Debby Ellis Writing Center

Teaching Writing In Your Classroom

Modeling Writing in the Classroom

Providing students with models of excellent writing is one way that you can support their development as writers over the course of the semester. Here we offer a few suggestions for modeling writing with your class. Generally, writing models come from three sources: you might construct a model to show your class the kind of work you’d like for them to produce, or you might draw models from student work (either from a previous class or from your current class), or you might use your course texts to talk about how authors organize and present their ideas.

Modeling Research

  • #1 - Modeling database use - Although most Southwestern students are quite comfortable with conducting online research, they may not yet have been exposed to the databases you most often use to find sources in your field. Modeling database use in class can help them determine how best to access and use reliable sources in their writing.

  • #2 - Modeling using paratexts & skimming - After spending so much time teaching students to read carefully and slowly, it can seem counterintuitive to encourage them to skim texts. By explaining how and when skimming is a useful tool, however, you can help them locate better sources and feel less overwhelmed by the research process.


Modeling Summary

  • #3 – Modeling annotation - Taking course time to model reading strategies for students can help them better understand both the techniques and level of attention you expect them to use in their reading.


Modeling Response

  • #4 - Annotating for ethos - This activity will help students analyze the linguistic and structural features of a text, and consider how they might apply similar techniques in their own writing.


Modeling Thesis Formation

  • #5 – Reverse-engineering a thesis – This exercise shows students how a thesis guides a paper and helps them determine what information should go into a thesis. This activity is easily adaptable for individual or group work. 


Modeling Structure

  • #6 – Reassembling a course text – This is an in-class activity that Dr. Guarraci uses to help students think about the organization of a text. This exercise helps students to better understand the significance of organization, and the reason why, even within a range of acceptable orders of ideas, some are more effective than others. This activity works best if you choose a shorter article, perhaps a few pages, but could be adapted to work with a section of a longer piece.


Modeling Evidence Use

  • #7 – Annotating for evidence and quotations - This assignment draws from Joseph Bizup’s approach to teaching research-based writing. Instead of dividing sources into primary and secondary texts, Bizup encourages his students to think about the way sources work in a paper and uses the acronym “BEAM” to encourage his students to differentiate between Background information, Exhibits (or Exhibit sources), Arguments (or argument sources), and Methods (or Method sources). You can find a handout that explains Bizup’s terms here. Providing your students with this vocabulary can help them become better readers by identifying more precisely how sources work within a text and can help them become better writers by providing them the necessary framework to understand and describe what may be missing from their own or their peers’ writing (Bizup 75-77).


Modeling Introductions & Conclusions 

  • #8 – Modeling the creation of a research space - Taking a few moments to walk your students through the standard “moves” made by texts in your field can help them understand the reasoning behind the structure of writing. Highlighting these “moves” in an article or a few different introductions can help students see how writers create contexts for their arguments. This discussion is particularly helpful for students preparing to write a research paper. Dr. Bourque has created samples of highlighted articles for Spanish and Political Science available here. You might also use a handout that outlines these steps, available here.

  • #9 Analyzing conclusions – Talking to your students about ways to wrap up a paper can also be helpful. Walking them through the ways that writers in your field tend to conclude their writing can provide students with a model to use for their own work. This exercise works best when used before students begin drafting their conclusions, but can also provide a helpful approach to revision.


Modeling Citation

  • #10 – Creating a shared model for citation - This exercise can take place wholly or partially in class, depending on your students’ needs. Developing a collaborative citation guide not only provides students with a solid reference they can turn to while writing, it teaches them how to find answers to questions about citation in other courses as well.



Next: Leading a Discussion about Writing