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 Writing forCollege.org

  

Inver Hills Community College

 

Home & Contents                       Basics                       College Writing                       www.OnlineGrammar.org

                  

                                   

PARTS & SECTIONS

Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar 

   www.OnlineGrammar.org
 
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 Study Questions
     

 

                                                       

GENERAL ACTIVITIES FOR GROUPS

    

This web page has a large number of group activities for a wide variety of writing practices and events.  These activities are based on over twenty years of experimenting with group activities--both small and class size--along with conversations with other writing instructors.
    

                               

                               

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    Leading a Group

How does a leader of a group—big or small—act to inspire others?  J.M. Kouzes and B. Posner (The Leadership Challenge, 3rd ed., Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2002) interviewed or surveyed over five hundred leaders of organizations and discovered that successful leaders had five practices in common:

1.      A good leader finds a new way that challenges or is significantly different from the old.  As a result, those in his group feel they are on an adventure that can contribute significantly and that they are developing their own process—complete with acceptable mistakes and shared methods and results.

2.      A good leader focuses the group on their shared vision—a sense of the goal and its importance that all share and in which all believe.

3.      A good leader helps others play important roles.  He or she does not tell others what to do so much as give them opportunities to play important roles of their own.

4.     A good leader is a good model.  He or she must lead by example, showing others how to work together, treat each other respectfully and with kindness, and work efficiently and well.

5.      A good leader facilitates group members’ best feelings, thoughts, and instincts. He or she encourages them to try new methods or ideas, forgives their mistakes, and rewards them with recognition when they succeed.

If you can lead your group with these traits in mind, you will have a much more successful group experience and far better results.

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   Group Activities   

                                         

A. BASIC GROUP ACTIVITIES   

  1. MAKING A SPEECH: If you were giving the type of paper discussed in your chapter as a speech, who would be a primary type of audience?  Imagine this audience and then write a rough-draft speech following the directions in the activity immediately above ("Developing a Rough Draft").

  2. PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITY: Complete one of the exercises here or in your chapter's "Activities" page.  However, imagine you are in a business, work, or other professional situation, real or imaginary.

  3. PERSONAL ACTIVITY: Complete one of the exercises here or in your chapter's "Activities" page.  However, imagine that you are communicating it to and/or about a close friend or relative, or a group of them.

  4. SPEECH ABOUT THE CHAPTER: As a group, develop the outline of a speech or oral/visual presentation you could give based on the information you learned in the chapter you are reading.  Then answer these questions: How would this type of paper given as a public or work-related speech or oral/visual presentation differ from its written form?  How could you add to it to make it more interesting to your listeners?  What would you have to do in a speech that you would not have to do in turning in a paper?  On what occasions or for what purposes would an oral/visual presentation of this nature be appropriate? 

  5. IMAGINARY RESEARCH: What kinds of resources--library and/or online--would you use to write the type of paper as described in the chapter you are reading?  Detail what the sources would be, and why.  Then make an imaginary list of such sources: provide imaginary details such as the authors' names, the titles of the sources, their publishers, etc.  Then make a simple outline of this type of paper using the subtitles suggested for the body sections in the chapter you are reading.  Finally, provide one or more imaginary quotations, complete with quotation marks and authors' names, for each body section.  (This exercise can be done with real sources, as well.) 

  6. ONLINE ACTIVITY: Develop a small online group by exchanging email addresses or by going to a bulletin board meant for your group activity.  Then complete one of the exercises above as an individual, with your coordinator starting it: do so either in an email to everyone in your group or in a bulletin board "Discussion."  When the designated time for emailing or posting this first step is over, read each other's results and write a positive, helpful response to one or more of the other messages you receive: you may, for example, describe in detail what you like best; describe in a fair, balanced way how you might respond as a reader; or critique a response constructively by suggesting what could be added to make it even better.  (This exercise also can be done in non-online environments: either in class or as part of a combined at-home and in-class activity.)

  7. INTERNET RESEARCH: Read the chapter you have been assigned, along with its samples, first.  Then, in groups of two or three people, use a search engine (e.g., www.google.com) to find other descriptions or examples of the type of paper discussed in the chapter.  Then make a list describing similarities and differences between this chapter and its samples and what you have found on the Internet.

  8. INTERVIEW: As a group, interview someone in person who writes the types of papers discussed in your assigned chapter as part of his or her professional work.  Make a list of five to ten questions to ask this person beforehand (for example, "What purpose does this type of paper accomplish in your profession," "What does it mean to you personally," "How often are professionals/students in this field expected to write such papers," "What are your steps," "What is the typical pattern or sections of such a paper," "What happens after the paper is turned in," etc.).

  9. Also see "Twenty-five Group Activities by Genre/Type."
      

B. ADVANCED GROUP ACTIVITIES   

  1. CRITICAL THINKING (Audience): Complete one of the exercises above in connection with your assigned chapter.  Then pass the paper on to another group.  Evaluate the paper you receive by choosing to play the role, serious or silly, of someone negatively affected by the paper: be as creative as you wish.  (You only need to pretend that you are affected negatively, no matter what you personally believe.)  For example, you might choose to play the role of someone who believes the opposite, a person affected by the writing physically or emotionally, a boss or employee, etc.).  Then fairly, gently, but thoroughly disagree or otherwise explain why you oppose the paper. 

  2. CRITICAL THINKING (Rubric): After you have read the assigned chapter and have written rough drafts, develop a simple, easy-to-use, three- to six-point grading/scoring system using the page from this Web titled "Rubrics."  You may develop a rubric just for the content and supporting detail alone, or you may develop a rubric for an overall grading system for a finished paper ready for grading.

  3. GROUP CRITIQUING USING CRITICAL THINKING: Break into groups of four to five people.  First, use "Rubrics" to develop a three- to six-point grading/scoring system (as in "Critical Thinking (Rubric)" immediately above).  Then, in small groups, grade/score each others' assigned papers so that each paper has three or four final scores on it--one each from three or four readers.  When you write the score of each paper, do so lightly in pencil on the back sheet of the paper so that the next reader cannot see the score as he/she reads the paper.

  4. CRITICAL THINKING: As a group, complete one of the critical thinking activities in "D. Advanced Individual Activities," below.

  5. Also see "Twenty-five Group Activities by Genre/Type.

  6. Also see "Critical-Thinking Activities."

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   Individual Activities   

   

C. BASIC INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITIES

  1. JOURNALING:  Keeping a journal about your reading of your assigned chapter is an excellent method of thinking about it and preparing to write  this type of paper. Here are some journaling questions you could discuss:  
     
    (a) What information in the chapter is new to you, what is old, and what information helps you make connections to other classes or to people, work, or personal experience?
    (b) In your opinion, what are the points most helpful to you?  What points might be most helpful to others in the class or in other classes?
    (c) If you had this chapter to read over again, what would you keep the same, what would you add or change, and why?  How would you continue or add to it, if you were the author?
    (d) Who are some people—roommates, friends, family, other students, coworkers, or managers—with whom you might share this chapter? Why? What would you discuss with them after having shared it? What might be their responses, and yours in return?
    (e) What are one or more ways in which you think you might be able to write a paper using this chapter?  In what ways might you have difficulty doing so? How could you resolve some of those difficulties?

  2. PERSONAL ACTIVITIES: Read your assigned chapter.  Then choose one exercise from the "Groups" section, above, but write about yourself--or someone or something involved in your own life--in detail.  Use any parts and/or steps requested in the activity above.  Be objective. 

  3. USING FEELINGS: Read your assigned chapter.  Then write freely and quickly (brainstorm/freewrite), but instead of being strictly objective, choose something intensely emotional or personal (if this is acceptable to your instructor).  When you are finished, consider whether it can be revised to fit the requirements of this type of paper and, if it can, how.

  4. A FINAL DRAFT: Read your assigned chapter.  Then complete a more organized, finished version of a writing activity, above, that you already have done in rough draft form, whether individually or in a group.  Include appropriate paragraphs, body sections, an introduction, a conclusion, a title, and--if your instructor/supervisor requests it--subtitles.
      

D. ADVANCED INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITIES   

  1. GENERAL ACTIVITIES: Read your assigned chapter.  Then, as an individual, complete one of the exercises above in "Groups" section "B."

  2. PROFESSIONAL SAMPLES/RESEARCH: Read your assigned chapter.  Then find a physical, printed copy--one that you can mark--of a professional sample of the type of paper discussed in the chapter.  Do so with the help of a librarian or supervisor.  Break this professional sample into the parts as described in any group exercise above that asks for body sections or steps, or as described in this chapter's "Introduction" or "Basics" sections.  Then write about what you found.  

