Rhetoric and Composition/Teacher's Handbook/Creating Effective Assignment Sequences

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Though this may seem like a simple or natural creation, there are some rhetorical and pedagogical questions to think about while creating the assignment sequence for the class.

Topical assignment sequence

With the topical assignment sequence you let a topic dictate the order of assignments. For example, if the main topic for the course were technology, the following assignment sequence would be effective.

1. Narration: Narrate your relationship to technology as a child. Did you play computer games? Did you watch a lot of movies and TV? Did you have any electronic toys and games?

2. Visual Analysis: Find an advertisement online. Using the rhetorical principles learned in class, analyze the ad.

3. Cause and Effect: Write about the cultural environment that caused a need for computers. Then discuss the effect computers have had on our society.

4. Argument: Argue for or against the idea that writing online is not as important as writing essays.

5. Research Paper: Pick a type of technology that has failed or become obsolete. Give the history of that technology, and talk about the possible reasons for its annihilation.


Traditional assignment sequence

In a traditional assignment sequence, each assignment builds on the skills learned in the previous assignment. These skills are all combined in the final assignment.


1. Narrative or observational essay

2. Cause and effect essay

3. Rhetorical analysis

4. Argument paper

5. Research paper


Things to think about: how can you make these different sequences your own? Are there assignments, which may serve the same purpose (such as analysis) but fit better into your class? With the emphasis of finals at the end of the year, would it be better for your students to put the research paper second to last?


Steps for helping students with an assignment


1. Introduce the genre of writing; define any key terms and/or authors; discuss the context of the assignment and the content o the assignment.

2. Help students pick a topic by brainstorming, free writing, outlining, and/or doing research.

3. Teach students effective organization techniques (and research, if the assignment has a research component).

4. Revise, revise, revise! Here you may want to do peer review, conferences, or some other revision technique. The more you require rough drafts, the less of a chance your students will plagiarize. Also, you can get a feeling for how well your students comprehend the assignment.