American University of Beirut
Education 325: "The Problems of Teaching Writing"
Instructor: Dr. Ghazi Ghaith
Fall 2001

Approaches & Activities
By Nada Salem Abisamra

Group for Discussions on Facebook: Nada's ESL Island.(Join us there! Post your questions)

A well-written piece can be described as incorporating elements of writing in such a way that a reader can experience the writer's intended meaning, understand the writer's premise, and accept or reject the writer's point of view. 

Effective Writing:

  • is focused on the topic and does not contain extraneous or loosely related information;
  • has an organizational pattern that enables the reader to follow the flow of ideas because it contains a beginning, middle, and end and uses transitional devices;
  • contains supporting ideas that are developed through the use of details, examples, vivid language, and mature word choice; and
  • follows the conventions of standard written English (i.e., punctuation, capitalization, and spelling) and has variation in sentence structure.

    Florida Department of Education
"Good writing does not just happen. The best writers spend a great deal of time thinking, planning, rewriting, and editing."
Elizabeth West

The writing activities should be structured in ways that help students learn to produce cohesive and coherent discourse on their way to become self-sponsors of their own writings.

Writing: The Big Picture

Writing: Details

Writing: Miscellaneous

Approaches to Teaching Writing
(Click here)
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Methods of development:

3-Process  Analysis
5-Cause and effect



There are two kinds of description essays:  the Objective Description and the Impressionistic Description.

In the Objective Description, the language used presents physical objects in a way that anyone would see them -- using spatial order, color, etc.  A kind of objective description would be a police report in which one describes an object exactly the way that it is, without the use of emotion or feeling.

The Impressionistic Description, however, relies on senses to paint a picture for the reader.  Sensual impressions tend to employ the use of metaphor and simile, or figurative language, to bring an object "to life" for the reader.  Rather than relying on the real and actual, as the objective description does, impressionistic description  relies more heavily on sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.


1. What is the item to be described in this paper?
2. Who is my intended audience? (General or Specialized/Specific)
3. What is the formal definition of the item?
4. OBJECTIVE:  What is the function, use, and/or purpose of this item?(Who uses it? When? Where?)
    Impressionistic:  How does this item make you feel?
5. OBJECTIVE:  What are the physical characteristics of this item? Size/ shape/ weight/ material?
    Impressionistic:  What does this item look like to you?
6. OBJECTIVE:  What are the major parts of this item and their descriptions? (List the Parts, Function and Physical Characteristics in the order in which they will be discussed in the paper.)
    Impressionistic:  What is the dominant impression that this item gives you in its makeup, design, or build?


I. INTRODUCTION: Thesis and identification of the item

A. Definition or identification of the item and why this description is important.
B. The points, or frames of reference, about the item being described.

II. BODY: Explanation of the function, physical characteristics and parts

A. Function, use or purpose of the item. (What is it used for?  Where and when is it used?  or What do you use it for and why?)
B. Physical characteristics of the item (What does the item look like :  size, shape, material --and, if impressionistic, what does it taste, feel, smell, and/or sound like?)
C. Parts of the item:
1. List major parts in the order in which they will be described (top to bottom, left to right, etc.)
2. Identify each part, its function and its physical characteristics.

III. CONCLUSION: Making the parts into a whole

A. Show how the individual parts work together, or give a general and complete explanation of how the parts  convey a single, dominant impression.
B. Mention variations of the item, or similar items, emphasizing the importance of the particular item that has been described.

3-Process  Analysis


1. What is the process that will be explained in this paper?
2. Who is the audience for this paper? (General or Specialized/Specific)
3. What are the items, material, tools, and preparations needed to carry out this process? (Please list them)
4. Are there any special conditions necessary to carry out this process?
5. Are there any terms used in the completion of this process that require explanation or special definition?
6. List the steps and actions involved in this process in the order in which they occur.

What to do
How (and why) to do it
Who would need to know how to do it?
7. Are there any precautions that need to be mentioned? (Crucial steps, possible difficulties, dangers, places where errors are likely to occur, cautions and warnings)


I. INTRODUCTION: Thesis and identification of the subject

A. State the operation to be explained
B. Give the purpose and significance of the instructions, indicating who uses them, when, where and why.

II. BODY: The steps of the process and the development of those steps

A.  Step One
1. Explain clearly what is to be done in each individual stepand what equipment, materials, etc. used to complete the step.

2. Emphasize the important points of the step and include any cautions about mistakes that may be made for this step

3. Include any theory underlying this part of the process, if applicable.

Follow these protocols for the remaining steps.

B. Step Two

C. Step Three

D. Step Four


Usually the last step of the process is the conclusion of the essay.  See information to be included below:
A. Completion of the discussion of the last step
B. Summary of the main steps
C. Significance of the process
D. Discussion of other methods to do this process or any feasible shortcuts that could be taken to complete the process



1. What two items are being compared and contrasted in this paper? (Remember that the two items must be logically comparable.)

2. Who is the audience for this paper?  (General or Specialized/Specific)

3. List three to five similarities and three to five differences in the two items being compared and contrasted.  (it helps to create a "grid" of the bases of comparison/contrast.)