  3. INTERVIEW: Read your assigned chapter.  Then, as an individual, interview someone in person who writes the chapter's type of paper in his or her own professional work.  Follow the suggestions in "Interview" in the group activities above.  Make a list of five to ten questions to ask this person beforehand (for example, "What purpose does this type of paper accomplish in your profession," "What does it mean to you personally," "How often are professionals/students in this field expected to write such papers," "What are your steps," "What is the typical pattern or sections of such a paper," "What happens after the paper is turned in," etc.).

  4. COMPARISON/CONTRAST: Read your assigned chapter.  Then answer the following questions.  What kinds of papers that you already know how to write are similar to the chapter's type of paper?  What kinds clearly are different or opposite, and why or how?  Discuss these similarities and differences, giving examples and/or commentary on how they affect readers in similar or different ways.

  5. CRITICAL THINKING--Authentic Audience: Describe the contexts, reasons, or situations for writing the type of paper discussed in your assigned chapter.  What type of people might be involved, what are their likes, dislikes, values, living situations, and backgrounds?  What might be their needs, purposes, or goals?  How might this type of writing satisfy those purposes or goals?  What alternative methods might such people use to satisfy the same purposes or goals (such as speech, presentations, interpersonal interactions, personal reflection, personal action, etc.)?  Discuss your answers.

  6. CRITICAL THINKING--Differing Cultures: Do you come from or have experience in a culture, class, or group different from that of standard North American, middle-class, college-educated society?  If so, what is the other culture?  Read your asigned chapter.  Then discuss some comparisons and contrasts between what or how the chapter presents as this type of paper, and how your own culture may perceive it in writing, speaking, and/or thinking.  Why or how do you think some of the differences (or similarities) exist?   What do the differences (and/or the similarities) say about the values--ethical, individual, and/or societal--in the two different cultures?  

  7. CRITICAL THINKING--Authentic Writing Self: Read your assigned chapter.  Then answer the folloing questions.  What does the chapter's type of paper have to do with you, your abilities and experiences as a writer and/or a person, and your present/future goals?  How might this kind of paper help explain, echo, or extend your own self as a person, student, or professional?  Discuss your answers.

  8. Also see "Critical-Thinking Activities."

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   Topical Activities    

Here are additional activities dealing with topical issues.  These activities are designed for application to most types of learning situations (group or individual, classroom or home) and types of papers.

CRITICAL THINKING--Problem Solving: Critical thinking means logical, thoughtful, creative, practical, and evaluative thinking--in short, a number of thinking skills combined.  One particular aspect of critical thinking is problem solving.  Problem solving is completed in several major steps: (a) fully describing a problem or need; (b) developing and describing several possible paths, methods, or systems to solve the problem; (c) developing and using an evaluation system to choose which path(s) will work best--e.g., a point system to decide the level for each solution of its cost, feasibility, practicality, required people, time, ethical value, etc. (see also "Rubrics"); and (d) imagining the positive and negative results of the chosen path(s).  Most real problem solving systems, though usually more thorough and complex than this, have these four steps in common.  Take a type of paper from one of the chapters and turn it into a problem-solving process: (a) how does this type of paper develop or show a problem or need; (b) how does it suggest or imply several possible paths (including any that it seems to be arguing against); (c) what kind of evaluation system does it seem to offer or imply for deciding which solution is best; and (d) what are the outcomes or results, positive or negative, that the paper may foresee or, at least, to which the paper leads?  Once you have listed these four steps as used in or with the type of paper, write your own brief imaginary (or real) paper of this type, trying to include as many problem-solving steps as is possible in the paper.  Also see "Critical-Thinking Activities."

CULTURAL DIVERSITY: Using a type of paper from one of the chapters, discuss some aspect of cultural diversity.  "Cultural diversity" includes differences not only of race or national origin, but also of gender, age, economic level, or disability.  How are you and/or a close friend or family member different from others in one or more of these culturally diverse ways?  What makes the difference special or notable?  What makes the difference problematic?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the differences?  What are several ways in which you can create a type of paper using some form of diversity as a subject?

ENVIRONMENT: Using a type of paper from one of the chapters, discuss some aspect of environment.  "Environment" includes anything in environmental science, policy and politics, ethics, and related social and psychological causes.  How do you perceive environmental issues, how do you experience them, and what proofs from experience and/or research do you have that can support your opinions?  What is environmental science, research, and policy discovering now, what has it learned from our past, and how should it shape our future?   

GLOBAL AWARENESS: Using a type of paper from one of the chapters, discuss some aspect of global awareness.  This might be as simple as discussing something that is happening or has happened in another country, as personal as an experience you have had of someone or something in or from another country, or as complex as an important political, economic, cultural, or other global issue.  

SERVICE LEARNING: Using a type of paper from one of the chapters, discuss some aspect of service learning.  "Service learning" means providing a service, such as volunteer or paid work, that offers additional training or learning in an academic subject, as well.  What kind of work have you performed, are performing now, or could perform for academic credit?  How would you go about doing this work, and why or how would it be valuable to you as a learning experience?  What would you expect to learn?  How would it be valuable to others?  What are several ways in which you can create a type of paper using some form of service learning as a subject?

TECHNOLOGY: Using a type of paper from one of the chapters, discuss some aspect of technology.  "Technology" includes anything in science, engineering, medicine, computers, electronics, and the like that is more advanced than simple industrial machinery or industrial production.  How do you perceive technology helping you, changing you, or hurting you or your friends and family?  What kind of world will technology create for us?  Is technology ethical?  What are several ways in which you can create a type of paper using some form of technology as a subject?

WAR AND PEACE: Using a type of paper from one of the chapters, discuss some aspect of war and/or peace.  What are the justifications for either in a particular situation or in general?  What is the historical background?  What does an opposing side to the issue have to say and why?  What are the basic mechanisms that cause war and/or peace?  What can people do locally do cause or support either?  What kind of future do we have to look forward to concerning war and/or peace, why, and how?

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7 Metacognitive Thinking Individual & Group Activities    

            These group activities help develop writers' understanding of their own "writer self"--the part of themselves that is the controlling writer in charge of overall writing perceptions, strategies, and confidence.  These exercises also can be done as individual assignments, in class or at home.   

CONTENTS:

  1. Audience

  2. Style as Genre

  3. First-Draft vs. “Perfect” Writing

  4. Steps and Events of Writing

  5. Style and Tone as Idiom

  6. Alternative Writing Symbols

  7. Writing as Thinking, Learning, and Doing

 Exercise #1: AUDIENCE

1.      Imagine, clearly and carefully, a picture image of someone you strongly love or hate.  Pretend you must write this person a letter about something he/she said or did, or something he/she will say or will do.  Then write as much as you can as fast as you can for ten minutes, all of it directed to this person.  Start your letter “Dear _____.”

[1. Homework Exercise: Find a picture of someone who fits the above description and write 200+ words or for ten minutes as above, whichever is faster.]

2.      Next, clearly and carefully imagine a figure of authority whom you do not know personally but have seen on TV or in real life: a boss, director, superintendent, principal, or other authority figure to whom you feel you owe respect.  Pretend you must write this person a letter about something he/she said or did, or will say or do.  Then write as much as you can as fast as you can for ten minutes, all of it directed to this person.  Start your letter “Dear _____.”

[2. Homework Exercise: Find a picture in a magazine, from the Web, or elsewhere of someone who fits the above description and write 200+ words or for ten minutes as above, whichever is faster.]

3.      Third, look around the room you are in at all of the people.  Look slowly and carefully.  It is all right to meet other people’s eyes; however, don’t stare at anyone for a long time; rather, keep your eyes moving to different people.  Do this for a minute or two.  Then, without being obvious or making the person uncomfortable, choose one of these people.  Pretend you must write this person a letter about something he/she said or did, or will say or do.  Then write as much as you can as fast as you can for ten minutes, all of it directed to this person.  Start your letter “Dear _____.”

[3. Homework Exercise: Pick a classmate in this or another class and describe him/her very fully for 50+ words by detailing how he/she looks, sounds, dresses, moves, etc.  Then write another 200+ words or for ten minutes as above, whichever is faster.]

4.      Finally, write a list or a description of 200+ words detailing what it was like to have three different audiences in the above three letters you wrote.  You may answer some or all of the following questions:

a.       What kind of general audience could each letter be for (what kind of persons in general)?

b.      What are some similarities among the letters?

c.       What are some differences?

d.      How is your writing affected by your emotional feelings?

e.       How is your writing affected by how well or poorly you know the other person?

f.        How is your writing affected by the other person’s importance to you, or lack of it?

Homework Exercise: Follow the directions above.
     

