University of Vermont

Foundational Writing & Information Literacy

For Instructors

Assignment Ideas

Below are some examples/suggestions/ideas about possible ways to meet the FWIL goals. If you have assignments that have worked well, please send them to us so we can include them here. Remember, this is "foundational," we are not trying to teach students everything they need to know as a college graduate, but rather some introductory skills. These skills will need to be cultivated and expanded in more advanced classes.

For help designing new or revising assignments, contact

Rhetorical discernment

Meeting the rhetorical discernment goal does not require multiple writing assignments written for different intended audiences. Instructors can meet the goal by fostering an awareness that there are many different ways of writing and different styles are more appropriate for different audiences, contexts, and purposes.

  1. Shorter Assignments or activities
    1. Assign readings with different intended audiences or purposes. Lead a class discussion about the differences in the writing. Discuss why some forms of writing are more appropriate for particular contexts.
    2. When explaining a writing assignment to students, make clear that you are teaching them how to write for your discipline, and that other disciplines will require different types of writing.
    3. Include a final exam question that asks students to write a letter to the Honors College defending the inclusion of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in a course about ways of knowing. (Link to actual assignment to come!)
    4. Introduce students to writing a methods section with a short in-class activity. Put students in groups to write an explanation for how to make a cup of tea using loose-leaf tea. Select one paragraph to display on the doc cam. Lead a discussion about which pieces of information are necessary, and which ones are not.
  2. Extended Assignments
    1. Have students write a letter to the public (or non-specialist) explaining key concepts learned in class and also write a paper or report to a specialist that uses these concepts to test a hypothesis or make an argument.
    2. Write two essays with distinctly different audiences and purposes: a scholarly literature review to inform an academic audience about a scholarly discussion and a magazine-style feature article to draw a wider audience into being informed and concerned about this topic. (Link to actual assignment to come!)

Information literacy

Students need help learning how to find reliable and useful sources and how to judge the credibility of sources. It is not enough to tell students to "use good sources."

  1. Shorter Assignments or activities
    1. Rather than posting course readings on Blackboard, give students a full citation to articles and have them find the readings in the library.
    2. Lead class discussion on the reliability and usefulness of different types of sources (encyclopedias, Wikipedia, textbooks, peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles, university press books, trade publications, random online blogs, government documents, newspapers, popular magazines, webpages of activist groups, etc...). Bring a few hard copies of scholarly journals to class to show students what journals are, explain how electronic versions of scholarly journals are different from other sources available online.
    3. Schedule an instructional session with a librarian.
    4. Follow up library instructional session with a library "scavenger hunt" where students have to find various sources in the library related to your course.
    5. Have students watch library tutorials to learn basic library skills.
      1. The UVM library has some good tutorials
        1. "Engaging with Information,"
        2. "Databases 101,"
        3. "Finding articles"
        4. More tutorials are available on the ENG1 Research Guide
      2. The tutorials have quizzes at the end and students can email their quiz scores to the instructor.
      3. See Harvard Guide to Using Sources
      4. After watching tutorials, have students reflect on assigned readings for the class. What types of sources are they? Why did the instructor choose these readings for this class?
      5. Assignment Sample: Library Assignment, TAP
    6. Teach students how to access different types of reference material. Have students compare entries from academic references such the Oxford Reference or the Gale Virtual Reference Library with those in Wikipedia.
    7. Have students try ten different key words related to their topic to see which ones are most useful. Have students create key word charts and research logs to track and document searches on Academic Search Premier.
    8. Explain citation conventions in your field. Show students examples from the top journal in your field. Have students look at citations in the course readings. Note that other fields have different citation conventions. Point students to the appropriate library citation guide
    9. Have students write an annotated bibliography
      1. Sample Assignment: Scholarly Article
      2. Sample Assignment: “Annotated1”
      3. Sample Assignment: Annotated Bibiography, GSWS
  2. Extended Assignments
    1. Research assignments that include finding and comparing different types of sources.
    2. Sample Assignment: Evaluating the presentation of archaeology on the web
    3. Sample Assignment: Reflection on the way mainstream media represents and reports on scientific research, PSYC 095
    4. Sample Assignment: Current Events, POLS 174

Critical reading

  1. Shorter Assignments or activities
    1. Lead a class discussion on how to read different types of writing and how to identify the main argument. Provide tips on how to approach reading a textbook or encyclopedia versus reading a scholarly article versus a novel versus a magazine, etc.
    2. Have students read the Harvard Guide to Reading>
    3. In class have students write the "gist" of the day's assigned reading, and then share with a classmate and discuss.
    4. Have students identify the main argument of the reading assignment in one sentence, and turn in on blackboard before class starts. Build on these "thesis ID" exercises by having students discuss two or more texts in relation to one another, using the ideas of one text to question the other.
    5. Have students contribute to an "annotation wiki." Upload to Blackboard a challenging passage from a course text. Have students write their comments (in different colors) into the text itself. Use the exercise to launch the class discussion. Discuss how and why to annotate (rather than passive highlighting alone) to make sense of difficult readings. Show students as example of a text that you have annotated for your own work.
  2. Extended Assignments
    1. Research projects that require students to integrate multiple sources.
    2. Writing assignments that require students to analyze assigned readings.
    3. Sample Assignment: Close reading of a passage from Pushkin or Grogol

Substantive revision

  1. Shorter Assignments or activities
    1. Lead a class discussion of the revision process. Bring a stack of copies of rewrites from a paper you are working on for publication to give students an idea of how much revising goes into published research.
    2. Peer editing exercise in class. Sample Peer Review Sheet
    3. Require students to take a draft of a writing assignment to the writing center before the final draft is due. (If you do this, be sure to talk to Sue Dinitz at the Writing Center beforehand.)
    4. Have students do an after-the-fact outline of their papers, producing a map of what their first draft was actually doing in order to be able to discern for themselves the problems in logic and flow that need to be revised in a subsequent draft.
    5. Set aside class time on the day drafts are returned with feedback. Students read this feedback and then write a revision plan, describing how they have understood the feedback, what further questions or sense they have about what this draft needs, a plan for their next steps, and goals for the final product.
    6. Students write a labor report on the results of an experiment testing the claims of a commercial product. Ask the student to re-envision the lab report as an informational video for consumers. Do not collect initial drafts of video scripts; instead, ask the class to read an article about the dangers of "junk science" and revise their scripts to avoid junk science.
    7. Sample Assignment: Intro Paragraph Activity
  2. Extended Assignments
    1. Multi-stage writing projects that include a sequence of reading and writing assignments to guide students through the revision process

Extended Assignments that meet multiple FWIL goals

  1. List of extended assignments, annotated to show which FWIL goals are addressed.
    1. Sample Assignment: Essay Assignments, SOC 019 TAP
    2. Sample Assignment: Descriptive Essay, POLS/GRS95
  2. Last modified August 29 2017 07:58 AM