looking up sources related to the course topic without thinking about what they want from them. They also sometimes think that finding a long list of reading will automatically yield expertise on a topic. We know that research is best produced with a strong governing question, but that question might also be shaped by what they read.
- This exercise addresses the task of “Reading for Research” and offers a handout that can help students recognize different ways to approach their sources. Often, research begins with student-selected exhibits and readings from a few (inter)disciplinary niches that our class has addressed in the last few weeks.
Week 6: Beginning the Research Process
- In WR 15x classes, students are entering the early stages of research. It’s a daunting and exciting time! For students who may be experiencing midterm fatigue, it’s important to reinforce the research strategies with activities outside the classroom. This FLM addresses “Understanding Research and Your Assignment,” “Finding and Formulating a Topic,” and “Developing Questions from Topics and Sources.”
- Remember that students often need to brainstorm more than once about their research topic. You may want to give them a general brainstorming opportunity, and then use these modules to reinforce the strategies for narrowing the subject and refining the governing question.
Week 7: Mid-Semester Metacognition and Feedback
- Consider having students complete some kind of mid-semester reflection, survey, or even Zoom poll to take stock of where they are at the moment and adjust the pace of the class and design new activities accordingly. Ideas for some questions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- How are you feeling at this point in the semester?
- Are you finding time to work on the draft?
- What factors make writing this assignment difficult right now?
Week 8: Annotated Bibliographies
- This assignment sheet provides background information about annotated bibliographies and suggests a format for them, while the Purdue OWL provides additional information on annotated bibliographies and also annotated bibliography examples.
- This FLM on Research and Information Literacy talks about the purposes of conducting research and the resources available at BU libraries. It might be a good idea to assign the FLM to the students or to watch the FLM in class and discuss it.
- Given that students are now conducting most, if not all, of their research online, it might be useful to point out some of the biases inherent in that research, as we live in the age of the algorithm that determines what we see online. Project Information Literacy’s Algorithm study is useful while discussing research sources and biases with students.
Week 9: Abstracts and Introductions
- WR 15x students may benefit from this activity, for which which they find model abstracts in their field and identify and examine elements of an effective abstract. This handout from the Writing Center at UNC Chapel Hill is useful for introducing abstracts.
- As our 120-level students work on their second major paper, it might be a good idea to revisit the Essential Lesson examining the Rhetorical Moves of Introductions. The WR Journal continues to be a great source for model essays and can be used in the classroom to demonstrate models of effective introductions.
Week 10: Research and Research in Conversation
- Our 15x students continue to work on their research papers this week. This FLM on the Scope of Research Questions & Conversations will be useful as you speak to your students about evaluating initial research questions, entering a research conversation, and creating conversations through research.
- This might also be a good time to remind your students about some of the ways in which their online search results might be skewed towards a certain perspective. See this Blue Feed Red Feed article (focusing on Facebook) by the Wall Street Journal.
Week 11: Moving Toward Final Papers
- Our WR 15x students are working on their research papers this week. This resource from the Purdue OWL is very useful to introduce literature reviews to students, particularly in its definition of synthesis: “synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?”
- Students will also be working on peer reviews of their second papers in some WR 120 classes this week. You may consider showing students this video as a reminder of the importance of review and feedback.
- Finally, as our WR 112 students start work on their final essay, this FLM provides some very good ideas for incorporating ideas and templates from They Say/I Say.
Week 12: Multimodal Resources
- This week, many of our students are working on their multimodal assignments.
- In WR 152, some students are working on remediating their research essays into other genres like oral presentations, vlogs, web sites, and journals. This advice to students for preparing for oral presentations is very useful at all levels of WR classes, either to cover in class, or to assign to the students for homework reading.
- Some FLMs (Creating and Presenting Posters, Oral Presentations, Creating Effective Visual Presentations) also offer useful tips for multimodal assignments.
Weeks 13-14: Providing Oral Feedback on Papers
- Thinking about how to give students comments on their final papers? Providing Feedback in Remote Writing Courses is a guide to providing oral feedback using voice comments, Screencastify, or Zoom.