Exercise #2: STYLE AS GENRE

1.      First, here is a sample of how a story starts.  Please read it and then write your own story, true or made up, starting with these two sentences: “Once upon a time, I had a problem with _____.  For example, one day I was __________.”  Simply write some more of the story without worrying about grammar, spelling, or punctuation.  Write as much as you can as fast as you can for ten minutes.  You may write anything that comes to mind: you will not be required to share it with anyone (other than the teacher).

Example: “Once upon a time, I had a problem with remembering dates and appointments.  For example, one evening I was happily sitting and watching one of my favorite TV shows when the telephone rang.  I answered it, and one of my night students asked me if we were having class that week.  “Sure,” I told her.”  She then asked me if I was coming.  I said, “Sure, I’ll be there,” thinking it was the next night.  She then asked me if I knew what night it was.  “Wednesday,” I said.  “No,” she answered, “it’s Thursday.  Class started forty-five minutes ago.”  I was stunned.  I apologized and said, “I’ll be right there.”  I ran to change my clothes, and I drove there as fast as I safely could.  The next day, I started writing my night-class dates in a pocket planner.  Even now, I look at my planner with its dates in it every day.”

2.   Next, here is a sample of how a news report starts.  Please read it and then write your own news report of something you saw in person, important or unimportant.  Try to take a news reporter’s objective, balanced, fair tone, as below.  Pretend you were just an observer, even if you weren’t.  Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Write as much as you can as fast as you can for ten minutes.  You may write anything that comes to mind, as you will not have to share it with anyone (other than the teacher).

Example: “Last night at 6:45 p.m. , police were called to the intersection of Main and Broadway to settle a fight between two drivers.  One, Jim Larson, was driving a 1975 Chevrolet pickup truck and the other, Nancy Svoboda, was driving a 1998 Chevrolet sedan.  According to the police report, both parties were headed north side by side on Main , which has two lanes each way.  Larson, on the left of Svoboda, wanted to get into Larson’s lane, so rather than wait for her to move ahead and then use his turn signal to move behind her, he tried to serve in front of her without using a signal.  According to police, Svoboda served away and then sped up, refusing to let Larson into her lane.  The vehicles collided, causing scratches on the side of both.  Police ticketed both parties for reckless driving.  They also ticketed Larson for threatening physical assault because, according to the report, when they arrived he was “bending over her window and screaming at Svoboda with his fist raised.” 

3.   Third, here is a sample of how an academic thesis paper starts.  Please read it and then write your own academic thesis paper, starting “I would argue that __________.  I think this is true for two reasons.  First, __________.  Second, __________.”  Try to use a calm, rational, balanced, but firm tone.  Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Write as much as you can as fast as you can for ten minutes.  You may write anything that comes to mind, for you will not be required to share it with anyone (other than the teacher).

Example: “I would argue that the average student is better off taking on-campus courses than completely online courses.  I think this is true for two reasons.  First, students enjoy their courses more when they take them in a physical classroom with other students.  For example, a studies in the academic journal Computers and Composition show that even though students may learn as much or more from online courses, the students tend to enjoy such courses less.  A typical student might find an online course helpful and useful, but he or she won’t have the pleasure of working face to face with other students and the professor.  Second, students usually finish school faster and are more likely to stay in school when they are part of a community of other students and of teachers whom they can see each week.  A number of research studies show that online courses have consistently higher dropout rates than do regular on-campus courses.  Other studies show that one of the main predictors of a student’s success in school is how much a student gets to know well several other people on campus.  Students don’t develop close relationships in online classes.

4.   Finally, write a list or a description of 200+ words detailing what it was like to have three different types (also called “genres”) of writing to do.  You may answer some or all of the following questions:

a.   What kind of audience/people is each genre for?  Why?  How?

b.   What are some similarities in how you wrote the genres?

c.   What are some differences?

d.   How is your own, personal writing style and/or method affected by having different genres to write?

e.   How is your style—the way you use sentences and words—affected by the different genres?

f.    How is the tone of your writing—the emotional sound or feeling of the words if they were spoken out loud—affected by the different genres?

g.   Which genre did you write best, which the worst, and why/how?

Homework Exercise: Follow the directions above, but write 150-200+ words for each of the first three sections, and follow the directions for section “4.
  

Exercise #3: FIRST-DRAFT  WRITING vs. “PERFECT” WRITING

Have students write freely about something about which they feel strongly (or from an imaging exercise); then have them try to write something academic that must have each sentence be as perfectly formed, grammatically correct, and “right” as possible.  Then do some casual grammar comparisons for them to show them how many of them get “pretzled” sentences.

1.   Form a group.  Then, individually, choose any kind of interesting personal experience that you can share with others in the group, and write about it individually: write as much as you can as fast as you can for ten minutes.

2.   Next, choose an academic subject or idea—one about which you have some thoughts.  Write as carefully and perfectly as you can, sentence by sentence, a series of sentences explaining your thoughts.  Write in a “school” style, and use grammar, spelling, and punctuation as accurately as you can as you write each sentence.  Write in this way for ten minutes.

3.   Share your results with each other by reading them aloud.  After all of you have read your two drafts, each of you in turn should comment on what you think are the differences between your and others’ two drafts.

4.   Finally, choose one person’s set of two writings: choose the set that seems to have the greatest number of type of differences in how the sentences are structured.  Prepare to present your findings to the class by answering each of these questions:

a.   What are two or three main differences between the two samples?

b.   Does grammar, spelling, and punctuation seem to be better in one than in the other?  Which one?  Why and how?

c.    In general, which of the two kinds of writing did your group find easier to write?  Why/

d.   In general, which of the two kinds of writing did your group find easier to read (or hear)?  Why?

e.    Name two or three general conclusions, thoughts, opinions, or guesses that your group is willing to make about whether first-draft, freely written writing or careful, sentence-by-sentence writing is better.

Homework Exercise: Follow the directions above.  
  

Exercise #4: STEPS AND OTHER WRITING EVENTS

1.   Form a group.  Then, individually, take one or two pieces of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle of each side of each sheet.  Then draw one or two horizontal lines completely across the paper so that each side ends up being divided into four or six squares.  Then, in the left-hand column of your paper, write a list of steps you use to plan or develop a major research paper.  Use one square for each step, on the left-hand side only.  What are your prewriting activities or thoughts?  What kinds of thoughts, activities, or related experiences do you have or do during the days or weeks when you are writing the paper?  How do they tie in to helping you with your paper?  Consider not just the obvious, and not just what you have been told is a good writing step, but also the less obvious and even, perhaps, the seemingly forbidden or silly: e.g., needing a particular type of food or drink, doing a particular activity for several hours or days that helps you unconsciously process your thoughts, using a certain type of music, needing a certain kind of place to write, etc.

2.   Next, create a picture for each step--a visual image that well conveys your step or activity at each point.  Draw an image in the right-hand column beside each step.    

3.   Then share your steps and events with each other.  Choose either a mixture of several people's methods or one single one that is unusual, different, or unique.  Write down several steps using a word or brief phrase for each, and then at least twenty words describing each step.  Create a group-made picture for each step as well, a picture that is different from or an improvement of any individually-created picture.  

4.   Finally, draw your pictures with the name of each step on the classroom board for everyone in the class to see it.  Write the name of each step.  Then present your group's drawings by describing aloud what each step involves. 

Homework Exercise: Follow the directions above.
      

Exercise #5: STYLE AND TONE AS IDIOM*

1.   Form a group.  After doing so, then as individuals, please write a quick, fast letter to a very close friend of yours in school, and please try to use a lot of the “catch phrases”—the idioms or special ways of saying words and phrases that only people in your own immediate group use.  Write as much as you can as fast as you can for five minutes.

2.   Next, write a new version—on a separate part of your paper—of what you just finished: this new version should have the same content”; however, you should rewrite the way you said it so that now it is appropriate as a letter to one of your parents, grandparents, or other relatives.  Please write it to your relative who is least likely to approve of what you have said or discussed, and change it as best you can to make it appropriate for that relative.

3.   Finally, write a third version on a separate part of your paper.  This time, rewrite what you wrote so that it sounds like an academic essay or report for college.

4.   Then, in your groups, read your sets of three different versions to each other.  As a group, choose the set that best demonstrates strong differences among its three versions.  Then ask the author of the three versions to remain completely silent while the others of you in the group make a list of at least five differences among the versions, and why they may be present—ten words or more explaining each.
    

5.   Have your group’s reader read your chosen set of three versions and your explanations of the possible differences to the class.

* with thanks to JoAnn Dahl      

Homework Exercise: Follow the directions above.
     

Exercise #6: ALTERNATIVE WRITING SYMBOLS (later in term)

1.   As a group, create one of the following to demonstrate some type of writing activity, type of writing, or element of writing:

Kinesthetic tableau (i.e., posed figures of people in various positions)

Skit (silent or with dialogue)

Musical composition

Sculpture

2.   Present what you have created to the class with a moderator who stands aside and explains, step by step, what is happening and what it means.

