Time required: Short-medium

Grading: Not required but maybe helpful

Disciplines: Any 

Why: Having students condense their writing to a 5×8 index card requires them to critically evaluate what to include – and gives you less to read. 


  • Assign a piece of writing that must fit on a 5×8 index card. 
  • Formats include –
    • Summary
      • Students read material and condense it while keeping the structure and important points. 
    • Thesis Support
      • Students take a position and provide support.
    • Data-driven
      • Students are provided with data.  They need to organize, connect, and draw conclusions from it.
    • Quandry-posing
      • Present students with a puzzle or problem that can be solved using theories or principles related to course content.  Students then explain the relevance of a theory or principle and solve the problem.
  • It may be helpful to model the type of microtheme you are assigning.
    • For a summary, model identifying the structure and main ideas from a reading passage.  
    • For a thesis support microtheme, you might want to highlight the critical elements in different colors using a longer piece.   


  • Instead of an index card, you can set a very limited word count – maybe 100-150. 
  • Microthemes are very adaptable to discussion boards because of the brevity of the writing.

Adapted from Writing Across the Curriculum, University of Richmond