Wire Discussion Guidelines

Shared by Elizabeth Baldridge

Inspired by Stephanie Guedet

Every Monday, a student is in charge of leading class discussion of a selected episode of season 4 of The Wire. But this model could be used for a wide variety of shared reading/viewing/listening options. Students are doing really well with it.

Rethinking the Introduction

Shared by Sarah Tsai

This activity, which works as an in-class writing challenge or as a regular assignment, aims to help students distinguish between genuine revision and light word-shuffling. In many cases, it’s also an exercise in using instructor feedback to revise.

One-paragraph revision

Shared by Elizabeth Baldridge

This activity is a follow-up to paper feedback, designed to ensure students understand instructor commentary and to encourage further revision.

Theme Song Introductions

Shared by Nicole Hancock

This activity uses student analysis of television theme songs as the basis for a discussion regarding what makes for an effective introduction.

Progress Cards

Shared by Elizabeth Baldridge

Every day of class, I try to check in with each student individually, but I also have individual conferences scheduled with students every four weeks to talk about grades, progress, and goals for the remainder of the semester. Students answer the questions from this sheet on large index cards. We discuss them during conferences, but I also carry them with me to give students props when they’re following through with a plan or showing a newly adopted practice and to remind students of their plans and larger goals.

Post-it Peer Review

Shared by Elizabeth Baldridge

Inexperienced writers often have difficulty providing substantive feedback on peer work, especially early in the semester before we’ve done enough analysis and discussion of writing to equip them with language to discuss the relative success of different texts. I use this peer review activity early in the semester as a way to encourage students to think about learning from successes and to get students quality revision direction in just a few words.

First Draft Peer Review

Shared by Nicole Hancock

I save this type of peer review activity for after I have already established peer review as a worthwhile activity. I usually do it in the middle of the semester to mix things up a bit. I have a timer with me or project an online timer so students do this activity in increments. Figure out what amounts of time work best for your students and the time you have in class. While students are working on this assignment at their desks, I sit at the table in the middle of the room, blitzing through all of their first drafts while they work. That is why they need to have a second copy on the desk. Our classes are arranged with desks in a U around the room; you may have to revise the instructions to fit your classroom design.

Occasionally, I have a student (or two or three) who attends class on a peer review day without a paper. In that case, I substitute one of the extra copies for that student, so he or she can still participate in the activity. Just make sure the substitute paper is not from one of  the students to the immediate left and right or that student will end up peer reviewing his or her own paper. Students get exposed to 2-4 papers that have been written by their peers, so they gain ideas from the papers they have read as well as receiving specific feedback from their peers and me.

Self-Assessment Grid

Shared by Susanna Horn

As a huge fan of self-assessment, I ask students to self-assess before they write their final drafts and then again, using this grid, just as they are turning in the final.  This is also useful as fodder for further writing and/or discussion.

Ice Breaker (Student Names)

Shared by Jacque Wilson-Jordan

This activity takes a full 50-minute period, but to me it’s worth it. The classroom geography is decentralized, a welcome change from me standing up and reading the syllabus on day one. The students greet each other and learn about each other. I learn about them; they learn about me. It’s fun to give them a unique quality that may be surprising to them, e.g. that I like to lift weights. The teacher is human! If there’s any awkwardness or weird/unsettling vibe or disruptiveness in the class, this tends to squelch it.

Going through this series of steps and reviewing my sheet when I take attendance on subsquent days helps me learn their names very quickly.

Ice Breaker (Poetry)

Shared by Gael Grossman

This ice breaker activity uses poetry to get students to work together early in the semester and offers an opportunity to discuss limerick and haiku.

Writing Ice Breaker

Shared by Chuck Guilford

With inspiration from/credit to Ken Macrorie, Peter Elbow, and many others

This is an opening-day activity that works both as an ice breaker and an introduction to some practices that will be used throughout the term.

Student Information Sheet

Shared by Stephanie Kratz

With credit to On Course Workshops

This is an information sheet aimed at building rapport and showing instructor interest in students.

Ice Breaker

Shared by Karen Henderson

This is an icebreaker that consistently works well with my demographic, which is very nontraditional.

How to use Word to turn essay into list of sentences

Shared by Nick Carbone

With inspiration from Klonoski, Edward, “Using the Eyes of the PC to Teach Revision.,” Computers and Composition, v11 n1 p71-78. 1994.

Since handbooks and exercises use single sentence examples to illustrate incorrect and then corrected sentences, a proofing stage activity, students use the steps in this handout to transfer what they read and exercise to their own writing.  They do this by turning their essay into a list of sentences to match the kind of approach the handbook/exercises use.   See also, for a related activity inspired by Ed’s piece, “One Way to Use Grammar and Spellcheckers Carefully” at

Writing Process Rep

Shared by Nicole Hancock

This was inspired by a presentation by Naomi Silver at CCCC’s. It asks students to think about their writing process in a new way before beginning a reflective writing assignment (in my class, it is a cover letter for a portfolio). This is the handout I give students with some pretty basic step-by-step instructions for the students who need assistance with computer literacy.