Homework Exercise: Follow the instructions above, but do so by writing 200-300 words for #1 and 100-200 w. for #2 (explaining the meanings/purposes of the parts of your creation): write a total of 400+ words. 
  
  

Exercise #7: WRITING AS THINKING, LEARNING, AND DOING (later in term)

1.   How is writing like thinking?  First, make a list of eight or ten ways that you use thinking.  Remember that there are other methods in addition to regular verbal thinking: e.g., visual, physical, intuitive, etc.   Next, describe one or more ways of writing for each of the ways of thinking on your list: e.g., where would journal or diary writing fit, letter writing, list-making, etc.?  Then describe for 100+ words how you have used writing for thinking in the past, when, where, why, or how, and/or how you might be able to do so in the present or future. 

2.   Next, how is writing like learning?  Make a list of eight or ten ways that people can learn: e.g., by listening, reading, talking, etc.  Then describe one or more ways of writing for each of the ways of learning on your list: i.e., how could writing be used in each type of learning?  Then describe for 100+ words how you have used writing for learning in the past, when, where, why, or how, and/or how you might be able to do so in the present or future.

3.   Third, how is writing like doing?  Make a list of eight or ten ways in which writing may be able to actually do something, make something happen, or accomplish change: e.g., writing laws, writing directions, writing a letter, etc.  Then write 100+ words describing how you have made changes in your or others’ lives in the past or could do so in the present or future.

4.   Share your results in a small group or with the class a whole.

Homework Exercise: Follow the directions above, but write 150-200+ words for each section.

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   How To Run a Small Group   

The following are directions for using small groups, whether you are a student, an instructor, or someone in the professional world learning how to develop good small-group work.  These directions are a brief distillation of a graduate course in how to run small groups, along with twenty years of weekly experience. 

NOTE: Groups of 3-4 work best in almost any traditional classroom or professional situation.  If you are in a classroom situation, counting off so that there is random distribution of groups also works best, in order to create more mixing.  If you are in a professional situation, it often works better to break up groups of six or more into smaller groups, work together in the smaller groups, and then come together in one larger group to make final decisions.  In this way, there is more participation, more development of ideas, and better results.

Step 1: Break into groups of three to four people.  Get out a piece of notebook paper for taking notes, and write down each other’s names.  Then choose roles—coordinator, writer, and reader.  

The coordinator does not make decisions, but rather coordinates everyone to help make decisions.  The writer does not decide what to write alone, but rather writes what everyone decides together.  The reader is the person who reads the results aloud to the class or, in a professional situation, presents the group's report to the larger group or the immediate supervisor.  (If there is a fourth person in the group, he or she is a group facilitator--asking questions of those who talk less than others--or a recording secretary who writes the minute-by-minute activities).

Step 2: Pretend that you as a group are [see individual activities below or in each chapter].  Feel free to be inventive or even humorous in your choice of subject as long as you use the appropriate sections for the given type of paper.  If you are a professional work group, decide what your purpose and method are.  

Step 3: Write the suggested minimum of words for each section of the activity.  Add illustrations if appropriate.

Step 4: If the directions for your activity include passing a paper around from one group to another, then always pass the paper you have in the same direction and to the same group, either always to the left, or always to the right.

Step 5: Have your reader stand and read your results aloud (or have your writer write them on the board and have your reader explain them from the board).  If you are in a professional work group, be sure your reader understands exactly what he or she should present to a supervisor, and when he/she can expect to have the written version of the results from the group's writer.

Step 6, Individual Work: You also may continue your activity by writing, on your own, a serious, non-imaginary 300-500+ word version of this paper on a subject of your own choice.

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Small Groups in Labs, Online, and by Telephone   

   
EXERCISES and GUIDELINES
    

EXERCISES 

(Note: Some of these activities are repeated from the "Basic Group Activities" section, above.)

  1. ONLINE ACTIVITY A: Develop a small online group by exchanging email addresses or by going to a bulletin board meant for your group activity.  Then complete one of the exercises above as an individual, with your coordinator starting it: do so either in an email to everyone in your group or in a bulletin board "Discussion."  When the designated time for emailing or posting this first step is over, read each other's results and write a positive, helpful response to one or more of the other messages you receive: you may, for example, describe in detail what you like best; describe in a fair, balanced way how you might respond as a reader; or critique a response constructively by suggesting what could be added to make it even better.  (This exercise also can be done in non-online environments: either in class or as part of a combined at-home and in-class activity.)

  2. ONLINE ACTIVITY B--A GROUP EMAIL ANALYSIS ("Analyzing an Imaginary Speech"; requires checking of email one to two times daily; can be modified for use on a bulletin board):

    (a) Days 1 & 2: Break into groups of three people.  Then choose one idea.  If you are starting online, use a predetermined system for deciding your group roles. Send your ideas to each other by email, and let the coordinator pick which one to use, according to the average interests of everyone in the group.

    (b) Day 3: Each group member should then write a part of the speech (30-40+ w.) and send it to the other group members, along with a suggestion of one or two possible unusual of unique viewpoints to use in analyzing this speech—see "Group Exercises—(d)" above.

    (c) Day 4: The coordinator then should declare which viewpoint will be used.

    (d) Day 5: Each group member then should analyze two or three ideas from the speech (50+ w. total) using this new viewpoint, and send the results to each other.

    (e) Day 6: The writer should compile the results of the speech and the results of the analyses into two easy-to-read sections and send them together to the other members of the group.

    (f) Day 7: The "reader" should look over the results, see if anything can be revised or edited to make the writing flow more easily, add subtitles (Speech and Analysis) to each section, and send both sections to the instructor and/or the class as a whole, with the group members’ names at the end of the reading.

  3. ONLINE ACTIVITY C--A CLASS EMAIL ANALYSIS ("Grouping Analytical Comments"; can be modified for use on a bulletin board)):

    (a) Ask your instructor to help you choose a subject for analysis, something relevant and interesting to everyone in the class.

    (b) Then, by listserv, send an email to everyone in the class, stating three unusual, unique, and/or special points of view--just one or two sentences each--about the subject. The points of view, though they may be strong, should be fair, balanced, and objective. For example, you could use a rich person’s viewpoint, a poor person’s, and a politician’s.

    (c) Each class member then should read the emails from everyone else and choose three different points of view—from three different classmates—that in some way seem to relate or connect to each other.

    (d) Email these three points of view to everyone in the class, along with your own introductory paragraph (50+ words) analyzing—explaining—how or why you believe these three points of view relate or connect. 

  4. INTERNET RESEARCH: Read this chapter and its samples first.  The, in groups of two or three people, use a search engine to find other descriptions or examples of analyses.  Then make a list describing similarities and differences between this chapter and its samples and what you have found on the Internet.

GUIDELINES

These guidelines describe in detail how to develop online activities and exercises.

In a Computer Lab:  Simply use the directions above, "How to Run a Small Group."  However, each group should be composed of three people clustered around one computer.  The person in the middle is the writer, and those on either side are the coordinator and reader.  If more than one group must handle each paper, then each group of three should move to a new computer—containing the new paper—instead of passing papers from group to group, as above.

In a Chat Room: A chat room is "synchronous," which means everyone is on simultaneously.  Use the directions above, "How to Run a Small Group."  However, each group should be composed of four or five people in case someone forgets to attend the chat.  If possible, it may be easiest to form a chat group in a classroom setting first, and even to practice using a chat room in a computer lab.  Chat rooms often work better if they are checked on occasion by the instructor or general supervisor. 

On a Bulletin Board: A bulletin board is "asynchronous," which means that each individual goes onto the board at a time of his or her choice, without simultaneous communication happening.  Use the directions above, "How to Run a Small Group."  However, each group should be composed of four or five people in case someone forgets to post on the bulletin board.  If possible, it may be easiest to form a bulletin board group in a classroom setting first.  Then the coordinator of the group would establish the initial "Discussion" by inviting members to participate, and after that initial invitation, everyone responding (including the group coordinator) would use the "reply to" function (not another "Discussion").  In this way, on a class bulletin board, each separate, new "Discussion" will represent the interactions of an entire small group; students will be able not only to respond to each other in their groups, but also, if they wish, to see the work of other groups.  Any coordinator of a bulletin board group will need to be more directive in asking people to complete the steps and in helping coordinate the results at each step.  In addition, because of the time delay on bulletin boards, there must be deadlines (e.g., by midnight each night) for each step of the work.  Bulletin boards often work better if they are checked on occasion by the instructor or general supervisor. 