SAMPLE GRID (Example of how your comparison/contrast could be tested)
Bases of 
Comparison/ Contrast
(Point A)
(Point B)
(Point C)
(Point D)
(Point E)
4. Write down the order in which the similarities and differences will be discussed.

5. Which of two outlining patterns for C/C will you be using for this paper?





Introduces to your audience the two subjects being discussed in this piece, giving any necessary definition or description of the items. Include in your intro the bases of comparison/contrast by which the items will be analyzed.


1. Point A
2. Point B
3. Point C
1. Point A
2. Point B
3. Point C


Usually, when the points are a comparison, the conclusion contrasts the items, or examines the differences between the items.  If the points contrast, or shows differences in the two items, the conclusion demonstrates those things that are similarities between the two.



Introduce to your audience the two subjects being discussed in this piece, giving any necessary definition or description of the items. Include in your intro the bases of comparison/contrast by which the items will be analyzed.


In Alternating Block, the bases of comparison or contrast lead.  Each item is discussed BY their similarities or differences to the bases being analyzed.

A. Point A

1. Item One
2. Item Two

B. Point B

1. Item One
2. Item Two

C. Point C

1. Item One
2. Item Two


Again, when the points offer similarities in  comparison, the conclusion contrasts the items, or examines the differences between the items.  If the points contrast, or shows differences in the two items, the conclusion demonstrates those things that are similarities between the two.

5-Cause and effect

What is a cause and effect essay?
Cause and effect essays are concerned with why things happen (causes) and what happens as a result (effects). Cause and effect is a common method of organizing and discussing ideas.

Follow these steps when writing a cause and effect essay:

1. Distinguish between cause and effect. To determine causes, ask, "Why did this happen?" To identify effects, ask, "What happened because of this?" The following is an example of one cause producing one effect:

You are out of gas.
Your car won't start.
Sometimes, many causes contribute to a single effect or many effects may result from a single cause. (Your instructor will specify which cause/effect method to use.) The following are examples:

choose to major in accounting 

liked business in high school 
salaries in the field are high
have an aunt who is an accountant 
am good with numbers

reduce work hours 

less income
employer is irritated
more time to study
more time for family and friends 
However, most situations are more complicated.

The following is an example of a chain reaction:

Thinking about friend…forgot to buy gas…car wouldn't start…missed math exam…failed math course.

2. Develop your thesis statement. State clearly whether you are discussing causes, effects, or both. Introduce your main idea, using the terms "cause" and/or "effect."

3. Find and organize supporting details.Back up your thesis with relevant and sufficient details that are organized. You can organize details in the following ways:

  • Chronological. Details are arranged in the order in which the events occurred.
  • Order of importance. Details are arranged from least to most important or vice versa.
  • Categorical. Details are arranged by dividing the topic into parts or categories.
  • 4. Use appropriate transitions. To blend details smoothly in cause and effect essays, use the transitional words and phrases listed below.
    For causes

    because, due to, on cause is, another is, since, for, first, second

    For Effects

    consequently, as a result, thus, resulted in, one result is, another is, therefore

    When writing your essay, keep the following suggestions in mind:
  • Remember your purpose. Decide if your are writing to inform or persuade.
  • Focus on immediate and direct causes (or effects.) Limit yourself to causes that are close in time and related, as opposed to remote and indirect causes, which occur later and are related indirectly.
  • Strengthen your essay by using supporting evidence. Define terms, offer facts and statistics, or provide examples, anecdotes, or personal observations that support your ideas.
  • Qualify or limit your statements about cause and effect. Unless there is clear evidence that one event is related to another, qualify your statements with phrases such as "It appears that the cause was" or "It seems likely" or "The evidence may indicate" or "Available evidence suggests."
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of a cause and effect essay, ask the following questions: What are the causes? What are the effects? Which should be emphasized? Are there single or multiple causes? Single or multiple effects? Is a chain reaction involved?

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    Instructions Often Used in Essay Questions

    An essay is a critical evaluation of something you have read. It communicates an assemblage of facts and opinions about a certain topic.

                   Your essay can be improved by observing some simple rules.

    Understand the title. Read the title carefully. Take particular note of the instruction given. The following list defines some of the instructions often used in essay questions.

    Account for: give the reasons for.
    Analyse: examine in depth and describe the main characteristics of.
    Assess: weigh up the elements of and arrive at a conclusion about.
    Comment: give an opinion and provide evidence for your views. Compare: bring out the similarities between.
    Contrast: bring out the dissimilarities between. Define: explain the exact meaning of.
    Describe: use words and diagrams to illustrate.
    Discuss: provide evidence or opinions about; arriving at a balanced conclusion.
    Evaluate: weigh up or appraise. Explain: make the meaning of something clear.
    Illustrate: use diagrams or examples to make clear.
    Justify: show that an idea or statement is correct.
    List: provide an itemised series of statements about.
    Outline: describe the essential parts only.
    Review: examine critically.
    State: express clearly.
    Summarise: without illustrations, provide a brief account of.

    Process Writing Activities

    The Typical Writing Lesson Involves:
    (You can also check this site: The Writing Process)

    a- Pre-writing: A Place to Start
    b- Planning: Organizing for Drafting
    c- Drafting: A Time to Indulge (+ Revising)
    d- Post-writing: Preparing To Go Public

    a- Pre-writing: A Place to Start  (click here too).

    It is defined by Oluwadiya as "any structural activities – oral, written or experiential -- that influence active student participation in thinking, talking, writing, and working on the topic under focus in a writing lesson, stimulating higher-level thinking as well as writing skills."

  • Discussing the type of writing to be attempted by students:  (description, narration, exposition, or persuasion)
  • Working on a writing model
  • Analyzing the model’s organization and style
  • Considering the reader’s and writer’s purpose
  • Doing a series of exercises that focus on both organizational devices and topics appropriate to that writing function
  • Oluwadiya offers all student-writers a series of prewriting mental warm-ups to help them get started on their writing process:
    -Oral group brainstorming
    - Freewriting
    - Freewriting- Blind Typing
    - Clustering
    - Outlining
    - Cubing
    - Journalist Questions
    - Pass around topics
    - Writing marathon
    - Hot spots
    - Looping
    - Debating
    - Dialogue writing

    - Oral reading
    - Fantasizing
    - Silent reading-extensive/intensive
    - Oral compositions
    - Use of pictures to stimulate students
    - Interviewing
    - Lecturing
    - Classical invention
    - Visits to places of interest in the school locality

    In Addition to:
    - Writer's Journal: Recording personal experiences and observations
    - Using Your Five Senses: Observing details of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch
    - Visualizing: Making a mental image of something
    - Recalling Specific Details: Recalling specific events, people, places, thoughts, and feelings associated with a topic
    - Looking Around: Looking everywhere else in the world to find new information.

    b- Planning: Organizing for Drafting  (Click here too)
    • Writing preliminary outlines and answering a series of questions within an organizational framework;
    • Making ongoing decisions about every aspect of writing, from vocabulary choice to syntax, style, and organization.

    • Organizing your paper into a clear, logical piece is a vital step toward effective writing. Brilliant ideas may be misunderstood or ineffective if the reader can't follow your train of thought. By following the suggestions in this handout, you will become more proficient at organizing and outlining as well as at creating introductions and conclusions.


      Before beginning your paper, ask yourself several questions:

      1. Who is my audience?
      2. How much do my readers know about my topic?
      3. How do my readers feel about my topic?
      4. How do my readers expect me to treat my topic?
      Next, brainstorm about your topic.

      Brainstorming means using a variety of methods to stimulate your thought process. Try outlining or tree diagraming, borrow ideas from friends, free write on the computer--anything to get ideas flowing. Then, think about the organization process:

      • What points from my brainstorming can I use in my essay?
      • How do I want to arrange them?
      • Do any points fall into categories?
      • Do I have enough details to support my points?
      • Can I explain my major points?
      • What does all this mean, and why is my topic important?


      First, begin the paper with an introduction

      • Use an introductory strategy to pique the reader's interest. (See Section IV.)
      • You must design a thesis statement with major points at the beginning, middle, or end of the introductory paragraph. (Some people constantly revise the thesis while writing.)
      Then, discuss your ideas in the body
      • Devote separate paragraphs to your major points.
      • Each paragraph must have a topic sentence that mentions one of the major points.
      • Prove your topic sentence by using specific details as proof.
      • You need a final sentence that "wraps up" each paragraph.
      Finally, state the significance of your ideas in the conclusion:
      • You need a summary of the essay which shows the importance of your topic.
      • Do not simply restate your thesis and expect that to pass as a conclusion!
      • Answer the question, "So what?"
      • Your paper should educate the readers and provide them with insight they did not have prior to reading your paper.


      1. Chronological order: Follow the order of events in time.

      • Use this method to explain a procedure, describe a natural process, or create a narrative. Use words such as first, second, third, next, and finally to show the passage of time.

      2. Spatial Order: Follow the movements of an imaginary eye surveying a scene.

      • For instance, you could describe a landscape as you move from left to right: live oak trees with Spanish moss, wild flowers growing everywhere, and people walking by the lake. Next, you could describe the scene as you would see it at close range: a cardinal in the tree feeding its babies, the varieties of trees and plants, and a man proposing to his girlfriend.

      • .
      3. Cause and effect: Explain one point as the result of or reason for another.
      • For example, use the cause-and-effect method to explain why the forests are being depleted:
          Our need for lumber has increased; therefore, more trees are being harvested.
      4. Order of importance: Arrange the paragraphs in order of ascending or descending importance.

      5. Opposition order: Oppose one point to another.

      • Opposition arrangement works well at the beginning of a persuasive essay and in compare and contrast essays.

      • .
      6. Categorical order: Explain one large group by describing its sub-groups.
      • For example, if you were writing a paper on The Citadel, you could provide details about each of the four classes.


      Follow the suggestions below to help you write effective introductions.

      1. Your introduction should capture the reader's attention.
      2. Usually one fully developed paragraph is sufficient.
      3. Introduce your subject in a general way; then come to the point, or vice versa.
      4. The point is your thesis. The thesis is usually the last sentence of the paragraph. (In persuasive writing, however, the writer's position often is expressed immediately, the rest of the introduction follows.)
      5. Do not try to be cute. You can be creative and original.
      6. If you write your introduction first, be sure to revise it afterward.
      7. Make the tone consistent with the essay.
      8. Create some kind of suspense that is resolved by the thesis
      9. Avoid "It is my opinion...," "I believe...," "I will discuss...," On this paper I am going to...," Etc..
      10. Begin your essay with a sentence that grabs your reader's attention.
      11. Do not repeat your exact title in the introduction. However, do allude to your title somewhere in the paper to show the strong connection between your ideas and the title.
      12. Establish the need for discussion. Answer the question, "Why should anyone be interested in this?"

      Strategies for Introductions

      1. BACKGROUND: The background strategy is frequently used. This strategy may include historical or chronological information pertinent to your thesis. This material helps the reader to understand the importance of your thesis.

        EXAMPLE: In 1945, an unearthly blast shook the New Mexico desert. Shortly afterward, the new awesome force was used, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, to end World War II. Thus began the atomic era, and because of its horrid beginning, it has met with increasing criticism. Now, although the nuclear breeder reactor is our most promising energy alternative, atomic energy critics have drastically reduced its development and productions. But we need the breeder reactor because it is presently our best long-range energy source.
      2. DEFINITIONS: If your paper contains abstract subjects (such as "love" or "courage") or a subject with a variety of meanings, your opening can define how you plan to use the term. Avoid giving dictionary definitions.
        EXAMPLE: What is "life"? A tree is alive, a dog is alive, a fish is alive; yet we willfully eliminate these life forms in favor of building a house, controlling the stray dog population, or catching a fish for dinner. Some of the reasoning behind this form of murder is that these beings lack sophisticated thought processes. They do not question why they are alive; they merely exist. Psychologists claim that without consistent symbols to apply to meanings, there can be no evaluative thoughts of life. . . A human embryo also has no symbols to apply to its growing life form. . .The embryo is growing into a complete life form but does not yet have the awareness of a functioning human being. Is it possible, then, for an embryo to recognize its own existence? And is that embryonic existence more important than the life of a stray dog? These are the questions one must ask with respect to abortion.
      3. QUESTION: A question or series of questions makes the reader contemplate your subject immediately. Be careful, however, not to rely on this strategy as a "quick fix." Your questions must have substance, and they must be thoroughly answered in the text.
        EXAMPLE: There are more than 35 million investors in the U.S. today. Most of them are losers. Not only do they lose their money, they lose their self-confidence, their security, and the chance they had at one time to use their money to make a killing in the market. Yet the fact is that to get the money needed to invest in the market, most of these people had to be fairly successful in their chosen career. As doctors or lawyers, for example, many of them had demonstrated an ability to think clearly, to make plans for the future, and to carry them out. Why then, employing the same intelligence, do they go wrong when they try to make money in the market?
        source: Richard Ney, "Making It in the Market"

      4. QUOTATION: Choose a brief quotation that summarizes the points of your paper. Be sure to discuss its significance immediately afterward to show its connection to your thesis.

        EXAMPLE: "Habit a second nature! Habit is ten times nature," the Duke of Wellington is said to have exclaimed; and the degree to which this is true no one can probably appreciate as well as one who has been a veteran soldier. The daily drill and the years of discipline end by fashioning a person completely over again, as to most of the possibilities of conduct.
        source: William James, "Habit"

      5. DIRECT ADDRESS: Use "you" or second person only when writing directly to your audience or when the subject is something about your audience. This is effective when giving instructions or advice or when writing persuasively.

        EXAMPLE: Does the thought of artificially preserved, chemically treated food make you lose your appetite? Do limp, tasteless, frozen vegetables leave you cold? Then you should try your hand at organic gardening.
      6. ANECDOTE: A brief story can make a point related to your thesis. This is a dramatic type of introduction. It is often used with narratives or character sketches.
        EXAMPLE: As I opened the trailer door, I saw her sitting in the corner of the room. Her hair hung long and dark about her pale face and her large, troubled eyes seemed the very windows to her soul. I remember her eyes, for they always saw life too clearly. When she rose from the bed where she sat, there was a hesitancy in her movements as though she did not know which move would be considered quite correct. Her name was Sandy, and . . . I was to discover how damaged and broken a person can be WITHIN, while still maintaining some semblance of normalcy for the outside world to see.
      7. DESCRIPTION: A brief, vivid picture is an excellent way to set a scene. It places the reader in the center of things and serves as a lead-in to the essay.
        EXAMPLE:The elementary school was a big brick cube set in a square of black surfacing chalked and painted with the diagrams and runes of children's games. Wire fences guarded the neighboring homes from the playground.
      8. STATISTICS: State some striking facts or statistics you have discovered about your topic. This information may be startling evidence about your topic that will hook the reader into exploring the essay.
        EXAMPLE: For more than half an hour, 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queen watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens. Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.
        Source: Martin Gansberg, "38 Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police."
      9. STRAWMAN: Challenge some generally held assumption about your topic by taking exception to a usually held critical view. Readers enjoy this approach if you are able to provide proof for your view.
        EXAMPLE:The picture-perfect family includes a mother and father, who are forever in love, three wonderful children, and perhaps a dog who can often be found on the living-room couch even though it is not allowed in the living room. But many families today are less than picture-perfect, and mine is one of them. When my father walked out eight years ago, he turned the picture into a puzzle, and took some of the pieces with him. Since that time, however, a combination of love, understanding, and mutual commitment has helped us to put the other pieces back together.
        Source: College Student
      10. COMBINATION: Often combining strategies can create an effective introduction. For example, a question and a definition or strawman with statistics can be good combinations.
        EXAMPLE:See examples above.

