Conducting In-Class Writing Activities: Notes on Procedures

Anticipating that students may be unfamiliar with the use of writing to enhance learning, it is useful to briefly discuss and introduce the activities. 

  • Provide rationale. When introducing the activity, you might describe both what you want them to do and why. Specify the kinds of thinking you’re trying to further, and how each informal activity relates to course assignments and objectives. Those of us who teach with this sort of activity regularly may want to include a short description of informal writing activities and their assessment in the course syllabus.

    Post It Note Idea
  • Describe next steps. Before students begin to write, answer the obvious questions. Will the writing be collected? Discussed? Included in an assignment portfolio? Graded? 

  • Clarify the target audience. As with all writing assignments, audience matters. It could be that you want students to consider themselves the primary audience; it could be that you want them to consider a different specific reader. Freewriting often results in personal writing that students should not be asked to make public. Make sure that you are clear about audience before the assignment is undertaken.

  • Announce time limits. (“I’ll stop you in 5 minutes”) and when time is almost over, give a one-minute or 30-second warning.

  • Do it too. Whenever possible, do the activity yourself before presenting it to students and/or do it along with them in the class. This makes a significant impact on student motivation.

  • Talk about it. As time allows, at the completion of the assignment, ask students to reflect on insights and developments. If you collect student writing, then summarize, or at least highlight and comment on, your findings during a subsequent class meeting.