Skeleton Assignment

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This post is part of a continuing series on building a course around the textbook Emerging. For previous posts in the series, see here, here, and here. After you have selected the readings for your sequence, you will want to begin drafting the paper assignments. These assignments should always ask students to produce expository writing; that is, students must make an argument. While the format of your assignments will vary according to your individual teaching style, it might be useful to consider the components of a typical assignment:
  • Introduction. Many assignments open with some sort of introductory paragraph. For example, you might open with a quotation from the current essay (though if you do, be prepared to read that quotation in every paper you get!) or you might introduce the topic of the assignment in relation to the reading. In your introduction, make sure you include the full name of each author as well as the full title of all essays involved in the assignment. This provides students with a convenient reference for the proper spelling and punctuation of both in their papers (though many will still make errors).
  • Core. Every assignment has a core sentence or series of sentences that specify what students need to do in the paper, the exact topic on which they should write. It’s generally a good idea to visually identify the core, either by using bold or italics or by placing it in a separate paragraph.
  • Entry. The entry section provides students with ways to begin thinking about the assignment. You might provide questions that point students toward possible arguments, or specific warnings concerning likely but unproductive responses.
  • Apparatus. The apparatus contains supporting information and requirements, including length requirements and due dates as well as formatting specifications.
Of course, you might choose very different ways to present your assignments.  These suggestions are simply meant to serve as useful guidelines. How do you structure your assignments?
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.