Archive of Teaching Materials

On these pages I will include links to materials I developed for my ‘brick and mortar’ and online courses. I have slightly modified the ‘brick and mortar’ documents so that they will work in this context, but otherwise they are exactly as I presented them to my students. Each document is linked on the middle left sidebar, under the Course Archive heading. Please feel free to use these materials in any way that you like. I would love to hear about it, too, so if you do find these pages useful drop me a line [jamesraywatkins at] or leave a comment below.]

  • How to Succeed in an Online Writing Class: Plan, Revise, Discuss:This is a document I wrote as a kind ‘how to’ for my online writing students. I think it is important in short online classes that students realize that they need to plan out their work carefully, identifying as specifically as they can when they can fit their work into their often hectic schedules. Students, too, tend to minimize the importance of both discussion and revision.
  • Policies for Advanced Composition:This is a typical ‘policy statement’ which I give to students (via the web or handout or both) at the start of each semester. I think of it as a kind of contract: this is what we agree will be the rules. As such, I very rarely change it during a semester. It lets student know what is expected of them in terms of assignments and behaviors and explains how they will be assessed.
  • Bibliography Assignment for Freshman Composition: This is the first assignment I give students in my freshman writing courses. It has several interrelated purposes. It teaches students summary and concision, and formal formatting conventions for bibliographic entries, and asks them to consider their histories as readers. I also like to remind students of the strengths and weakness of memory as a research too. It is successful, I think, because it introduces students to the college writing classroom by asking them to write in discrete chunks rather than extended passages.
  • Family Literacy Assignment for Freshman Composition: This is the second assignment I give students in freshman writing courses. It represents an attempt to build on the first, bibliography assignment, by asking students to put their ideas about education and literacy into a broader historical and social context. Here, too, I talk about interview as a research methodology they can add to their repertoire, always staying alert to its strengths and weaknesses. This is always one of my most popular assignments, and students often have dramatic epiphanies about their parents and grandparents’ passionate endorsement of education.
  • Local Information for Coles County, Illinois: All of my upper division writing courses required students to combine traditional library-based research with field research. These links give students a sense of the wide range of worksites available in Coles County, Illinois.
  • Oral Report for Professional Writing: Oral reports are an crucial part of all of my upper division courses. Speaking in front an audience is of course a crucial skill, but oral reports also allow students to share ideas and to rehearse the presentation of their ideas in front of a friendly, like-minded group of fellow researchers.
  • Peer Critique for Professional Writing: Peer critiques are one of the most effective ways for students to learn about writing. It allows them to articulate their own standards and to apply the knowledge they are developing in the class. It is also often one of the most difficult assignments, particularly for students who lack confidence. As a result, I developed a kind of recipe formula for peer critiques designed to give them a sense of how much it is possible to say in any critique. Ideally, they then have to choose what is most important.
  • Reading Charts: This is an assignment that I developed in order to encourage my advanced composition and professional writing students to think in complex, non-linear ways. It also appeals directly to visual learners. The idea is to collect quotes (that you can use later in your research) and comment on them both in terms of their personal relevance and their applicability to an upcoming interview.
  • Resume / Cover Letter for Introduction to Professional Writing: This is the first assignment in my Introduction to Professional Writing course. It asks students to think carefully about audience and the students’ self-presentation in a professional setting. A remarkable number of students, I have found, know little about these issues and may not have written a resume or cover letter.
  • Self Commentaries: The ability to articulate one’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer is an essential part of the writing process. Three times a semester I ask students (in all of my classes) to compose what I call self-commentaries. These are designed to encourage self-reflection and to help students develop an agenda for their work in my class. Upper division students are also asked to consider their professional aspirations.
  • Syllabus for Professional Writing: This is a typical schedule, which I give to students at the start of the semester (along with their policy statement) and make available on the web. Unlike the policy statement, however, the syllabus can change as the situation warrants. Giving students a syllabus encourages them to think of the semester as a whole and hopefully encourages planning.

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