This page deals with how to set up creative writing, academic writing, and professional writing assignments. For information on using journals, go to Ideas for Using Journals which contains guidelines and helps for integrating journals into classes.

How do you set up a writing assignment?

An effective writing assignment consists of the following:

Assignment Sheets with Schedule

Students often complain that they don't know what the teacher wants. Even though we may be quite explicit in describing the writing assignment, students will tend to forget details unless the assignment is in print. If it is a creative writing assignment or an academic writing assignment, then the assignment sheet should spell out:
  1. the kind of writing expected
  2. the scope of acceptable subject matter or research questions
  3. the length requirements
  4. the source or citation requirements (if appropriate)
  5. the documentation form expected (if appropriate)
  6. the formatting requirements
  7. target dates for completion of drafts or sections, for critiques, and for final draft submission
  8. penalties for failing to meet basic requirements and deadlines
If the assignment is a professional document, then the assignment sheet should be in the form of a memo that establishes the teacher's persona as supervisor and the student's persona as employee. The sheet should contain the same kind of information as that listed above, but it should be phrased as it would be in a memo instead of in an assignment sheet.

Write down the subdivisions of an assignment sheet for an assignment you want to give and make brief notes reminding yourself of what you want to put in each section.

Support Materials

Students may still claim that they don't know what the teacher wants. Although it is not always necessary to do so, it is a good idea to give students one or more of the following kinds of support materials:
  1. an outline of the paper
  2. an example of a fairly successful paper to serve as a model
  3. editing and style requirement specifications
  4. a series of questions that might help guide students' thinking or research
  5. a peer critique guideline
Sketch out an outline of a paper you want students to write or jot down a series of questions for them to consider.

A Scoring Rubric

Students should know what the characteristics of a good paper are. Sometimes these rubrics can be created by the whole class in response to a fifteen minute discussion based on the question, "What makes one paper better than another?" Generally, papers can be judged on quality of these aspects of the whole:
  1. the depth of content, development of ideas, or quality of argument
  2. the organization of the whole and the coherence of the parts
  3. the readibility of the prose
  4. the mechanical and grammatical correctness of the text
Normally, the first will be double or triple weighted in comparison with the others. Often rubrics are in the form of a table.

. Very WeakWeakLow AverageHigh Average StrongExceptional

If a table is used, a complementary sheet describing the qualities of each of these characteristics can be supplied.

Sketch out a rubric and define the categories briefly