Offer Optional Scaffolding Activities

Time required: Varies

Grading: None

Disciplines: All

Why:  Well done student work is easier and more rewarding to grade, but most “content” instructors don’t have time for required scaffolding activities that can improve student writing. Developing optional/recommended scaffolding activities for students to use as they prepare assignments can vastly improve their processes and performance without requiring an ongoing time commitment from you.

How:  For an existing writing assignment, consider the requirements that students struggle with based on your past history with the assignment.  If you’re developing a new writing project, consider how you (as an experience scholar in your discipline) would go about completing the assigned task.  Use these insights to develop either annotated directions or additional worksheets for students to use as they complete the assignment.

Good scaffolding activities/information that students should be aware of might include:

  • Nutshell writing (as noted in a previous tip): to provide clarity on the purpose of the assignment
  • Checklists (also noted in a previous tip): consider structuring your checklist as an ordered list of suggested steps to reflect the process that you might use yourself in completing the assignment, with inclusion of a suggested date of completion for each step
  • Thesis statement: for thesis-based assignments, direct students to actually write out the thesis statement first or very early in the project
  • Search terms/strategies (more on this in an upcoming tip): students often struggle with finding appropriate discipline-specific sources; help them out by having them identify search terms and keywords at the beginning of their project
  • Writing the first paragraph and the last paragraph before writing anything else
  • Providing models (good and poor) and suggesting that students critique them (as noted in a previous tip)
  • Providing note-taking templates with space to record citation information, or linking to information on good note-taking (such as this page: Take Notes)

Offer to give feedback to students who email you their completed worksheet and/or upload their worksheet to a designated submission folder.