Designing Effective Writing Assignments

Use these concepts and tips to create effective writing assignments. Organize and structure writing assignments so that the students are clear of expectations and are set up for success.

How can teachers design effective writing assignments?

Good writing assignments can promote student learning. Engaging in writing tasks helps students to research, organize and present information while improving their writing skills. However, for students to attain these benefits, teachers need to design effective writing assignments. In this blog are the tips needed to create effective writing assignments that can help student growth. The following are points to consider when creating a writing assignment:

Assignment Goals:

Every writing assignment is set with the intention of attaining specific teaching-learning outcomes. When designing a writing assignment, teachers need to reflect on the following points:

  • Will the correct teaching-learning objectives be covered in this assignment?
  • Will the assignment be limited to textbook information or encourage students to explore topics in the real world?
  • What is the information or skills you want the student to learn (take away) from the assignment?
  • Should the assignment be an individual or collaborative effort?
  • What skills will be targeted in the assignment? Is it simply to test their understanding of the topic or will it reflect their cognitive skills (logical thinking, reasoning, critical analysis)?

Understanding Expectations:

A clear understanding of the teacher’s expectations will help students perform better. Give them clear written instructions for the assignment. These include information regarding the:

  • Purpose of the assignment
  • Type of writing expected(essay/narrative/descriptive)
  • Focus of the assignment
  • Format, length or word count of the assignment
  • Need for research
  • Grading rubric that will be followed
  • Due dates and deadlines for each step in the writing assignment

Audience:

The audience plays a key role in the type or format of writing submitted by students. When it is intended only for teachers, students may fail to elaborate on the information assuming that the teacher already knows the topic very well. On the other hand, when the whole class is chosen as the audience, students understand the need for elaborating and expanding information. Choosing the audience enables students to consider their background, knowledge and attitude towards the topic and frame of reference for their writing.

A checklist summarizing the above points has been created to help teachers design effective writing assignments. The checklist includes the 5 following questions that focus on vital elements of a writing assignment:

  1. Did you use explicit command words such as “compare, contrast, or explain” in your instructions? These words will help students know how to write the assignment.
  2. Did you mention the topic, format and type of writing expected?
  3. Did you mention the intended audience for the writing?
  4. Are the students clear on the deadline and due dates of various stages of the assignment?
  5. Are the students clear on the focus of the assignment and their responsibilities as a writer?

Thus by designing effective writing assignments, teachers can promote student learning while simultaneously improving their writing skills.

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