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      A concluding paragraph must be a part of every essay you write. The length of your concluding paragraph will vary with the length of your paper. An effective conclusion reminds the reader of the central point of the thesis statement.

      To write an effective conclusion, use the following suggestions:

        1. Do not summarize. Instead of summarizing, use your conclusion to reflect on the essay or add a final clinching point, and remember that a conclusion, like an introduction, should be a fully developed paragraph. An effective conclusion reminds the reader of your thesis, but you do not restate your thesis word for word.
        2. Ask yourself the following questions and answer them in your conclusion:
        • So what?
        • What does all of this mean?
        • Why is this important?
        3. Remember the following recommendations:
        • Make the implications of your thesis clear.
        • Widen the significance of your introduction.
        • Recommend a specific course of action.
        • Answer a question posed by the introduction.
        • Reflect on the experience that the essay record.
        • Reaffirm your thesis with a final telling example.


    c- Drafting: A Time to Indulge (+ Revising) (Click here too)
    (Some suggestions for scaffolds at the drafting stage)

    • Writing, reviewing, rereading, and anticipating what will come next;
    • Reformulating and adjusting parts of the manuscript as it evolves.

      A draft is a work in progress. A good essay undergoes several revisions--don't assume that your first draft is your best draft! Composing often involves going back and forth among planning the essay, generating ideas, organizing the contents, and editing the results. Drafting allow you to get the most out of these composing stages.

      Through the brainstorming and gathering information stages, you have generated the raw material to compose effectively. Now you will begin the process of creating your essay.

      Your First Draft

      In a first draft, you are attempting to capture your essay's meaning and get it down on paper. In this way, you are attempting to draw out the essay's concept.

      Use your first draft to:

      •formulate a working introduction
      •organize your ideas

      A first draft is often the skeleton of the paper; it contains the overall structure, but may lack a clear theme, vivid language, fully developed paragraphs, and strong transition words and phrases.

      Revising Your Draft

      The key to revising your essay is to determine how it seems not just to you, but to your reader. So--think like an admissions officer! Remember that readers need a sense of your essay's structure and a clear idea of why they should read your essay in the first place. To revise your essay:

      Step One: Concentrate on the whole by examining your essay's frame: the introduction, the conclusion, and a sentence in each that states your main theme. Ask the following questions

      Will my reader know where my introduction ends and where the body of my essay begins?

      Will my reader know where the body of my essay ends and where my conclusion begins?

      Will my reader know which sentence is the main sentence in my introduction, and which is the main sentence in my conclusion?

      Step Two: Examine your essay for continuity

      Make sure that your points work together conceptually--that is, that key points are unified by your essay's theme.

      One strategy is to OUTLINE your draft. Create an outline of your draft after you've finished writing. Your outline should include:

      I. Your theme as it is stated in your introduction

      II. Topic sentence from the first body paragraph
      i. example used in first body paragraph that supports the theme

      III. Topic sentence from the second body paragraph
      i. example used in second body paragraph that supports the theme

      ...and so on.

      Examine the outline (which is actually an abbreviated version of your draft): does the organization make sense? Do the topic sentence indicate a conceptual progression of ideas? Does each paragraph's topic sentence FOCUS your theme, and does each example ILLUSTRATE your main idea?

      Step Three: Revise for focus, clarity and depth. Make sure that the skeleton of your personal statement is fleshed out with sufficient examples, fully developed paragraphs, and meaningful prose.

      Style Tips
      Examine the personal statement for word accuracy; whenever possible, use a simpler word in place of a longer or more obscure word. 
      Make sure that every word you use means what you think it means. 
      Be yourself! 
      Avoid empty words and phrases like "basically,: "really," "goals and dreams." 
      Use active verbs whenever possible. Go through your essay and circle every form of "to be" that you find ("is", "are", "were", etc). Substitute more active verbs. For example: 
      Instead of: My love of science was fostered by my second grade teacher
      Write: My second grade teacher fostered my love of science 
      Avoid predictable (and stereotypical college essay phrases) such as "I learned a lot," "I learned to work with others," "It was a fun and challenging experience" "I learned that everyone is different," etc. 
      Avoid using clichés and proverbs, or other over-used phrases from literary sources. They detract from the freshness of your essay. 
      Use a normal, 10-12 point font to type your essay. Don't type in all italics, or in bold, or in an unusual font size. Standard fonts that look nice are Times, Palatino, New York, and Courier. Avoid fancy font types--they are difficult to read. 


      Leave plenty of time to proofread. If you can, put your essay aside for a few days, and then come back and look at it with fresh eyes.

      Some proofreading tips:

      •Try reading your essay backwards (last sentence first) to catch fragments or other glaring errors.

      •Have another pair of eyes read it as well to catch errors in spelling and grammar--your eyes, because they are used to the words on the page, can easily miss errors that another reader will easily spot.