By Email: Email groups can work by having members of the group swap email addresses and sending the results to an instructor, supervisor, or email listserv.  Use the directions above, "How to Run a Small Group."  Each group should be composed, if possible, of four to five people, in case someone forgets to participate or doesn't reply within the given time limit.  When using email, it is helpful to have a "timer" as one of the roles, as described below.  Emailing work much the same as bulletin board messaging, except that the instructor or overall supervisor may choose whether to simply receive the final result and a list of those who participated, or to be present as an additional silent member by having his or her email address listed with the rest of the group's addresses.

By Telephone: Telephone groups usually are reserved for distance-learning courses that do not involve online work (e.g., a write-in course).  However, they also may be used as an option in face-to-face and online classes.  Students must be willing to swap telephone numbers.  Conference calls are one option; the other option is to allow students to work in pairs.  Three-way conference calls are easily established in most phone systems: e.g., in many systems, once you are connected to one person, you may click or flash once, dial a second party, and--after that party has answered--click or flash again to have all three of you on the line once more.  When working in pairs, one person can be the coordinator; the other can be both writer and reader.   

Are you an instructor or professional coordinator?  Online groups (chat or bulletin board) and telephone pairs can be very successful in the right setting and with the right students or employees.  However, if you are inexperienced in coordinating group work using the system above ("How to Run a Small Group"),  you may find it easier to work first with groups in face-to-face contact--in a classroom, computer lab, or meeting room.  Here are some guidelines to help you:

  1. People may be assigned to peer groups by name, and by email address and/or telephone number.  Each  then should introduce himself or herself to the others in the group by name and major/work responsibility, and describe him/herself in one or two sentences.  (If email is being used, the teacher, supervisor, or even the entire class may wish to be included in this initial posting.)

  2. Ask people to volunteer for their roles (or--especially in email use, to save time, assign the roles).  

  3. The roles are similar to those in face-to-face classrooms: coordinator, writer, reader/poster, secretary, and/or timer.  The coordinator immediately helps everyone discover and set a workable chat-meeting or telephone time, or an email schedule, for the steps of this exercise.  Then he or she  keeps everyone working (and goes to the teacher/supervisor if there are problems that he or she can't resolve).  The writer writes the final document from suggestions made by everyone.  The poster posts the final document in the chat room, or to the teacher and/or the class by email.  If required (in exercises in future chapters), the poster may read documents to her group during conference calls.   A secretary keeps track of  the details of what happens in each exchange and/or minute; however, if desired a timer may be used, who regularly emails or phones all group members with frequent reminders of the time schedule and of when certain things must be done.

  4. In email use, each individual sends his/her own contribution to the writer, who correlates and/or combines them and then sends them to the poster.  

  5. In email, chat, and bulletin board use, the poster then can complete final combining and editing at will, then post the results to the class, instructor, or supervisor.  

  6. Special Notes:
    (a) Some schools may require releases from students before email addresses and telephone numbers are shared; at the least, students should understand at the beginning of such a course that their presence in the course requires them to release such information at times, which information must be released, and when/how. 
    (b) If done primarily by Internet chat meetings or conference calls, most exercises in this online handbook may be completed in one to two days, especially if students are required before registering to commit to being available online or for conference calls at a pre-assigned weekly time period. 
    (c) However, other distance-learning group assignments may require several more days.  This is true of bulletin board assignments and in particular of email assignments.  Emails may take many hours to arrive at their recipients' computers, and both bulletin-board and email messages require quite a bit of extra time for full exchanges of thoughts.  For this reason, any such exercise must be done with great dispatch and still may require as much as one week to complete.  

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Activities for 25 Different Types/Genres of Papers (Group & Individual)

The following activities offer small-group experiences in a variety of genres: e.g., several kinds of argument, several kinds of professional papers, several types of analysis and evaluation, etc.  They are organized alphabetically.  Some also occur in one or more individual chapters in the rest of this Web site.
   

Index for 25 Group Activities by Genre/Type 

Advertisement
Analysis, Arts
Analysis, Literary
Analysis Paper, Academic
Argument--Dialogue
Argument--Reaction to Reading
Argument--Thesis
Argument--Thesis with Stories

Article, Magazine

Article, Newspaper

Arts Analysis

Brochure, Informational

Business Report

Case Study

Critical Response to Literature

Critical Response to Reading

Critical Review

Directions/Instructions    

Disagreement
Editorial

Evaluation

Informational Brochure

Instructions

Interpretative Thesis

Laboratory Report

Literary Analysis

Literary Review

Literature, Interpretive Thesis

Magazine Article

Newspaper Editorial

Newspaper Report

Obituary

Poster, Scientific

Process Paper/Procedure

Progress Report

Proposal--Business    

Proposal--Class

Proposal--Marriage

Proposal--Scientific 

Reaction to a Reading

Recommendation Report

Report, Business/Technical

Report, Recommendation

Report, Scientific

Response to a Reading

Review of Literature

Review of Nonfiction

Scientific Poster

Scientific Proposal

Scientific Report

Speech, Argumentative

Story

Technical Report

Thesis Paper    

Introductory Note

There are a number of methods of providing students with the raw experience of writing.  One is genre writing, a method introducing students to a variety of genres.  News articles, process papers, interpretive analyses of literature, academic thesis papers, business reports, and case studies are just a few examples of genres.  I started using genre-writing activities twenty years ago, and I gradually have built a developed repertoire.  I often introduce a genre to students by asking them to write imaginatively in small classroom groups using the genre.  This small-group work enables students to use their collective knowledge and experience and learn from each other.  I also give students readings about the genre, which include descriptions, instructions, and samples.  I then ask students to use the genre at home in individual rough drafts about subjects of their choosing.  Below are brief sets of directions for working on a number of genres.  At the end is a short summary, for those inexperienced in small-group work, of how I use such groups for writing.
  

Genre Activities

Advertisement [story-writing pattern of customer, problem, and solution/product]: Imagine that you are a group of ad writers for a big company.  You must write an ad for a new product.  Start by stating in a sentence or two the name of the company, the name of the new product, and a brief description of what the product is/does.  Also write a sentence stating who the targeted customers are.  Then write the ad: show how your product can solve the problems, real or imagined, of the customers you have targeted.  You may write a TV ad, a radio script, or just a description of what your ad will be like.  Be as creative, imaginative, or serious as you want, and write 200+ words.  Then create a visual version of the ad in three picture steps—The Product, Customers Before Using It, and Customers After Using It, and place these on the board.  Present and explain them to the class and read your ad aloud.

Analysis, Arts: See “Arts Analysis.”

Analysis, Literary: See “Literary Analysis.”

Analysis Paper, Academic: First, as a group, choose a recent major event.  For this classroom activity only, you may make up your event and the people in it.  Be as creative, imaginative, or serious as you want.  In a few sentences, state the event, when and where it happened, and a brief summary of it for those who may not have heard about it.  Second, analyze the event from the point of view of three or four very different types of people for 100+ words each, starting with subtitles of the types of people: e.g., Lawyer, Doctor, and Teacher; Conservative Republican, Radical-Liberal Democrat, and Moderate Independent; Dictator, King/Queen, and Citizen of Democracy; or Slave, Servant, and Peasant.  Choose three to four types who will have strong, clear, and differing points of view about the event.  Represent each type fairly and thoroughly, no matter what you, yourself, believe. 

Argument—Dialogic Paper: Imagine you are an important politician or a group of speechwriters for an important politician.  Write a 100+ word speech taking a strong, fair, logical, but clearly extreme and one-sided position on a subject, as serious or imaginative/creative as you want.  Then pass your speech on to another group. 

Read aloud the speech you receive from a different group.  Then imagine you are the same or a different politician or speechwriting group, and write a new speech opposing the one you have received: your position on this new speech you write should again be 100+ words, strong, fair, logical, but clearly and extremely opposite of the one you have received from the different group.  Then pass this speech and the one you are opposing on to a new group that has seen neither. 

When you get an entirely new set of pro and con speeches, read both aloud.  Then imagine once again that you are the same or a different politician or speechwriting group.  Write a third 100+ word speech in response to the pro and con speeches you have just read.  Your position this time cannot agree with either the pro or the con: you must take an entirely new, third position.  To do so, you may find a middle, compromise position, or you may find a third, higher position or point of view not recognized by the first two speeches.

Argument—Reaction to a Reading/Speech/Situation: See “Reaction Paper.”

Argument—Thesis Paper, Standard: See step one of “Argument—Dialogic Paper.”

Argument—Thesis Paper with Stories: Pretend you are on one side of a debate and you must convince a group of important people that you are right in order for you to save the world in some important way.  To do this effectively, all you have is the personal experiences of people, your own and/or others.  Write a single sentence stating your main argument; then write three realistic personal stories of 100 words each from three different people, each a story helping you prove your argument.  After writing them, add  sentence at the beginning of each story that summarizes how or why this experience will help prove your main argument.  For this classroom activity only, you may make up your stories and the people who tell them.  You may be serious, creative, or imaginative.

