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The Writing Requirement Package | The Reading Requirement Package

> Introduction

Preparing students to write | Getting students to write |
Facilitating students to revise and edit |
Engaging students to share their work and to do peer evaluation

III. Engaging students in writing various types of texts of substantial length

Preparing students to write

Materials / handouts that could be used to help students generate ideas for their writing

  1. Questioning (Appendix A)

The simple questioning guide, Appendix A1, helps getting students to think about the issue concerned from a wide range of perspectives by using various "wh" question words to ask a number of open-ended questions.

The strategy of questioning can also be used to support an internal dialogue between the writer and the text. This can keep writers engaged throughout their writing process which is also a meaning-constructing process.

Apart from forming questions, students' ability to evaluate and improve their questions is considered to be crucial as well in maximizing their potential gain and this ability could be developed with the use of the Question-Asking Guide (Appendix A2) formulated by EDC7. This activity involves students in evaluating and rewriting their questions until questions of quality and value are generated. The process itself cultivates a deeper and more reflective thinking habit in students and, undoubtedly, provides students with insights and ideas that will probably fuel their entire writing process.

Teachers may also like to consider employing this Question-Asking Guide to formulate essential questions for students to respond to so as to stimulate their thinking about or draw their attention to some crucial aspects of the topics of assignments.

7Adapted from EDC's Learning to Learn Network, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, at
  1. Free writing (Appendix B)

Before getting down to their writing tasks, students may make use of the worksheet for free writing in Appendix B to make free association in relation to the topic concerned within a limited period of time, say, five to ten minutes, without making any judgment or evaluation on the quality of the ideas generated. The ideas obtained could then be further developed and elaborated for their writing assessments.

  1. Listing (Appendix C)

It might be of difficulty for students to translate or organize their thoughts into complete sentences or paragraphs when some initial ideas first come to them which does entail certain amount of intellectual load. If it is the case, listing could then be an effective way to facilitate students' process of idea generation as what they need to do is simply to list everything they think is relevant to the topic. They neither need to organize nor order their ideas as these mental processes are not necessary at that particular stage.

  1. Mind mapping (Appendix D1 and Appendix D2)

Mind maps serve as diagrammatical representations of one's ideas about a particular concept or topic with the use of lines, boxes, arrows, circles, bubbles, et cetera, during his / her brainstorming process. This technique does not only allow students to generate ideas and details that come to them, but also their possible relationships and connections which are of great significance especially for the organization and development of their writing afterwards.


Getting students to write

Materials / handouts that could be used to help students get down to their actual writing or drafting

Essay Argumentation Critical responses to stimulus questions
Chapter summaries Reflective journals Reflective learning journals
Book reports Letters to editor Portfolio Reflections


  1. Essays (Appendix E)

In spite of the fact that the nature and purpose of essay writing do vary in several important aspects across different disciplines in the academic world, academic essays tend to have the same overall structure:

  • an introduction;
  • a body; and,
  • a conclusion.

While the body of an extended academic text can be organized in a number of ways depending on the purpose of the piece of writing, the introductory and concluding sections of essays in general have predictable patterns of organization irrespective of the purpose of the assignment. The essential moves of each are presented in Appendix E1 and E2 respectively to facilitate students' effective writing.


  1. Argumentation (Appendix F)

A clear sense of argument is essential to all forms of writing, especially academic writing. While the simplest argument could be formed with a single statement (premise) and another single statement derived from it (conclusion), a more sophisticated and well-informed argument, which is of paramount importance in enhancing the overall effectiveness and persuasiveness of a piece of writing, should also include the following components:

  • supporting point and its exemplification;
  • counter argument and its exemplification; and,
  • refutation of counter argument.

This handout guides students step by step through the formation of an effective and persuasive argument.


  1. Critical responses to stimulus questions (Appendix G)

Whether the stimulus questions are generated by teachers or students, the primary aim of the assignment, critical responses to stimulus questions, is to encourage students to ponder an issue from different angles with their critical and analytical mind. It might be of challenge in the very beginning as "thinking critically" might not be a usual practice that students adopt to approach the issues that come to them. This template offers step-by-step guidelines guiding students to form their written responses systematically by taking possible alternatives into consideration before drawing any conclusions.


  1. Chapter summaries (Appendix H)

A summarizing task helps foster students' comprehension of a text, at both literal and reflective levels. At the literal level, students are asked to summarize the key ideas communicated in the text and present them in a coherent and cohesive manner. It is believed that through this process students are able to obtain a basic grasp of the text which is regarded as the initial stage of learning. At the reflective level, students are expected to reflect on what is presented to them through involving in a number of cognitive operations, such as: critical thinking, analyzing, comparing and contrasting, evaluating and synthesizing. Involvement in these mental processes enables students to achieve a deeper level of learning that could not probably be achieved otherwise.


