following are samples of group writing activities offered by
the Center for Instruction Development and Research at
University of Washington at Seattle.
A. Ask students to work together
revising a document that has already been written. This is a
useful activity for work on focus, organization, support, and
use of jargon. You might have them rewrite something for a different
purpose or audience. You have the option of having them sit down
together cold or work individually on the document beforehand
and then pool their suggested changes.
B. Assign a group writing project.
For example, instructors in sociology, speech communication and
political science might divide their classes into 5 or 6 groups
in order to investigate local problems or issues. Some students
do the background research while other conThe most useful
way to raise consciousness of texts as intermediary forms and
to develop a method of critical reading is, simply put, to have
students write continuously in a double entry notebook.... The
reason for the double-entry format is that it provides a way
for the student to conduct that continuing audit of meaning
that is at the heart of learning to read and write critically.
Making of Meaning
the customary journal or notebook, dialectical/double entry notebooks
are named for the vertical line drawn down the page. dividing
the functions. Actually, these notebooks have a variety of uses
and involve attitudinal writing, questioning, summarizing, and
Such a notebook is frequently
used to help students understand the course content, particularly
when the material is difficult. I first came across this writing
activity while attending a writing conference in New Jersey.
The speaker, a biology teacher, had participated in a pilot Writing
Across the Curriculum faculty training workshop at her community
college. Somewhat skeptically, she admitted, she began the semester
asking students to take notes from the text in the left-hand
column of their notebooks. In the right-hand column, they wrote
questions about the material. The instructor then used the question
column as the basis for class discussion, clarifying what they
did not understand rather than covering material that they did
grasp. Unlike other semesters, she gave no quizzes that term.
She collected the journals at intervals and quickly responded
to the questions in the right-hand margin if students had not
already done so from class discussions. The results? Test scores
that semester averaged 8 points higher than previous semesters.
And, she noted with emphasis, for the first time ever she did
not fall behind on her syllabus!
Still another use is as
an in-class activity. Have students write a concept or a sentence/short
passage from the text across the top of a sheet of paper. Student
#1 responds to the passage in the left-hand column; students
then exchange papers with the second student responding to Student
# ls comments with her own in the left-hand column. They
may want to exchange papers several times until they have exhausted
their ideas on the subject. (I have had some of my liveliest
class discussions after using this activity the first 15 minutes
epithelium--rectangular with nuclei located near bases of cells.
Line the digestive tract from the cardia of the stomach to the
anus the gallbladder and excretory ducts of many glands.
||What is the cardia
of the stomach? [Opening from esophagus to stomach]
Example #2: Passage from
text: student to student
"Her soul is
beginning to come of age, she thought; and within those moments
she herself became much older, much nearer to her own death,
and was content to be."
|Mary had just
previously made the realization that Jay might already be dead,
whereas she was kind of talking herself out of the idea. This
accounts for her thought of Marys beginning to come to
age. Hannah thought she had already done this and it was almost
as if she were looking down on Mary, as if she had become much
older. And with this she was content with herself.
||I agree that
Marys realization that Jay may be dead is what Hannah was
referring to when she says that Mary is beginning to come of
age, but I dont think Hannah is looking down on Mary at
all when she says she felt older. I think that she probably feels
older because Mary has been like her own child to her, and when
she realizes that Mary is mature enough to handle this situation,
Hannah realizes that she herself is old.
One could also use this activity
to have students summarize outside readings. The summaries would
appear in the left-hand column; their questions, observations,
and/or insights in the right-hand column. I have included an
assignment and a student response as an illustration.
Example #3: Sample Student
Handout/Assignment--Double Entry Notebook
from Center for Instructional Development & Research, University
of Washington at Seattle
- What is it?
- a notebook in which you record
information and ideas taken from readings, discussions (both
inside and outside of class) lectures, films, television, and
- What is its purpose?
- to provide an impetus to read,
listen, and view thoughtfully and critically
- to encourage verbal response
to materials being studied
- to provide a record of information
and reactions that may be useful later for writing papers, for
discussion participation, and for studying for exams.
- How do you do it?
