From the Classroom to the Writing

On Learning and Writing; or suggestions on using your class time to prepare for graded assignments by Paul J. Croce

Reading, especially non-fiction:

 (in a way that will help you cope with the information glut)

  1. get an overview of the reading by carefully examining the introduction and layout; this can give you a good sense of the overall purpose of the writing
  2. once you have an overview, read in degrees: read some parts more carefully, some less
  3. look for examples to illustrate the overall theme

Making the best use of class time:

the three-legged stool; to stand up well, it needs all three legs

  1. Read assigned reading: if it is difficult to understand, at least read for familiarity.
  2. Listen in class for guides to understanding the reading: background information; key points in the reading; exchange of ideas (asking questions, discussing with teacher and students)
  3. review material: bring together what you had read before class and what you learned in class (often brief, but usually with a big payoff)

Things to learn from class: 

(much like steps in writing, and a good way to get ready for it)

  1. subject matter: what is being talked about?
  2. meanings: how, why, what are the implications?
  3. themes: what are the points of view and how are they built up?
  4. vocabulary: along the way, what are some special terms?

Journal entries:

  1. On a regular basis, write a paragraph about the reading or about some project or event related to class.
  2. In class, usually at the end of the week, we will take class time to hear about your thinking on paper; often this will involve having each student pair up with another to talk about what they have written: read each other's work; ask questions about what you find
  3. Report to the group about a few key points

Stages of writing:

  1. reporting on a topic: this is in answer to basic "what" questions: what did you read; what happened in the reading; what did you learn? This has to do with observing.
  2. identifying the point: this is in answer to questions about the argument being presented: how did the author or the presentation arrange the facts to support a point of view? How or why did these facts happen? This has to do with interpreting what you have been observing.
  3. organizing your points: this is a matter of fleshing out what you have identified about the argument at hand: what are the pieces of the argument; how are those selected facts arranged to guide the reader to a particular point of view? This has to do with understanding what you have been interpreting.
  4. formulating your argument: this is a matter of assembling facts and arguments on a topic and presenting your own perspective on them: after weighing different factors, what do you think of this material; what is your judgment? This has to do with responding to what you have understood.

Stages of assignments: (and class time can help at each stage)

  1. non-graded journal entries: exchanges in class and with fellow students
  2. short papers, graded during the semester
  3. longer writing, graded, due later in the semester

Do you want my opinion?

Yes, if you can back it up. How? By creating evaluations based on a blending of your opinion with the facts and reasons that can support the opinion, you have of the subject at hand.

Your evaluation: at its best, it should combine

facts and reasons
writing based on this alone would be dry

writing based on this alone would be slanted