      Avoid these common errors:

      • Fragments
      • Run-on sentences (comma splices)
      • Redundancy ("The because")
      • Spelling errors
      • Slang or colloquial language.


    d- Post-writing: Preparing To Go Public  (Click here too)
    (Some suggestions for post-writing scaffolds)

    While reviewing, student writers should check the following items:
  • The clarity with which the thesis is stated, developed, and supported;
  • The sufficiency of the support and development of the thesis for the reader;
  • The degree to which the writer has accommodated the needs of the intended audience;
  • The degree of grammatical and lexical cohesion and overall coherence of the composition, including the organizational and stylistic features besides the choice of diction, syntax, spelling, and punctuation.

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    Prewriting Techniques


    There are two types of freewriting -- unfocused and focused.  Unfocused freewriting can help you clear your mind so you are ready to concentrate on the task at hand, and focused freewriting can help you come up with ideas on your topic.

    Unfocused freewriting is very easy.  You either sit down at the keyboard or grab a pencil and piece of paper and begin writing whatever comes to mind.  Don't stop to see if it makes sense; don't worry about capitalization, punctuation, sentence structure or anything else.  Just write until you feel like you've cleared your mind of excess baggage that can  prevent you from focusing on your writing project.

    Focused freewriting is similar, but instead of writing about anything, try to stay focused on the topic you are to write about.  Write down everything that comes to mind on the topic, without stopping to consider whether an idea is worthwhile.  Just keep writing.  If you run out of things to write about, write "I can't think of anything" over and over until you do think of something.  Believe me, your mind will get so bored with the same phrase that it will begin moving again.  If you find yourself straying from the topic, don't get frustrated; just try to refocus and keep going.

    Write and write and write until you feel you have exhausted every possibility.  Then read your freewriting and decide what points you want to include and what points you want to delete.


    Once you have decided on a topic for your essay, try doing a free-writing exercise to generate ideas for fleshing out the paper. The goal of freewriting is to generate ideas and information from within yourself by going around the part of your mind that doesn't want to write or can't think of anything to write. You let words themselves suggest other words. WHAT you write is not important; that you KEEP writing is. There are two rules to freewriting: DON'T STOP and DON'T JUDGE. Even if you run out of ideas, write "I can't think of anything to say." DON'T STOP, even if it means repeating the same words until new words come. Don't go back to reread, don't censor ideas that seem dumb or repetitious, and above all, don't stop to edit: grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the like are irrelevant at this stage. Take pen/pencil to paper; you shouldn't lift your writing utensil off the page until time is up!

    ALTERNATIVE: When you are ready to sit down and start freewriting, sit down at the computer and turn the monitor off. (Yes, turn the monitor off). Ask someone to keep the time or set a timer and write for 10 straight minutes. Don't lift your fingers off the keyboard until that 10 minutes is up. Turning the monitor off effectively keeps you from editing during the freewriting. This exercise can work even if you haven't nailed down a topic yet. Just keep the assignment in mind and let your fingers fly across the keyboard (or peck as the case may be).


    Brainstorming is similar to freewriting in that you write down everything you can think of without considering whether it is valid, good or useable.  The difference between freewriting and brainstorming is that freewriting takes on a format that looks something like a paragraph, while brainstorming usually results in a list of words and phrases.  When brainstorming, it isn't necessary to keep writing continuously; just jot down ideas that seem related to your topic.  When you can't come up with anything to add to the list, read it and determine what to include and what to delete.

    Many writers prefer brainstorming because the resulting list is easy to work with in terms of separating ideas.  In some cases, writers cross out or delete the ideas they reject and number the others in the order in which they want to present them.  With very little effort, they have an informal outline that can guide them in organizing their drafts.  Pretty slick, huh?

    Another advantage to brainstorming is that it can be done in groups.  If you are collaborating on a project, all the writers can meet and shout out ideas that come to mind regarding the topic.  It's really not possible to freewrite as a group.


    Clustering is the preferred prewriting technique for writers who are visually oriented because it allows them to generate and organize ideas in a visual context.  Because clustering, which is also called mapping or mind mapping, is visual in nature, it is difficult to explain in words alone.
    It consists of using circles and lines to show connections between your ideas.

    Clustering, or Mapping, is an invention strategy that can be used to generate ideas for an essay or to plan an essay: There are two types of clusters:

    Outlining: (Essay Outline Format)

    Outlines can vary from informal notes jotted on post-its to formal typed outlines arranged in a hierarchical format.  Usually, no one will see the outline but you, so you should complete it in whatever fashion works best for you.  Some writers need formal outlines to help them organize their ideas, while other writers do not.

    Using Outlines to Develop Structure
    While it is convenient to imagine two separate stages of composition, in practice the process is not so clearly divided. Most writers have some idea of the final shape they wish to give their thoughts before they begin their work. Often the form is forced upon them: they are writing in response to a clearly outlined assignment. Sometimes structure develops unwillingly. If this is the case, you might wish to draw up some form of outline before you proceed to writing a rough draft. Several types of outlines are popular.