Arts Analysis: First, imagine your group is, together, a famous painter or sculptor.  Create your work of art on the board in front, along with a 50+ word description of it that cannot be seen just on the board (such as colors, special backgrounds, three-dimensional shapes, etc.).  Then switch “works of art” with another group.  Read the description you’ve received, look at the work of art, and then analyze it. Describe it using the elements of art, 30+ words per element: (1) medium (materials); (2) visual tensions (conflicts/contrasts) vs. similarities/balances; (3) where the work stands between complete abstraction vs. complete, photograph-like representation, and why/how; (4) quality of color, light vs. dark, etc.—type and intensity; (5) types of basic lines—converging, diverging, parallel, balanced, unbalanced, thick, thin, etc.; (6) symbolic meanings; and (7) the quality and quantity of real content or obvious meaning.  Read the summary and your analysis aloud to the class.

Article, Magazine: See “Magazine Article."

Article, Newspaper: See “Newspaper Article."

Brochure, Informational: Imagine that you are a group of owners or managers of a workplace that offers some kind of special service or assistance, and you want to create a brochure.  It will introduce people to what you provide and suggest why it is valuable.  A typical brochure has six sides: each side should have some kind of attractive visual or graphic image: a photo, a drawing, a graph or chart, etc.  Each side also should have a list or an interesting quotation from a valuable source and/or a customer.  Each side also should have a sentence or two explaining, introducing, or summarizing the visual information, quotes, and lists.  As a group, decide on the name of your company and its service (both of which should go in the brochure).  Then develop your own six-part brochure (with tall, narrow pages) on the board in your classroom.  Provide six graphic/visual images, three or more lists, and three or more quotations.  Also provide six brief explanations, introductions, or summaries, one per page.  Then explain and read your brochure to the class.

Business/Technical Report/Progress Report: Imagine that you are a group of managers in charge of an important, lengthy project for a big company.  It is your job to report—to the vice president who is above you—on the progress of the project.  (1) First, summarize in a sentence each (a) your company’s name, (b) what it does or make, (c) the nature and purpose of the project, and (d) the overall level, quality, or quantity of the current progress.  (2) Then develop three to four sections breaking down the progress: you can divide it by activity (for example, Purchases, Repairs, & Sales), time (e..g., June, July, and August), location (e.g., West Factory, East Factory, and Headquarters), or other system.  (3) Then develop each section with 50+ words as follows: (a) a subtitle and topic sentence, (b) a description, and (c) somewhere in the description, a helpful list and a helpful visual illustration.  Place the list and the illustration on the board or make it large in poster style.  (4) Finally, read your report aloud to the class, showing and explaining the list and illustration as part of your presentation. 

 

Case Study: Pretend you are a psychologist, counselor, or psychiatric nurse who has just completely finished treatment of a patient who was unusual or difficult.  It is your job to write a case study summarizing the patient and what happened.  Use the following subtitles and contents.  Introduction: Write 1-2 sentences naming the client/patient, your clinic/organization, the persons providing exams and/or therapies, and the reason for the case study (medical records, research, etc.)  Client/Patient: Describe him/her for 100+ w. using the five W’s and five senses—who she is, what she is/does, where she lives, works, plays, etc., when, and how or why; and how she looks, sounds, smells, moves, eats/smokes, etc.  Problem(s), or Symptoms & Diagnosis: Write 100+ w. of detailed description.  Treatment Plan: For 30+ w. each, (a) define the general therapeutic method or general method of help (e.g., “Freudian psychotherapy is usually administered to patients through talk sessions”), (b) list the steps of or events that happened during actual application of the treatment plan to this one individual, and (c) describe the short-term results after treatment was completed, and the expected long-term results. 

Critical Response to Readings : See “Analysis,” “Critical Review,” “Evaluation,” and “Reaction.”

Critical Review: First choose a movie, TV show, book, article, or story all of you in your group have seen or read.  Try to choose one to which you have no particularly strong emotional reaction—i.e., you neither particularly love nor hate it.  Then review it critically using subtitles and 80+ words per section.  Your three sections should be as follows: Summary (accurately and factually, without personal opinion or bias, summarize your choice), Arguments (discuss public, personal, social, and academic arguments for and against your choice), Evaluations (use at least five of the evaluative labels below in “Evaluation Paper”), and Conclusions/Recommendations (describe your own final conclusions and/or recommendations to your readers concerning your choice).

Directions/Instructions: See “Process/Procedure Paper.”  Follow its instructions, except in the part that says, “Do not give instructions or directions.”  Rather, you should do the opposite if you wish to give directions: for example, do write, “First, gather the materials,”  “Second, start the machine,” and “Third, place the materials in the machine.”  Use command verbs at the beginning of each direction or instruction: e.g., “gather,” “start,” and “place.”

Disagreement: See “Response Paper.”

Editorial: See Argument—Thesis Paper, Standard” and “Argument—Dialogic Paper.”

Evaluation Paper: First, imagine that you are a group of ad writers for a big company.  Use the directions above for writing a creative, imaginative, or serious “Advertisement,” but keep it to just 200+ words.  This time, write about a product that is useless or may actually cause harm to people in some way, but will make your company a large amount of money.  Make your ad take advantage of people’s desires, hopes, and dreams in as many ways as possible.  Second, announce the names of your products to the class and choose another group’s ad.  Third, write an evaluation of the ad you have received.  Choose and use eight or more of the following subtitles, and write one or more evaluative sentences for each subtitle: Bias, Untruth, Misdirection, Negative Effects on society or individuals, False Appeals, Contradiction with something similar, Contrast/Comparison with something similar, and Appeal to something specific (Emotion, Desire, Pleasure, Money, Fitting In, Power, etc.).

Informational Brochure: See “Brochure, Informational.”

Instructions: See “Directions/Instructions.

Interpretive Thesis: See “Literature--Interpretive Thesis."

Laboratory Report: Laboratory Reports often use a specific format not given here.  Some use the pattern for a "Scientific Report" (see). 

Literary Analysis: First, imagine your group is, together, a famous author.  Make up a 150+ word story summary, serious or silly, that might appear on the back cover of a paperback novel, or inside the book jacket of a hardbound novel.  Include a person with a problem, a specific place and time, and at least two main characters with names.  Then take a story summary from another group and pretend that you have read the entire novel.  Analyze it by describing the elements of literature in it, 50+ words per element: the individual, specific scenes (specific places and time spans); the general, overall setting (country/state/culture/decade/year); main characters (but not their problems); main conflict/problem; important, overall symbols; and the main themes/lessons.  Read the summary and your analysis aloud to the class.

Literary Review: See “Critical Review.”

Literature—Interpretive Thesis: First, as a group, make up a fiction book: write the title, the author’s name, and a 100+ word summary of the book.  You may be as serious or as imaginative and creative as you wish.  Then pass this information to another group.

When you receive another group’s summary, decide on viewpoint.  To do this, choose a system of analysis and how you would argue using that system.  For example, you could say, “A family psychologist would argue that this book means _____”; “A feminist would argue that this book implies _____”; or “A radical conservative would argue that this book suggests _____.” 

Then create three or four sections.  To do this, make up (from what the summary of the book says) three or four ways to argue your viewpoint.  For example, you could say, “First, the character of Ned shows a clear sign of being _____”; “Second, the repeating symbol of water means _____”; and “Third, Ned’s realization of his dream at the midpoint means _____.”

You can choose plot incidents in the book, characters and/or their dialogue or actions, symbols, or any mix of these or other elements (all of which you may make up from the summary).  Provide one long quotation or two short ones per section: make up quotations that demonstrate or exemplify the section’s point.  Write 50+ words per section: include the quotation(s) and an explanation of why/how the quotation(s) prove that section’s point.  If you have time when you are done, add a summarizing sentence to the beginning of each of your three or four sections.

Magazine Article:  See “Argument—Thesis Paper with Stories”; however, start with a “hook”—provide a strong, interesting story at the very beginning, relatively short, right before stating the main argument (thesis).

Newspaper Editorial: See Argument—Thesis Paper, Standard” and “Argument—Dialogic Paper.”

Newspaper Report: Pretend you are, together as a group, a newspaper journalist or reporter.  You have just been called to the scene of a very unusual, interesting event.  You have observed it carefully.  Now you must write the news report of it for the daily newspaper for which you work.  For this classroom activity only, you may make up your event and the people in it.  You may be serious, creative, or imaginative.    

