Week Three - Wednesday, September 7th

Wednesday, September 7:  Daily Class Outline

Lesson Objectives

To construct criteria for workshop and practice giving useful feedback on a sample essay. To provide an opportunity for students to give and receive comments on their essays.

Connection to Course Goals

Workshops encourage students to see their writing as a process by promoting critical thinking and revision. Also, gaining feedback from peers helps remind students to keep their audience in mind while writing. Constructing some criteria for the workshop helps you set the standard for completing an effective workshop.

Construct Criteria for Workshop (10 minutes)

Some students believe there is little to gain from workshops. They tend to think that the instructor is the only person capable of providing useful feedback or they are resistant to workshops because they've found them unproductive in the past. The aim then of this discussion then is to develop a set of criteria for making this workshop worthwhile. You might do this by asking students to generate a list of "Helpful" and "Not so helpful" comments on the board. Since they've all received comments from teachers/instructors on papers, they should know which ones are most useful.

Your lists might look something like this:

Helpful comments are: Unhelpful comments are:
  • Specific - they say exactly what the reader is thinking and they answer the question "Why?" Why is something "good" or "bad"?

  • Balanced - they offer both positive comments on what is working and they draw attention to areas that need improvement.

  • Suggestive - rather than simply spotting a problem, they might offer a advice for improvement.
  • Vague - they don't tell the writer very much and lack specifics.

  • "Too nice" - they avoid pointing to places that could be improved because the writer doesn't want to offend.

  • "Too harsh" - they tear into someone's writing without considering the positive attributes. They diagnose problems but don't offer any suggestion.

  • Dominating - they try to take over the paper without any concern for what the writer's trying to do.

  • Nitpicky - they might try to fix every small error (i.e. commas) rather than focusing on the bigger picture.

Transition: Develop a transition here.

Review Questions for Workshop (5 - 7 minutes)

Put the workshop questions on an overhead or distribute them as handouts (see appendix for workshop questions); then, review the questions to be sure students understand them. Explain that these questions reflect both the material covered in class so far, and the elements you'll be looking at when you evaluate their work.

Transition: Develop a transition here.

Workshop the Sample Essay (15 minutes)

Provide students with a few moments to read back over the sample essays. Keep in mind that the sample is not a model essay. It is likely to be effective in some ways an ineffective in others.

Design an activity/discussion that serves as a practice or model workshop. Your goal here is to foreground the concepts we have been working with thus far and to give students the opportunity to practice commenting on a paper. You might use specific questions from the workshop handout or overhead; or, you might talk about the paper in general: What's successful? What could be improved?

One approach for this activity is to put the sample on an overhead and read through it with students. Make comments with a sharpie pen in the margins. Remind students of our workshop criteria/etiquette as they offer feedback. They should make comments that are both positive and constructive and they should practice making suggestions wherever possible (the point is NOT to tear a piece of writing apart, it is to help the writer improve their work).

Transition: Develop a transition here.

Workshop Papers (35 minutes)

Using the workshop in the appendix or by creating one of your own, conduct a workshop for the remaining 35 minutes of the class session. You can incorporate the Writing Studio by having students post their responses to one another (if they need more time).

Review Portfolio Materials (2 minutes)

While students are workshopping papers, list the portfolio materials on the board - everything you intend to collect (for example, the in class WTLs and any homework you haven't already looked at. It is also common to collect student's feedback from the workshop in the portfolio). Review this list at the end of class.

Conclude Class (3 minutes)

Devise a conclusion for today's class. You might:


  1. Read about plagiarism on pg. 204 in the PHG to be sure that you're clear on what it means and how to avoid it.

  2. Complete Portfolio I - Part A.

  3. Bring all the articles we've read to class: (NBC article, Katz, Olsen, Elmasry, and Martin).