Unit III: Instructor's Narrative and Hints

The Basics:

As the Unit III assignment sheet says, the purpose of this unit is to help your students see how the skills they've learned so far relate to the rest of their academic and professional lives. Along the way, they'll also gather valuable information about what students and professionals in their respective fields really do. Many students are often astonished at the amount of writing that professionals in any field actually do (especially engineering and forestry folk), and at the importance that good writing and communication plays in almost any professional setting. An advantage to you as the instructor is that you end up with six or seven papers to grade at the end of the semester, rather than 18-25--allowing you to concentrate on all those seminar papers!

The beauty of this unit is that you've already taught your students the basic skills they need to do the job. They already know what language analysis is, they know how language can play a big part in defining a community, and they have some basic research and interviewing skills. Only two things change: the subject matter and the collaborative nature of the work. So, your jobs as the instructor are to clearly set up the requirements and elements of the assignment, to act as a facilitator and advisor for the groups, and to help your students do their individual analyses as well as suggest ways to collaboratively draft an essay.

Collaborative Work:

Another purpose of this project is to give your students some experience with working in groups. This can cause some hemming and hawing at the beginning of the unit from those who don't want to have to rely on anyone else for their grade--but there are several good reasons for collaborative work you can use to "sell" the idea:

Collaborative Drafting:

One question that invariably arises from groups is how to divide drafting tasks. There are several possibilities you can suggest. One is to have each member of the group do a potential outline individually. Then, the group can meet and put together the best aspects of each outline to form a group outline. After that, the group can assign a portion of the outline to each member, and then meet again to put the sections together and edit the essay. Another is to assign prewriting, drafting and revising tasks to different group members. Check out the "Working In Groups" section of the Writing Center for even more information on this. In any case, the goals for all of the groups are to distribute the workload equally while taking advantage of the strengths of the individual members.

The Sequence:

The sequence of classes for the unit is very straightforward. The first week introduces the assignment, sets up the groups, and has the groups generate interview questions and practice Rhetorical Analyses. The next--and last--two weeks provide time for groupwork and peer workshops. As the instructor, feel free replace any of the open work days with days that emphasize more skills if you feel your students need the practice.


Be sure to publish a deadline schedule at the beginning of the unit. Generally, you can publish deadlines for contracts, interview dates, Rhetorical Analyses and drafts, and allow the groups to set goals to meet those deadlines on their own.


It's a good idea to have your students draw up and sign contracts at the beginning of the process (see the sample contract form distributed below). This will help your students divide the workload before they get too far into the process, and signed contracts from each of the group members can help to quickly resolve any conflicts or grading issues that may arise later on. Be sure your students make copies of signed contracts for every group member and the instructor.