Start your report with a sentence or two that summarizes the 5 W’s of journalism: Who the main person(s) was, What happened, and Where, When, and Why or How the event happened.  (E.g., “Jack and Jill Smith fell down Blueberry Hill yesterday at 3:09 p.m. while fetching a pail of water.”)  Then use each “W” as a subtitle and write 80+ words after it, describing in greater detail the person, the event, the place, the reason it happened, etc.  You may combine two of the W’s—e.g., Where and Whenin one subtitle and one 80+ word section.  (Use the past tense, and use “he/she/it/they,” not “I,” in describing to whom the event happened.) 

Obituary: Imagine you are a news reporter or family member writing about the death of a famous person (or, if you are working individually, a person close to you).  Write a factual, objective news report.  (You may be serious or silly.)  Use the five W’s of journalism four times: (1) Summarize the death itself: write one to two sentences specifying who died, when, where, what made the person special, and how or why he/she was special.  (2) Summarize the person’s life: write one to two sentences generalizing on who the person was; when and where—the times and places—he/she lived; what the person was like, did, or pursued; and how or why the person lived as he/she did (30+ w.). (3) Then develop each of the W’s in “2” into a longer, 30+ w. description.  (4) Finally, in as few sentences as possible, describe who the immediate family members, deceased and surviving, are; and what kind of service will take place, where, and when; and how memorial flowers, gifts, or donations may be delivered. 

Poster, Scientific: See “Brochure, Informational.”

Process/Procedure Paper: Imagine that you are a group of professionals at a workplace where no description exists of some important activity or process (e.g., how a person packs an item for shipment or how a machine works, step by step).  You as a group and all other experienced workers know what the process involves, but new employees are completely lost and need a written description.  Your job is to write the description.  Be as imaginative or as practical as you wish in choosing the process and the steps for it.  Develop four to six steps.  Start writing by stating your process and your steps briefly in an introduction; then write 50+ words of careful detail per step.          

Remember to describe each step in the abstract, with an abstract, general label for the person doing the process (e.g., “First, the packer assembles the packing materials,” or “First, the operator turns on the machine”).  Do not give instructions or directions (e.g., do not write, “First, assemble the materials,”  “First, you start the machine,” or “First, you must/should/will/can start the machine”).  Instead, describe what happens or what is done.  Model the first sentence of each step after the sentences in bold above to help you use the correct wording. 

Progress Report: See “Business/Technical Report.”

Proposal—Business (see also “Proposal—Marriage”):
Pretend you are a group of people in charge of a business or a government program, big or small.  The work of the business or program has progressed smoothly for several years, but recently a major problem or need has occurred, and you as a group are only people who seem to see the need for action. 

Start by stating in writing the name of your business or government program, what you produce, make, or do, and what the problem/need is.  Then provide the following subtitles, descriptions, and word counts for each: Problem—80+ words; Proposed Solution—80+ words; Plan—list 5+ items each for (1) a series of 5+ STEPS & THEIR COMPLETION DATES, (2) 5+ PERSONNEL NEEDED, (3) 5+ MATERIALS NEEDED, and (4) 10+ COSTS of both “2” and “3”; and Outcomes/Results—80+ words describing both positive and negative outcomes/results, and how you will handle the potential negative outcomes, if they occur.

Proposal—Class: Use the above instructions (“Proposal—Business”), but instead develop a serious, creative, or imaginative—but carefully detailed—proposal for how to change this (or another) course.

Proposal—Marriage: Use the above instructions (“Proposal—Business”), but instead develop a serious, creative, or imaginative—but carefully detailed—marriage proposal, as if it were a business proposal.

Proposal, Scientific: See “Scientific Proposal.”

Reaction Paper: First, imagine that you are a group of speech writers for a major politician seeking reelection, except you should choose or make up a politician who is radically left or radically right.  Start by stating the name of your politician and the basic position or belief for which he/she stands.  Then write a speech for him to use—as if he/she were giving it—that is 100+ words of strongly worded opinion.  Second, announce the name and position of your politician to the class and choose another group’s speech.  Third, write a response to the speech describing four points of disagreement you have, or four ways in which you can disagree with the politician.  Use subtitles as follows: Disagreement 1, Disagreement 2, Disagreement 3, Disagreement 4.  After each subtitle, start each disagreement with a sentence saying, “First, this speech is wrong because _________,” “Second, this speech is wrong because __________,” etc.  Then develop your explanation of why the speech is wrong in that particular way. 

Recommendation Report: Imagine that you are a small group of managers at a company, and the company’s owner or your boss asks you to decide how to make a major change or institute a new direction.  Start by stating in one sentence each (1) the name of your company and the types of products or services you produce, and (2) the types of customers using your business. 

Then develop the following subtitles, descriptions, and word counts for four sections: Problem—50+ words; Ideal Goal—50+ words; Solution Paths—a list 3+ possible solutions, paths, or methods for reaching the goal, 1+ positive for using each, and 1+ negative for using each (e.g., if the ideal goal is happier customers in a restaurant, then three possible solutions might be greater cleanliness, training for friendlier servers, or food coupons—each method will have its advantages and disadvantages in practice);Final Choice—50+ words describing the final choice (can be one or a combination of solution paths) and why it is the best choice.  Be as creative, imaginative, or serious as you want in developing the business, customers, and/or problem, but treat the solution paths and final choice seriously.

Report, Business/Technical: See “Business/Technical Report.”

Report, Recommendation: See “Recommendation Report.”

Report, Scientific: See “Scientific Report.”

Response Paper: See “Reaction Paper.”

Review: See “Critical Review.”

Scientific Poster: See “Brochure, Informational.”

Scientific Proposal: Imagine that you are a group of scientists who wish to develop a scientific  experiment proving or disproving something.  You need to make a proposal to an academic, government, or other funding agency in order to get the money to do the experiment.  Be as imaginative as you wish.  Write your proposal using the following five sections of the scientific IMRaD system.  (1) Abstract: describe in just a few sentences what the experiment will be (its purpose/reason), why the field of science considers this general area of study important, how you will do the experiment, and what your results might be; (2) Introduction: 50+ words on the project’s need, value, and/or place in its field, along with a made-up quotation or two from scientific journals; (3) Method: 70+ words on the budget, personnel, and materials you will need, and how you will proceed, step by step, with the experiment; (4) Result: 30+ words on both the possible positive and negative results; and (5) Discussion: 50+ words on the meanings, implications, and scientific and societal outcomes on both the possible positive and possible negative results.  Then present your IMRaD proposal to the class.

Scientific Report: Imagine that you are a group of scientists who have successfully made an experiment proving or disproving something.  It is time for you to report your findings.  Be as imaginative as you wish.  Report by writing the following five sections using the scientific-report system of IMRaD.  (1) Abstract: describe in just a few sentences what the experiment was (its purpose/reason), why the field of science considers this general area of study important, how you did the experiment, and what your results were; (2) Introduction: 50+ words on the project’s need, value, and/or place in its field before you started the experiment, along with a made-up quotation or two from scientific journals; (3) Method: 70+ words on the methods and materials you used and how you proceeded, step by step, with the experiment; (4) Result: 30+ words on your results; and (5) Discussion: 50+ words on the meanings, implications, and scientific and societal outcomes because of this experiment’s results.  Then present your IMRaD report to the class.

Speech, Argumentative: See the first step of “Argument-Dialogic Paper.”

Story: Write a serious, creative, or imaginative story that is made up, not true (however, you may base it on something true, if you wish).  In the first sentence or two, introduce the main person(s) and the main problem: e.g., “Once upon a time, __________ had a problem with __________.”  Then tell the story in three scenes, each one labeled with a subtitle: Scene 1, Scene 2, and Scene 3.  Start each scene with a sentence or two identifying a specific, single location at a single, specific time: e.g., “Jess and Terry stood at the corner of 5th and Main at noon , wondering how to get a ride home.”  Then continue the scene using—almost entirely—action and/or dialogue.  In your three scenes, show the problem and how it eventually was/will be solved.  For each scene, write 100+ words (300+ total).

Technical Report: See “Business/Technical Report.”

Thesis Paper: See “Argument—Thesis Paper, Standard,” “Argument—Thesis Paper with Stories,” or the first step of “Argument—Dialogic Paper.”

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Using Role-Playing in Groups to Teach Thinking    

This essay explains how to use role-playing to teaching critical thinking skills.  An earlier version appeared as "Using Role-Playing to Teach Thinking" in Innovation Abstracts, Volume XX, Number 9 (March 20, 1998), Ed. Suanne D. Roueche (sroueche@mail.utexas.edu), and is used here by permission.

     
Using Role-Playing in Groups to Teach Critical Thinking

  The first time I imported the teaching and learning of critical thinking into my own discipline of composition, I failed miserably. 