  1. Reflective journals (Appendix I)


  1. Reflective learning journals

Teachers may ask students to keep a reflective journal, with guidelines provided in Appendix I, throughout the course of their study. This will engage students' in interaction with the course materials and allow unlimited possibilities for learning. For instance, during the process of journal writing they may come up with invaluable thoughts and insights regarding the texts they are reading. They may also have a chance to connect or integrate what they are studying with the rest of their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Composing reflective journals provides students with a personal and meaningful space to keep a record of their own ideas and thoughts that pop up in interaction. Not only can students reflect on what they have learnt by doing so regularly, but they can also monitor and evaluate their own learning and all these may give rise to a more fruitful learning experience which allows them to grab the complexity of issues and ideas.

      • Structured reflective learning journals (Appendix I1)

      Specific guiding questions, in connection with the course materials and course objectives, could be adopted to elicit reflective responses from students as sometimes an overly unstructured journal writing task would discourage critical and reflective thinking. Some suggested guiding questions are listed in Appendix I1 and teachers may like to modify them for their own teaching.

      • Double-entry reflective learning journals (Appendix I2)

      These journals use a two-column format which creates a platform for students to put down their thoughts one by one in correspondence with the information presented in the course materials or texts that they encounter. Students write entries in the left column under the heading "what I read / learnt" to identify, for instance, important terms or questions about a topic or concept, and the entries in the right column provide the analysis of, as well as reflection on the terms or answers to the questions under the heading "what I think about I read /learnt".


  1. Book reports (Appendix J)

In addition to requiring students to summarize a publication and include their own reflection on it in their book report, teachers may also like to engage students, during their process of reading and writing, in working with several relevant readings to draw commonalities and identify discrepancies out of those readings. The cognitive process embedded well guarantees that students grapple with the complexity of issues and ideas by consciously applying their critical thinking and analytical skills.


  1. Letters to editor (Appendix K)

Letters to editor is a special genre that allows writers to express their opinions or viewpoints on certain issues and problems. In order to make their writing look neat and sound intellectual for purposes of publishing, writers need to pay close attention to both the structure and the quality of their opinions, as well as arguments. This structural framework is formulated to give students some clues on how to organize their letters with necessary, yet persuasive and intelligent content.


  1. Portfolio Reflections (Appendix L)

It is evident from an extensive body of research in the field of education that students usually obtain much more than expected out of a course when they are asked to go through all their written pieces and make a portfolio of the best and most interesting ones. Yet, to make the most out of this kind of assignment, on top of the collection of written pieces, students should be encouraged to include a reflective component in which they introduce, explore, and explain the pieces in the portfolio and talk about what they have learnt from these entries. This reflective part provides students with an opportunity to conduct a kind of meta-dialogue that leads to new understanding and insights. A template of such a section is presented in Appendix L for easy reference.

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Facilitating students to revise and edit

Materials / handouts that could be used to help students revise and edit their written work

  1. Revising and editing writing (Appendix M)

Purpose, audience, content, organization, language, register and conventions are all essential considerations for writers. As students are always overwhelmed with the act of putting down the ideas that come to their mind during the drafting stage, they may not have the capacity to examine the aforementioned items closely and this creates legitimate reasons for writers to rethink and revise their work during the third stage of the writing process, correcting and publishing. To make the revising and editing process more effective with clear purposes, it is always good to have some guidelines available and the checklist in Appendix M is designed to serve this particular purpose.


Engaging students to share their work and to do peer evaluation

Materials / handouts that could be used to facilitate peer evaluation among students

  1. Out-of-class peer evaluation (Appendix N)

Teachers can engage students to form groups with their classmates to perform some peer evaluation tasks outside the classroom regularly. This will provide students with opportunities to share what they have written and what they think about certain materials in a less threatening atmosphere. This practice is highly motivating which promotes an environment of collaborative learning.

In fact, these sharing or evaluation sessions allow students to learn how to give feedback to each other's writing, and at the same time, how to articulate their viewpoints and ideas. Unlike playing the role of teachers, students are most valuable to each other as audience and readers who can respond with their reactions and thoughts about the topic without caring much about the grade.

The content that could be included in students' sharing sessions are sketched as follows:

      • initial crude responses (Appendix N1);
      • advice on the piece of writing in general (Appendix N2);
      • advice on the purpose of and approach to the piece of writing (Appendix N3);
      • advice on the content and arguments of the piece of writing (Appendix N4);
      • advice on the development and organization of ideas of the piece of writing (Appendix N5); and,
      • advice on the stylistic matters of the piece of writing (Appendix N6).

The format of out-of-class sharing or evaluation sessions should be standard so that students become accustomed to it and gradually become better at expressing themselves.


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> Templates for writing activities

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This platform provides access to generic genre guides representing typical university assignments as well as links to subjects offered by faculties with specific disciplinary genres and relevant support materials.

The materials can be retrieved by students by choosing the genres that interest them on the landing page. Each set of materials includes a genre guide, genre video, and a genre checklist. The genre guide and video are to summarize the genres in two different ways (i.e. textual and dynamic) to fit different learning styles. The genre checklist is for students to self-regulate their writing process. The genre guide and checklist include links to various ELC resources that can provide further explanation to language items (e.g. hedging and academic vocabulary).

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