from Engaging Ideas by John Bean, Jossey Bass, 1996, pp. 237-238.
The traditional way to coach writing is to make copious, red penciled comments on finished student products almost universally regarded among composition specialists as an inefficient use of teacher energy. The comments seldom lead to improvement in student writing, and the thought of grading stacks of depressingly bad student essays discourages teachers from assigning writing. This chapter suggests ten different strategies for coaching writing, aimed at improving the quality of final products while reducing the amount of commenting time teachers need to devote to papers. Here is a nutshell review of the ten strategies discussed in this chapter.
- Design good assignments
Assign exploratory writing; consider using microthemes.
Create assignment handouts specifying task, purpose, audience, criteria, desired manuscript form (see pages 83-86 for details).
If your goal is thesis-based writing, consider using one of the three assignment strategies in Chapter Five (pages 87-90).
- Clarify your grading criteria
Create a scoring guide or peer review checksheet.
Hold an in-class norming session (see Chapter Nine, pages 158-159).
- Devote a class hour to generating ideas
Create a small group brainstorming task.
Have members of pairs interview one another.
- Have students submit something to you early in the writing process
Consider asking for a prospectus, a question plus thesis summary, or an abstract.
Use these to identify students who need extra help.
- Have students be the first readers of each other's drafts
Require peer reviews (either response-centered or advice-centered).
To preserve class time, consider out-of-class peer reviews.
- Refer students to your writing center (or you may lobby to start one)
Recognize the value of writing centers for all writers, not just weak writers.
Stress the usefulness of writing centers at all stages of the writing process.
- Make one-on-one conferences efficient
Focus first on higher order concerns (ideas, focus, organization and development).
Begin each conference by setting an ''agenda."
- Develop a repertoire of conferencing strategies.
Consider using idea maps and tree diagrams.
- Consider holding group conferences early in the writing process
- Use efficient methods for giving feedback on papers
Comment on late drafts rather than final products (or allow rewrites).
Make revision-oriented comments, focusing first on higher-order concerns.
For microthemes, use models feedback in lieu of traditional comments.
When time is at a premium, use a grading scale or a scoring guide instead of making comments.
- Put minimal comments on finished products that will not be revised