  I was in Minnesota's community college system at the time, and my interest had been piqued when I was the junior member of a three-person team teaching a modern critical-thinking course called "Problem Solving."  This interdisciplinary course was developed and led by Joel Peterson, founder and co-director of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Critical Thinking Project.  By the conclusion, I was excited about importing the teaching of thinking to my composition courses.  I decided to start with Composition I and spent much of the summer preparing my teaching materials, which focused on critical thinking as found in the rhetorical modes: comparison-contrast, analysis, argument, et al.  In two course sections that fall I described critical thinking in lavish, exciting terms, and I helped students individually, in groups, and in their classes to perform a variety of thinking tasks by working with the rhetorical modes.

  The students and I quickly discovered that all this new thinking was hard work for them.  I polled them informally almost every week and discovered that though they were completing the same number of homework hours as previous students in the course, they also perceived the work as much harder than had previous students, often reporting that my course was their most difficult and that the work load bordered on being unfair.  In addition, their confusion was greater: though they expressed great respect for critical thinking as the course progressed, often they reported their failure to understand how the class could help them in other courses or in future professions.  These evaluations occurred in spite of my frequent explanations and examples in lecture and writing of how the thinking skills could be used academically and professionally.  The students and I ended the quarter exhausted, as if together we had survived a battle.

  What, I wondered, had gone wrong?  I quickly returned to my old method of teaching composition--a professional-centered series of practical papers such as news articles, business reports, and interdisciplinary research arguments.  I licked my wounds and began to figure out how, if at all, I could teach thinking.

Practical, Imaginative Group Roles

  My usual method of teaching composition had proven successful both for and with students through the years, so gradually I began to look for comparisons between what I normally taught and what the "Problem Solving" team had taught.

  One of the first elements I found that was alike was how students were engaged in practical writing or thinking situations.  In composition, for example, when I taught students to argue or to read literature critically, I gave them practice exercises such as the writing of business proposals or movie reviews.  Similarly, the "Problem Solving" course emphasized practical concerns: for example, learning to solve a case study of someone's emotional problems by using a four-, five-, or six-step method of problem solving.  Students in both courses enjoyed the exercises and performed well on tests.

  A second similarity was that students in both courses tended to responded best when the practical situations were imaginative.  For example, when my composition students practiced writing a business proposal, they would work better and learn more if they imagined their own companies--or imaginatively explored their own real work situations--rather than working with one I imposed.  In "Problem Solving," for example, students in groups had a contest to create the best cantilever hanging from the classroom wall using nothing more than newspaper and tape (a popular problem-solving exercise in engineering departments) or, for example, using the steps of a problem-solving paradigm to examine their own individual personal or professional situations.

  A third similarity was that both courses often used effective group work.  I had used groups for years; however, "Problem Solving" had on occasion taken my usual method one step further.  In composition, each student in a group was assigned a task: e.g., one as coordinator of the group, another as writer, a third as reader to the class. 

  "Problem Solving" occasionally experimented with more: sometimes students performed specific roles related to the imaginary activity.  For example, in an exercise designed to teach students how cultures clash, in each group one student was required to be completely silent, one only could listen and respond with hand signals, once only could talk without listening, et al.  In another exercise developed by Edward de Bono and used by Japanese corporations, each group helped solve a problem on which the whole class was working; however, each group could perform only one type of thinking: one group could only use logical thinking, for example, another group only intuitive thinking, yet another only negative thinking, etc.  In "Problem Solving" such imaginative exercises were among the most successful.

Dramatic Thinking

  I utilized these three successful elements--practical exercises, imaginative input from students, and group role-playing--slowly but increasingly in my composition courses.  In a news writing exercise, for example, I ask students to interview each other like journalists and report on each other's lives using the 5 W's of journalism.  For a business report I ask each small group of students to make up a business name and product, then pretend they are managers or executives in their company and create a proposal, a TV ad, or a progress report on the development of the product.  In a World Religions course I taught, I asked each group to make up their own religion, sometimes imagining that they as a group were the founders of a religion that would gain worldwide acceptance, and sometimes imagining roles for each of themselves as mystic, minister, business leader, town conservative, etc.

  My most sophisticated role-playing exercise occurs in a research-writing course in which I teach students how to use, in steps, the thinking skills of description, simple analysis, argument, and evaluation.  The exercise is called "Having a Baby": a teenager either is pregnant by, or has made pregnant, someone from an impoverished part of town.  The students of each group first choose individual roles as members of the teenager's family, and create and analyze the problem; then they receive the analysis of another group, choose roles as friends of this other "family," and present arguments concerning the other family's problems; third, they become a panel of mental health professionals of their choice and evaluate yet another group's family problems; finally, they evaluate their own work as a group.  This exercise takes two to four class hours.  Students later write an argumentative and evaluative research paper, and they report that the paper was much easier because of this introductory exercise. 

  I now use role-playing exercises almost every week to introduce new papers and new concepts.  I have not had to change the content of what I teach, just some of the methods.  In addition, clearly my courses now have a critical-thinking orientation that I can describe and that students can more easily transfer.  By the end of a course, students are able to list a number of thinking tools they have acquired--both specific (such as journalism's 5 W's) and general (such as analysis and evaluation).  And student evaluations of my courses and their critical thinking contents have risen to higher levels, even as these same evaluations describe my courses as among the most difficult--but rewarding--courses they have taken in college.

Guidelines for Developing Role-Playing 

  I have shared my experiences with some of my colleagues, and from their experiences and mine I have developed some guidelines:

  (A) Isolate the thinking pattern or skill you want to teach.  What kind of thinking do students need to perform in order to successfully learn what you want of them?  For example, if you are requiring a paper in history or psychology that involves analysis, separate the kind of analysis you expect into a teachable exercise.

  (B) If the thinking skill appears at all complex to students, break it down further into steps, parts, or separate functions.  Thinking skills usually are teachable to those who seem not to possess them, but often only if the skills are broken into simple steps.  For example, students who may not grasp the complexities of a seemingly simple lawsuit may need it broken down into the viewpoints and separate thinking and feeling processes of both lawyers and both of their clients.

  (C) Decide if the skill best can be practiced by individuals working alone or by small groups, in class or out.  Role-playing in groups often works best because several students together can make up for each other's weaknesses or inattention.  However, some exercises are better designed for individuals.  In addition, work at home or even major assignments may be more appropriate opportunities.  I often assign major papers that require individual students to imaginatively develop or create business or social situations to which they can apply the thinking patterns I desire.

  (D) Imagine enjoyable, challenging, dramatic roles for students to try, and set clear parameters.  The easiest method of completing this step often is to create dynamic, difficult-to-solve problems to which students will react strongly.  In the cantilever exercise mentioned above, for example, we required that the cantilever had to be self-supporting, could not touch the ground, could not contain any "illegal" substances such as student pens or rulers, could not depend on the ceiling for suspension, and had to stand on its own for at least one full minute at measurement time.  Most teachers develop their parameters gradually as their students try out their exercises.

  (E) Remind students several times, briefly, of both the purpose or use of the exercise and the thinking or skill it is teaching.  I like to inform students both before and after an exercise or its purpose and transferability.  Even if they forget how some skills transfer, still the idea of transferability is better impressed.

  (F) Collect brief, handwritten or oral evaluations within the same day or week.  Using role-playing often creates dramatic changes in how students perceive the contents of a course section.  Though many exercises work well, not all are successful.  I have found, for example, that using imaginative and emotional situations such as the above exercise "Having a Baby" works well with younger students and students who are more dynamic; however, older adult students and sometimes those who prefer traditional lectures find the exercise frustrating or pointless.  What works well for some does not for others.

Discovering Student Perceptions

  Recently I started teaching first- and third-year composition at the University of Minnesota.  The third-year courses are discipline-based, and few activities have been more satisfying to me than creating exercises based on students' disciplinary concerns.  I taught "Writing about Science" for two quarters, for example, and one major assignment was a scientific proposal.  In the second quarter, I asked students to pretend they were teams of inventors and then to propose in steps either the development or implementation of some new device or process.  Students found the exercise exiting, and three weeks later I received better real proposals than in the previous quarter.  In evaluations, a number of students stated clearly that this and other exercises had helped them write better papers.

  If we can discover students' perceptions of their own possible roles and abilities, we can develop from them efficient, enjoyable exercises that teach the basic thinking of our courses.  We will discover, of course, some perceptions in students that are shallow and intemperate; however, there also is much that is both ennobling and practical.  It is from these noble and practical hopes and abilities that we can fashion roles and exercises that match both the needs and the dreams of our students. 

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WritingforCollege.org also is at CollegeWriting.info and WforC.org

Natural URL: www.tc.umn.edu/~jewel001/CollegeWriting/home.htm
Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998; CollegeWriting.info, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
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