Evaluating Writing

To address the collective concern about students’ writing abilities across the disciplines, the Writing Program has provided some resources and readings to help teach, assign, and grade student writing. These readings range in length and depth, so summaries are provided for quick access.


The First Five Minutes: Setting the Agenda in a Writing Conference
Thomas Newkirk

  • Quick read about the ways a teacher can change the outcome of a writing conference (ie. meeting with a student to talk about their paper)
  • Covers three transcribed teacher/student meetings, and breaks down the positive and negative aspects of the teacher’s demeanor, support, and advice
  • The end lists 5 conclusions of the paper that could be useful as a brief takeaway
  • Good read for: TA’s, professors with small classes, writing classes, classes with research papers, teachers with students who are uncomfortable with writing or who think they don’t belong in college, help with office hours

Responding to Student Writing
Nancy Sommers

  • How to get the most out of responding to student work
  • Teacher’s comments can take student attention away from their own ideas and purposes for writing a text and instead focus them on what the teacher wants in their comments
  • Simply writing comments on a paper doesn’t give the student an idea of what is most important to revise – simple grammar errors are put on the same playing field as serious content issues
  • Most teacher’s comments are vague, not text-specific, and can be rubber stamped from paper to paper – revising becomes a guessing game for the set of rules the teacher is imposing
  • Good read for: TA’s, writing instructors, classes with research papers, readers, writing intensive classes, anyone responding to student work

Provocative Revision
Toby Fulwiler

  • “Although such revision sometimes happens by itself, especially for writers who are engaged with their task, it does not happen for writers who are not engaged, who are going through the motions of completing somebody else’s task – a common predicament in school writing” (4).
  • Fulwiler presents 4 provocative ways for students to revise their work:
  • Limiting: first drafts often yield writing that is very general and has confusing direction. Readers are more interested in the details they don’t know than reading something they generally already know to be true.
  • Remedy: limit the scope and focus of the paper. Can have students find a local aspect of their research – ex. if they are writing about abortion, they can visit a local Planned Parenthood or abortion clinic.
  • Adding: add an interview or dialogue to make it more interesting
  • Switching: telling the same story but from a different perspective
  • Switching  voice or point of view can help the student add detail that they wouldn’t normally think of
  • ex. Most expositional papers are written from a first person perspective, but asking a student to write the same experience from a third person view asks them to reevaluate the experience and adds detail and direction that otherwise would be stale
  • Transforming: recasting a piece into an entirely different style or form
  • ex. Rewriting a research essay into a script
  • While this may seem “at best, superficial, or at worst, inappropriately playful for college-level work,” it makes the revision process exciting, and students can work on their writing in a more engaging way
  • Good read for: TA’s, writing instructors, classes with research papers, writing intensive courses
Skip to toolbar