Whenever I teach a class of first-year students, I ask the question, “How many of you have ever read a college level paper?” In a class of 15, occasionally, one student raises a hand, usually, none do.
Then I tell them, here’s what often happens: “We assign a college level paper. We don’t tell you what that is or what we want. You write what you think a college paper is. Then we judge you.” Collective sigh.
“That’s not what we are going to do in this class.” Happy sigh.
Every paper I assign in this first year course has three drafts. The first draft is read and peer reviewed in a class workshop, then read and discussed with a Peer Writing Mentor. After receiving feedback, the student writes draft two. I read and comment on draft two in an one-on-one session, and then the student writes draft three, which I grade. My comments are geared to exactly what each student needs to work on in each paper. Sometimes, I deal with understanding of content; sometimes, grammar, structure and syntax; sometimes, we cam move right on to style. Draft by draft, paper by paper, students are learning by doing, listening, thinking, and writing to create college level papers. One of the times students learn most occurs when they read and comment on other students’ papers. In the first few papers, editors learn most. By the midpoint of the semester, students are also learning from their peers. Especially in the beginning of the semester, peer review workshops need to be targeted, so editors have helpful parameters for commenting.
Here are the worksheets I use when students meet in groups of three to workshop five papers:
Here are the worksheets I use with the whole class for draft two of the first three papers:P3D2