I usually assign several large assignments:
- a 2-3 page close reading
- a 5-6 page thematic paper
- a presentation on a single topic or theme
- a final paper or project
I also tell them that the presentation should be a way of exploring things they might want to write on later.
In the past, many students have chosen to write final papers, but I have a lot of education majors/future teachers in my classes so many in the past have elected to create lessons plans for their final projects. Honestly, the projects are always my favorite part.
This semester I noticed that a lot of students seemed to be struggling with front loading assignments on how to write a large analytical paper. So I changed the thematic paper assignment to this:
Thematic Paper Project
Directions: This paper has several parts. You will submit all of them together in a single Word document, but in this order. Please clearly title/label each piece and insert a page break between parts.
The deadline for this is this Saturday but I've had some students submit early and a couple of early reactions. Students have done better on this assignment. I asked students to write in the submit box what they thought of this process and all said they found it helpful.
As a result I think this is what I'll do from now on. I'm also going to give my students the option to write this paper in full as their final paper if they want. I'm also going to give them the option of submitting this process for a new topic for their final.
From what I've seen, this change in assignment addresses a lot of the issues I wanted.
It still doesn't address problems my students have with the close reading- describing and summarizing versus analyzing, but I think I'll redesign some of the smaller build up assignments to do that.
All in all I'm really happy with this and the students' reactions, so I wanted to share!