- Use blank notebook paper. Make
an entry once a week for material you have read or viewed related
to our course of study. Each entry will have two parts: Record
and React. Divide your page in half with Record
in the left-hand column and React in the right-hand
The entry format for the Record
Name of author / lecturer
Pages read, length of program,
source of program:
Main subject of what you have read, viewed, heard
(this should be about a one-sentence position statement made
by your source).
of the main points and of the information and arguments given
supporting the sources position statement.
The entry format for the React
Write your position statement on the subject.
your position statement with the one in your source.
your focus on this reading, lecture, program--why is it important,
disturbing, controversial to you?
the material to our course.
- How will it be evaluated?
- the instructor will evaluate two
of your entries this term, and/or other
students will help you select the two best entries
to be evaluated.
Example #3: Sample student
response--double entry notebook
from Center for Instructional Development and Research, University
of Washington at Seattle
Name: Joseph Giovanni, New York Times Magazine
A Sense of Place. "The Material Art."
Subject: Architects across the country are using
common. indigenous materials to convey a sense of place in the
houses, public buildings, and furniture they are involved with.
Summary: Architects are now using materials
that are strongly associated with a region or city to capture
the spirit of the place. Use of indigenous materials gives buildings
both feeling and meaning as well as identifies their whereabouts.
Architecture is considered to be a material art and creatively
used materials can convey a sense of place.
materials used for construction were of local origin. They were
easily found at hand and didnt require freighting in. Typically,
these were natural elements as opposed to those that were manufactured.
Originally they were also the cheapest materials available. But
they also reflected a care and craftsmanship that is missing
from most contemporary materials.
Though cost is largely
irrelevant today, many local or vernacular materials are purposely
being used rather than international products in an effort to
regain a sense of the basics. It is a move away from high-tech
design and from the idea that machines will automatically produce
a better product.
are being used in furnishings, homes, and public buildings to
create a feeling of regional uniqueness. An L.A. house with a
kitchen floor of asphalt is an extreme but illustrative example.
are also seen as having a sense of social place and position.
Buildings and architects can manipulate social imagery through
their choice of materials. Plywood and marble combined in a table
"would confound any passing Marxist."
The use of traditional
materials to connect a building to its region gives it a social
context. This makes a place "that helps people know where
they are and by extension, who they are."
Position: I found this analysis to be very interesting.
It provided me a new way of looking at the architecture around
me. Though I have noticed differences in style and construction
of the homes and buildings in areas I have visited, I seldom
gave it much thought. Viewing materials as a means to create
an environmental sense of place can, I believe, enhance our understanding
of the built world that surrounds us.
Compare: The use of common or vernacular materials
can heighten our sense of place in a city, a region, or a country.
Awareness of this can enhance our feelings of belonging to a
place, of having roots.
Explain: In a rapidly developing technological
world where mobility and rootlessness are endemic, this movement
back to basics in Architecture is reminiscent of the current
trend of "country" furnishings and knickknacks. It
is as though people, uneasy with a world and technology they
are hard pressed to understand, are seeking the old, safe, comfortable
stability of a known past. The obsession with hand crafts as
opposed to computers further indicates this is a popular need.
most contemporary architectural examples of new buildings in
the Northwest, other than houses, do not seem to reflect this
material art philosophy. Colubmis Center resembles a black glass,
2001 monolith and the Portland City Office Building is more reminiscent
of the Nile than the Willamette River Valley.
Nevertheless, on a
smaller scale, in homes and furniture, vernacular materials are
used quite successfully to convey a sense of regional uniqueness.
In the face of miles of motorhome communities, acres of cinderblock,
suburban ramblers, and endless lines of white, plastic Italian
chairs any effort that resists creeping homogeneity is a positive
Relate: The operational and perceptual environments
in which we operate encompass a fantastic number of elements,
many of which we are not fully aware. Buildings and furniture
often just fill space and we are conscious of little else save
their presence. Understanding the motives and materials used
in design and architecture can provide us with yet another dimension
of understanding the physical world.
Continue to other writing-to-learn
& Focused Freewriting
to Empower the Student
The Short Summary
Dialectical/Double Entry Notebooks
Answer the Question!