Keep it Simple

Time required: Short

Grading: Not required (but may be helpful)

Disciplines: Any 

Why: Effective instructional design scaffolds from the simple to the more complex; but what are simple writing tasks?


  • Design writing tasks that are supported versions of more complex work to prepare students for assessment, practice, or a larger project
  • Explain to students how this early task will support future work.
  • Examples of simplified writing tasks:
    • Explain a concept or process before applying or performing it.  An example might be science experiment or lab.
    • Write about one reading before comparing or synthesizing multiple readings.
    • Summarize a reading before analyzing, interpreting, or criticizing it.  This approach can be applied from literature to science.
    • Explain an argument before developing one’s own.  Any type of argument can be used.
  • Provide individual or whole group feedback depending on the situation. 
    • If the writing will be the foundation for a large project, individual feedback may be appropriate.
    • Whole group feedback is fine for other purposes.


  • Use small groups or discussion boards to provide peer feedback.
  • Ask students to reflect on how they will use the simpler writing for more complex work.

Adapted from The Elements of Teaching Writing by Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj, p 40.