Writing Assignments

An issue of writing I would like to think more about is the following: the order of assigning writing assignments. Most English classes tend to assign autobiographical writing assignments that usually do not require references (e.g., recounting your most profound childhood memory) first and then assign argumentative assignments that require references (e.g., a research paper) toward the end of the class. Williams argues that this is an illogical order that does not improve the writing skills of students; the order should be reversed with argumentative assignments being assigned at the beginning and expressivist assignments at the end (Williams 259). Williams’ reason for this unusual assignment order is the following: it moves from the rhetorically concrete to the rhetorically abstract, reducing the conflict between the rhetorical demands and the cognitive demands of writing (Williams 259). In other words, when teaching writing you should start off with assignments that are more cognitively demanding (i.e., argumentative) and rhetorically abstract to develop the skills that are useful for becoming a good writer. I believe a possible solution would be to start with a writing assignment that falls in the middle of the assignment spectrum (e.g., editorial writing assignments that call for references but still have an expressivist feel, like autobiographies). By doing so, you can have an assignment that is both difficult enough cognitively while still being rhetorically concrete (i.e., the assignment will not be too hard cognitively, which could lead to discouragement for your students). Thank you for reading my thoughts about this topic.


Work Cited

Williams, James D. Preparing to Teach Writing: Research, Theory, and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.