Introduction on Bb

Shared by Nicole Hancock

This activity helps students rethink their introduction for a paper. This was inspired by an activity in Bruce Ballenger’s The Curious Researcher. Students must write more than one introduction for a paper that has already been drafted. They then post it in Blackboard and other students rate them using the star rating system. The assignment sheet I have submitted is what I give to students to explain the steps they should take. Screenshots have been inserted.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Shared by Sarah Alderfer

I do not recall from where or whom this activity came, but it is not originally mine. In fact, some of my students have done this in their high school English classes. I use this activity to illustrate how important clear and developed directions are in process analysis. Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an excellent process for students to explain because they take many of the small but essential steps needed to complete the process for granted. This activity allows students to see how important it is to consider an audience’s knowledge when describing a process.

The Egg Drop

Shared by Sarah Alderfer

With inspiration from/credit to Marissa Bailey

I use this activity to give students practice using descriptive and narrative techniques and to demonstrate how perspective affects the story being told.

Quote Responses in class

Shared by Barb Bird

With inspiration from/credit to Carie King, Ball State University (collaborator)

We frequently start class with 5-7 minutes for students to take one sentence they liked from the article they read for that day and write a paragraph response to the article. This exercise helps them to practice entering a conversation with authors and developing their ideas.

Monster Wars

Shared by Isabel Quintana Wulf

With inspiration from/credit to UIUC Academic Writing Program orientation

The goal of this activity is to show that context and specificity are crucial parts of an essay; without them, chances are the essay makes no sense. The activity is designed in two parts: first, you ask students to imagine a monster in their heads and to write the most careful physical description of the monster they can come up with. The next day you collect the descriptions and you distribute them to different students in the class (preferably those far away from where the description originated—no need for consulting in what follows). Bring paper and crayons and markers and ask the students to read the description in front of them and draw the monster according to it. When they are done, collect the descriptions/ drawings and return them to the student that wrote the description. Ask them to compare their imagined monster to the drawing and see if they look alike (for the most part, they never do). If the drawing looks nothing like the monster they imagined then their description was not specific enough. What was clear in their heads lost their context and specificity on the written description so another person could not understand it like they wanted. If the drawing looks like their monster, good job! They were actually specific enough. Generally speaking, when your students think they are being specific they are probably light years from being so: tell them to overdo it—it’s easier to take specificity out of an essay than to add it in.

Finding Your Inner Morgan Freeman

Shared by: Isabel Quintana Wulf

I use this activity with this video to explain what analysis means and why it is important to have it in an essay.

Highlighting Body Paragraphs

Shared by Isabel Quintana Wulf

With inspiration from/credit to Melissa Lucken, Lansing Community College, MI

The goal of this activity is to devise strategies a student can use to determine whether body paragraphs have all the parts they need to have: topic sentence, evidence/ examples, analysis, and transitions.

Peer Response — Discovering Models

Shared by Collie Fulford

In this activity, students identify successful peer drafts that are discussed during class and, with permission, made available as references on a course management site.

MVP Awards

Shared by Collie Fulford

This is a celebratory end-of-semester activity in which students nominate those peers who’ve been particularly helpful throughout the semester.

Using Primary Sources and Using Primary Sources (Article)

Shared by Liz Rohan

This is an activity, with an accompanying article, that helps students learn how to cite primary sources.

Goals and Questions

Shared by Susan Naomi Bernstein

With inspiration from/credit to an activity presented at a universal design pedagogy workshop at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont

After perusing the course syllabus and preliminary discussion of the course goals and assignments, draw on this activity to engage communication and understanding between students and professor.

Crafting a Buzzword

Shared by Sarah Tsai

This is a feeder activity for the “buzzword essay” (The Language of Education).  It’s especially helpful for students who are having trouble understanding what a buzzword is.

Dear Abby

Shared by Sarah Tsai

With inspiration from/credit to Arley McNeney

This activity prepares students to look at arguments from multiple perspectives–to “acknowledge the opposition.”

Who’s Your Reader? Magazine Audience Activity

Shared by Sarah Tsai

I usually bring a diverse collection of magazines to class for these two activities, but online periodicals would work just as well.  The second activity (p. 2) has a surprise buried in it.  Each group/pair of students must swap topics with another group/pair.  They must find a way to make their new topic appeal to the readers of the periodical they’re using.

Writer’s Eye

Shared by Sarah Tsai

With inspiration from/credit to Arley McNeney

This activity comes in handy at the very beginning of research (formal or otherwise) essay units.  It’s a fun way to let students know that glib, stale claims (“duh” theses) just won’t fly.


2 thoughts on “Activities

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: