Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

Week 15: Monday, December 9th - Friday, December 13th

Goals for this Week

  • Discuss sample essays. As you do so, ensure that students understand that sample essays are not models for writing, but that they serve as vehicles for discussing the effective and ineffective choices writers make in response to their writing situation. You can use the sample essay(s) from the appendix or find/create your own. To facilitate the discussion, you can place them on an overhead or have students examine the essays in groups and report back to the class with their findings. You’ll find an expanded discussion of strategies for meeting this goal in "Planning to Model or Critique Students Samples" the teaching guide Planning a Class on Writing@CSU and in the appendix.
  • Discuss the use of document design, formatting, and illustrations to enhance arguments and to conform to a target publication. See the discussion of this issue under Connection to Course Goals, below.
  • Help students assess the effectiveness of their drafts. Although there are a number of strategies for meeting this goal, consider the “backwards outline” activities found in Resources, below.
  • Provide students with peer responses to their drafts.
  • Help students develop a plan to revise their drafts for submission. To accomplish this goal, ask students to take notes on what they'll need to revise based on the feedback they received from their peers. This will encourage them to think critically about their peers’ responses to their writing.
  • Complete course evaluations.
  • Provide students with updated information about when to be ready to submit Portfolio 3. Depending on the progress your students are making on their essays, you can choose to collect the portfolios prior to or on the date of the final exam. Be sure to remind students that they need to include a cover page with their final essay (describing the writing situation for their essay). Tell them that you will evaluate their argument with their various writing situations in mind.

Connection to Course Goals

The activities for this week emphasize (1) the importance of ongoing revision during the writing process, (2) the role of document design and formatting in the preparation of polished essays, and (3) the use of illustrations (charts, graphs, images, animations, video, etc.) as persuasive and informative devices. In terms of revising, your overall goal is to help students understand that writing continues even after they've completed their first draft. It would be ideal if they begin to see and value the improvements made during this process of rewriting. In terms of document design and formatting, your goal is to help students understand, first, that they must adapt their documents for publication in a specific venue and, second, that (among other things) document design calls a reader’s attention to specific information and ideas. In terms of illustrations, your goal is to expand students’ understanding of “evidence.” Students should understand that, in addition to such devices as paraphrases and quotations, they can draw on a wide range of illustrations, tables, charts, and so on to support their arguments.

Required Reading and Assignments

  • Revise and proofread your arguing essay draft. Be prepared to hand it in with all process work and portfolio contents on the assigned due date.
  • Prepare for final meeting.


Backwards Outline Activity: The backwards outline activity encourages students to look closely at the organization, focus, and coherence of their essay by considering how each paragraph functions in relation to the overall claim. Students can complete a backwards outline on their own draft or on their peers’ drafts. Since the directions for this activity can seem complicated, you might try to lead students through each step verbally (announcing each task and waiting five-to-ten minutes for students to complete the step). The outline below is a guide. Revise it as you see fit.

Backwards Outline Workshop

Read through your draft once without making any marks. Then re-read it while completing the following steps:

1.      On a separate sheet of paper, write down the main claim of the essay. Quote directly from the essay and/or put it in your own words.

2.      Then, divide the sheet into three columns.

3.      In the left hand column, number and summarize what each paragraph says. If there is more than one idea in the paragraph, list the ideas as separate points.

4.      Review the list in the left-hand column and see if similar things show up in different parts of the draft. (e.g. Are both #2 and #8 examples that prove the same point? Do #4 and #7 bring up the same example?) If so, suggest some possible reorganizations on the reverse side of your outline (and/or on another sheet of paper).

5.      In the middle-column, write a sentence that summarizes the connection you see between what each paragraph does and the overall claim at the top of the page. If you can’t see a connection, put a question mark in the column.

6.      Look back to see if each connection is made obvious in the draft itself. Under each connection you’ve written, make a note of “obvious” or “not obvious”.

7.      In the third column, write down connection you see between each paragraph (e.g. between paragraph one and paragraph two, between paragraph two and paragraph three, and so on). If you can’t see a connection, put a question mark in the column.

8.      For those paragraphs where you could see a connection, go back and examine the draft to see if the author has provided a transition for the reader explaining this connection. Mark each connection you listed with a note of “transition” or “no transition.”

9.      Based on your analysis of the organization and coherence of this essay, make suggestions about how to re-organize and where stronger connections are needed. In your suggestions, be sure to consider whether any lack of clarity in organization, coherence, or evidence may result from the claim itself (i.e. ask whether the organization is hard to follow because the claim is trying to prove too much).

10.  Finally, re-examine the draft one more time for evidence and provide suggestions about where more examples or proof are needed to support the argument.

11.     When you receive comments on your draft, use them during revision.