    Topic Outline
    Topic outlines are undeniably easy to make, but they offer few other advantages. A topic outline is an organized list of the subjects with which an essay will deal. Here is a simple example of a topic outline:

    Working Title: Modern Drama and the Tradition of Farce
    Working Thesis: Farce, mere slapstick in the sixteenth century, developed a serious dramatic theory, absurdism, and finally became a permanent part of popular comedy. 
    I. Ancient Models
    A. Greece
    B. Rome
    II. French Developments
    A. Extemporaneous Additions
    B. Establishment of Form
    III. English Farce 
    A. Brief Comedies 
    B. Low Humour 
    C. Farce-Comedy 
    IV. Modern and Contemporary Drama 
    B. Pirandello 
    C. Ionesco 
    D. Beckett
    E. Pinter 
    F. Stoppard 
    V. Beyond the Legitimate Theatre: Farce and Popular Culture 
    A. The Fringe 
    B. Monty Python 
    C. Saturday Night Live 
    D. SCTV 
    E. Kids in the Hall 
    Sentence Outline
    Sentence outlines are formatted exactly as topic outlines are, but whole sentences replace the brief headings. The sentences state the crucial point of each stage of the paper. Consequently, a sentence outline provides a real test of your argument. This is a sentence outline developed from the material previously presented as a topic outline:
    Working Title: Modern Drama and the Tradition of Farce 
    Working Thesis: Farce, mere slapstick in the sixteenth-century, became the idiom of existental expression in the twentieth. Because farce combines theatrical and intellectual elements, it has become a permanent part of all serious comedy. 
    I. The comedies of antiquity established the models for later playwrights. 
    A. The germs of both satire (Old Comedy) and farce (New Comedy) exist in Greek comedies. 
    B. Roman dramatists produced well-made farces, developing the traditions of Greek New Comedy. 
    II. During the mid to late Renaissance, French dramatists developed an elaborate comic literature, while farces, lacking a literary tradition, grew spontaneously out of theatrical tradition.
    A. Farces began as extemporaneous additions made by comic actors to the action of a more serious play. 
    B. Dramatists, attracted by the energy and theatrical success of these improvisations, began to write them into their plays. 
    III. The English Farce, growing from brief interludes, came to a dominate whole plays. 
    A. Farces began as very brief comedies marked by knockabout humour. 
    B. The Farce became a full play, still characterized, however, by low humour. 
    C. The growth of the Farce was completed when the Farce-Comedy, a hybrid mixture of plot and comic action, appeared in the eighteenth century. 
    IV. Modern dramatists, intent on demonstrating the rootlessness of human experience, made elements of the Farce the idiom of modernity. 
    A. Absurdists and Pre-Absurdists such as Pirandello, Jarry, and Ionesco capitalized upon the manic, confusing qualities of farce to express human alienation. 
    B. Beckett bridged the English and French theatrical cultures with Waiting for Godot, which brought farce to the attention of the North American and British intellectuals. 
    C. Pinter, Stoppard, and Ayckbourn drew upon the work of the Absurdists and upon the tradition of farce, creating a popular theatrical idiom for serious, mainstream comedy.
    V. The new farce quickly outgrew the legitimate theatre and found a new home in mass entertainment. 
    A. The idiom of farce passed from the new playwrights to the new television comedians: The Fringe, Monty Python, and their many imitators.
    B. Troupes in the United States and in Canada (e.g. Saturday Night Live, SCTV, Kids in the Hall), working directly with the new tradition of farce, brought the technique to a growing audience. 
    Once you have reached the stage of a sentence outline, you will have an excellent idea of how valid your argument is, as well as a sense of its shape. Your outline is more than an organizational device at this point: it is a test of your ideas. If you cannot form a sentence outline, you probably have little chance of arguing your points. In the narrow limits of a sentence outline, weak ideas and unsupported assumptions are obtrusive. Notice, by the way, that in the sentence outline the last two sections are quite unlike their topic outline counterparts. They group their components and establish connections between them. This is not simply an effect created arbitrarily in this example; it is absolutely typical of the difference between sentence outlines and topic outlines.

    Paragraph Outline
    A variation on the sentence outline is the paragraph outline, in which you attempt to compose the actual sentences with which your successive paragraphs will begin. The advantage is clear: this technique forces you to begin your paragraphs with strong topic sentences rather than vague introductions and transitions. Against this real gain is poised the complexity of the task. You may well find that this exercise takes so much effort that it interferes with the actual writing of the paper. A sentence outline is a very useful middle form, neither so easy as to be pointless nor so demanding as to steal time from the paper itself.



    Describe, Compare, Associate, Analyse, Apply, Argue for/ against.
    Select a topic and restrict it to workable size. The topic should be one you know about from personal experience and/or one you have strong opinions about. Write the topic at the top of a clean sheet of paper (or blank screen). Then, freewrite for three to five minutes on each of the steps listed below. Follow the order listed and do not skip any steps. When you have finished all of the freewrites, read over what you have written and take the topic test.

    *Assignment developed by Dr. Joyce Neff (adapted from Writing by Gregory and Elizabeth Cowan.

    Journalist Questions

    The following questions are called "journalist" questions and provide a starting point for exploring an event. These questions are especially useful in the autobiographical essay or the reflection essay. These questions should not be answered in a necessarily direct way. Obviously, telling what happened will be direct, but exploring why an event happened can become the focus for you paper.

