Valle Verde Writing Center

 Writing Center Support for Instructors

The Valle Verde Writing Center offers support to instructors as well as students. We can assist you in making sure your assignments are clear in purpose and scope, as well as answering any questions you may have about how to respond to your students' writing. As instructors, we may know how to write grammatically correct sentences, and we may be able to recognize grammar and punctuation errors, but we may not be able to explain why something is or is not correct. The tutors and staff of the VV Writing Center welcome your questions and will work with you via email, phone, or in person to further your own mastery so you can then help your students understand their writing errors.

 

Call us at 831-2149 or drop by the Center during our normal operating hours. The strategies detailed below address four of the most common student writing problems and offer suggestions on how to remedy these issues. With both instructors and the tutors and staff at the Writing Center working closely together, even the toughest student writing issues can be diagnosed and addressed.


 Create clear assignments

Issue: Students submit writing assignments that don’t follow or only partially follow your assignment instructions.

Strategy: Create hard copies (or electronic copies) of writing assignments that are clear in scope and expectation and that can be brought to (or viewed by) the Writing Center. Give guidelines for the format you want the assignment to follow, for example, whether the assignment should be in MLA or APA format. Use action verbs that describe which rhetorical strategies you want students to use, such as “describe,” “argue,” “contrast,” and “summarize.” State word or page length minimums and maximums.

 

When possible, provide exemplary student examples of past writing assignments that illustrate your expectations and standards alongside your assignment instructions. Instructors are also encouraged to submit drafts of their writing assignments to the Writing Center for suggestions on how to make them more student-friendly.


 Require tutoring for one or more assignments

Issue: Your students’ writing lacks focus, organization, and development.

Strategy: Many students reach your class with writing skills that are still weak. You may not realize that you can require your students to schedule a writing conference with a Writing Center tutor before turning in their writing assignments. You can do this with all of the students in a class or on a student-by-student basis. You can also send students with a note from you requesting specific assistance in areas such as organization or thesis building. Students can schedule an appointment by calling 831-2149 or by dropping by the Center during its operating hours.

After each tutoring session, the tutor will provide the student with a verification form, stating which problem areas and topics were covered during the session as well as how long the student spent with the tutor. Students can then submit their verification forms along with their assignments. You can notify your students that those who choose not to work with a tutor will have points deducted from their assignment grade. You could also consider not accepting assignments that haven’t gone through the writing conference process. In this case, you would probably want to include a proviso in the assignment instructions.

To avoid having students bring their papers to the Writing Center on the same day the essay is due, require that their verification form must be stamped at least 24 (and, preferably, 48) hours before the essay is due. Neither you (nor we) want students coming to the Center simply to obtain the verification form with no intention of revising their papers.


 Require standing appointments

Issue: Students submit writing assignments that are riddled with grammar, punctuation, and ESL errors and are unprofessional in presentation.

Strategy: Many students need extensive tutoring to internalize the professionalism required of college-level writing. Learning how to correct all of one’s grammar, punctuation, and ESL errors requires consistent practice and perseverance. You can help your students attain the mastery they need by requiring that they set up standing appointments, i.e., recurring weekly appointments, at the VV Writing Center to work on specific issues, one at a time. Tell students to bring graded or in-progress writing assignments with them to their tutoring sessions so the tutors can see examples of their issues. Students can schedule up to three standing appointments a week by calling the VV Writing Center at 831-2149 or by visiting during operating hours and speaking with the Center manager, Ivan Torres.


 Use standardized error codes

Issue: When grading student writing, you either ignore or don’t mark the grammar, punctuation, and ESL errors because you don’t have a system in place, or you mark the errors in a general fashion, such as circling them, without indicating the specific type or nature of the error. Many students will not understand the nature of their errors by simply having them pointed out and subsequently will continue to make them. Students need more specific feedback.

Strategy: Consistent instructor feedback across the disciplines will not only raise the bar for the expectations of student writing but will reinforce the rules and conventions of English grammar and punctuation in every instance of writing feedback a student receives in his or her classes. When grading your students’ writing, use the standardized error codes from the EPCC English Discipline’s adopted handbook, A Writer’s Reference with Writing about Literature. You don’t have to use all of the codes, however; become familiar with just a few in the beginning, such as “sp” to denote spelling errors until you become comfortable using that code. Then, add a another code to your grading repertoire, such as “-ed” to draw students’ attention to a past tense verb that was used without an –ed ending (ex. The Confederate Army had just move its troops to Chattanooga). A full list of the error codes from A Writer’s Reference can be found here (MS Word).