Here's what I'm doing for the first week of class

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The academic year is fast approaching. I’m looking forward to meeting my students and returning to the classroom. One of my goals during the first weeks of the semester is to Ref 8e.jpgintroduce students to the handbook we’ll be using, A Writer’s Reference. I tell students on the first day of class, Everything you need to become a successful writer in any college course is in A Writer’s Reference; become friends with it. I want students to learn, right from the outset, that questions are a natural part of learning how to write; and I want to show them how their handbook is designed to answer their writing questions. 

This year I’ll be introducing the handbook to students with these first-week activities—, , and —to help students become successful college writers. The activities are designed to promote collaboration, too, so that students can work together as fellow writers while learning to navigate their handbook. 

I think students will have fun with the because they provide real writing problems—“you are writing a research paper and are uncertain how to punctuate quotations”; “you’ve received feedback that your paragraphs need clearer topic sentences”—and ask students to work with classmates to find the answers in their handbook.  Once students learn to navigate the handbook, they see how quickly and efficiently they can find solutions to their writing problems.  

We know that the more comfortable students become using their handbook, the more confident and successful they will become as college writers. If you’re using A Writer’s Reference, you’ll find these first-week activities a great way to help your students become confident college writers.

About the Author
Nancy Sommers, who has taught composition and directed writing programs for more than thirty years, now teaches in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. A two-time Braddock Award winner, Sommers is well known for her research and publications on student writing. Her articles “Revision Strategies of Student and Experienced Writers” and “Responding to Student Writing” are two of the most widely read and anthologized articles in the field of composition. She has also created three films—Shaped by Writing, Across the Drafts, and Beyond the Red Ink—to bring the voices of student writers into a larger discussion about writing instruction. Nancy Sommers is currently the coauthor of Diana Hacker’s best-selling handbooks: The Bedford Handbook, A Writer’s Reference, Rules for Writers, A Pocket Style Manual, and Writer’s Help (see Her newest instructor resource, Responding to Student Writers, offers a model for thinking about response as a dialogue between students and teachers.