    1-Who is involved?: Who are the participants? Who is affected? Who are the primary actors? Who are the secondary actors?
    2-What?: What is the topic? What is the significance of the topic? What is the basic problem? What are the issues? What happened and what were the results?
    3-Where?: Where does the activity take place? Where does the problem or issue have its source? At what place is the cause or effect of the problem most visible?
    4-When?: When is the issue most apparent? (past? present? future?) When did the issue or problem develop? What historical forces helped shape the problem or issue and at what point in time will the problem or issue culminate in a crisis? When is action needed to address the issue or problem?
    5-Why?: Why did the issue or problem arise? Why is it (your topic) an issue or problem at all? Why did the issue or problem develop in the way that it did?
    6-How?: How did it happen? How is the issue or problem significant? How can it be addressed? How does it affect the participants? How can the issue or problem be resolved?

    Pass around topics:

    Use your classmates!!! Write your topic on the top of a blank piece of paper. Pass this paper around to your classmates, asking them to respond to your topic with questions they would expect to be answered by a paper on that particular topic, their feedback on the viability of the topic, comments they might have on the subject you want to discuss, etc. This exercise should provide you with two things: new angles and perspectives from which to consider your topic, and feedback from your audience about what they know/don't know about your topic (and thus what information you may need to provide.)

    Writing marathon:

    This is another exercise for which you need others' help. In your group, have everyone write down their topics on a slip of paper. Fold these slips of paper and shake them. Choose one of the topics. Once the topic is chosen, have each person start with a blank piece of paper and do a 5-minute freewrite on the topic--whatever comes to mind (questions, comments, suggestions, personal opinion). When the 5 minutes are up, have each person read their freewrite aloud. Now, do another 5 minute freewrite on the same topic; this time, feel free to comment on what you heard the others in your group write about the topic, even if you disagree. Follow this procedure for each topic (there shouldn't be more than 3 people in your group, which means you will have six 5-minute freewrites total for each person.) When all of the topics have been written on and read out loud, each person should return their writings to the person whose topic it was on. This is a lot of writing, but in the end, you have 30 minutes worth of freewriting on your topic and abundant material!

    Hot Spots

    In this invention exercise, you will be freewriting to find an angle on your topic. Write your topic on the top of a blank sheet of paper (or a blank computer screen). Freewrite for 10 minutes about whatever comes to mind about your topic (directions you might want to take this paper in, questions you want to answer, points you want to make, etc.) After you have done this first freewrite, go back and read what you wrote. Find a "hot spot" ( a particular line, word, comment, etc. that interests you). Write that line on the top of another blank piece of paper or blank screen. Write for 10 more minutes. Repeat this 3 times total. At the end, you should have discovered several angles from which to approach your topic.



    Looping is a freewriting technique that allows you to increasingly focus your ideas in trying to discover a writing topic. You loop one 5-10 minute freewriting after another, so you have a sequence of freewritings, each more specific than the other. The same rules that apply to freewriting apply to looping: write quickly, do not edit, and do not stop.

    Freewrite on an assignment for 5-10 minutes. Then, read through your freewriting, looking for interesting topics, ideas, phrases, or sentences. Circle those you find interesting. A variation on looping is to have a classmate circle ideas in your freewriting that interests him or her.

    Then freewrite again for 5-10 minutes on one of the circled topics. You should end up with a more specific freewriting about a particular topic.

    Loop your freewriting again, circling another interesting topic, idea, phrase, or sentence.

    When you have finished four or five rounds of looping, you will begin to have specific information that indicates what you are thinking about a particular topic. You may even have the basis for a tentative thesis or an improved idea for an approach to your assignment when you have finished.


    Students may be assigned or may choose different positions on an issue and argue those positions. Debating requires that they think about their position, gather evidence, and organize their argument--all good ways to generate ideas and plan for writing a text.

    Later rereading of an electronic discussion can help students think about their ideas in new ways as well as recall the ideas they've expressed. This kind of interaction always helps students think about the audience for their ideas because they are writing for specific, real people whom they know.

    Activity: With a group of other students, select a short literary text to read or reread. Assign roles based on characters in the text to each participant. In an electronic environment, assume the role of your character to discuss an issue or event central to the text.


    Dialogue Writing:

    You write as though you were talking out loud to yourself. If you bog down and need an idea booster, simply become the second voice--ask a question and resume the conversation. Use short, quick answers to keep the ideas flowing.

    This approach can be fun, and it can lead to some discoveries fast. Writing dialogue is often a good preliminary creating technique. It gives you ideas that you can then use in another prewriting technique: cubing, for example


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    Holistic scoring is a method by which trained readers review a piece of writing for its overall quality. The holistic method used in Florida requires readers to evaluate the work as a whole, while considering four elements: focus, organization, support, and conventions. This method is sometimes called focused holistic scoring. In this type of scoring, readers make a judgment about the entire response and do not focus on any one aspect.


    Focus refers to how clearly the paper presents and maintains a main idea, theme, or unifying point.


    Organization refers to the structure or plan of development (beginning, middle, and end) and whether the points logically relate to one another. Organization refers to the use of transitional devices (terms, phrase, and variation in sentence structure) to (1) signal the relationship of the supporting ideas to the main idea, theme, or unifying point and (2) the evidence of the connection and movement between sentences.


    Support refers to the quality of details used to explain, clarify, or define. The quality of the support depends on word choice, specificity, depth, credibility, and thoroughness.


    Conventions refers to punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and variation in sentence structure used in the paper. Conventions are basic writing skills.


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