Exploring Campus Through Writing: Examples of Writing Assignments

In my April blog, I shared an activity that can help students explore their campus environment through a writing project. Today I’d like to describe other ideas teachers can implement in a writing course to help students socialize in their academic community.

(1) Students can interview an expert on any topic that interests them and write an interview report. For example, if they are concerned about the lack of academic support for international students on campus, they may interview a staff member of the writing center or someone from the office of academic success. Or if students would like to know more about scholarships, grants, and other types of financial assistance, they may want to talk to someone in the financial aid office. If they would like to be more informed about health insurance and public healthcare for international students, they can interview an insurance specialist from student health services. Options are limitless, and it all comes down to students’ choice of the topic.

(2) Students can attend (and/or participate in) an event on campus and report on their experience in a written form. Depending on their interests, preferences, and availability, they can choose from a range of events and activities organized by the university or their program. It can be an academic (e.g., lectures, workshops), social and cultural (i.e., fair, festival, concert or another performance, holiday celebrations), or recreational (e.g., athletic competition, game) event. Encourage students to look for flyers on campus, check their email for the announcements of upcoming events, and look up the university event calendar.

(3) Students can write an analysis of university programs that (choose one)

  • help students have a rich social life on campus
  • help students succeed academically and prepare for their future professional careers
  • help students stay physically healthy and experience a rich sports culture on campus
  • assist students with their special needs, problems, and concerns. In this writing project, students will practice their critical thinking and the skill of developing a strong argument.

(4) Students can write a critical response to an article in a local university newspaper, newsletter, or magazine.

(5) Students can analyze (in a written form) an article in a local university newspaper, newsletter, or magazine.

(6) Students can write a report on services and resources that the local university provides to support students of diverse backgrounds (choose one):

  • students from low-income backgrounds
  • students with family responsibilities
  • students representing different ethnic groups and races, religions, and genders

(7) In a local newspaper, newsletter, or magazine, find a recent story or an incident that happened on campus and ask students to respond to this event describing how they would act in a similar situation. In this assignment, students will practice their critical thinking and the skill of expressing their opinion.

(8) Students can also locate a problem or an issue that—from their perspective—exists on campus and write a paper proposing a solution (or several solutions) to this problem.

(9) Students can visit several classrooms on campus (in different buildings) and write a paper describing the best classroom they visited—i.e., comparing it with the other classrooms they saw and explaining why the classroom they selected can be considered the best physical environment for learning.

(10) Students can write a response to the following prompt:Imagine that you are an administrator at this university and you know that it’s challenging for international students to fit in on campus. How would you use campus resources to support these students?

(11) Students can interview a local student about student-professor relationships (e.g., things students should expect from their professors and vice versa, communicating with professors outside of the class through email and office hours) and write a short report on their findings.

(12) In a similar fashion, students interview a local student about study skills (e.g., skills for effective studying; resources students can use at the university; planning, schedules, and organizing work; and effective methods of preparing for exams) and write a short report on their findings.

As you can see, there are numerous opportunities for students to explore their academic environment—campus, program, or institution—through writing tasks and projects. If you have other ideas about how to help students better integrate into their academic community through writing assignments, please feel free to share.

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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