Scaffolding Suggestions for High-Stakes Assignments

Low and middle-stakes assignment suggestions

Literary Texts

Passage-based paper: Students will be asked to select a short passage from the source, after annotating that source, and consider how it illustrates a student’s observations about the text both in terms of what the text might be expressing as well as how that idea is expressed.

Close Reading of the literary text: Students should work toward fluency in the language of literary analysis (point of view, irony, figurative language, plot, character, setting, etc.). After appropriate modeling by the instructor, students should be encouraged to work collaboratively to analyze a literary work. Students should be asked to produce a written piece that demonstrates how effectively they can analyze a text. This could be a middle-stakes writing assignment.

Formulating a question for further exploration: After students complete the passage-based writing and close reading, they might begin to formulate questions collaboratively that speak to the issues raised in and themes that emerge from the text.

Alternate Ending/Narrative Perspective: Students might be asked to write an alternate ending to a short story or a play focusing on how that ending would change the impact of the piece or provide an alternate perspective. Students might also be asked to shift the narrative perspective of a short story. This works particularly well for stories told in first person. Students might tell the story through the eyes of another character.

Non-Literary Texts

Passage Summary/Analysis: Encourage students to annotate the assigned text prior to class discussion. In class, assign specific sections of a complicated text to small groups and have them work collaboratively to summarize the passage and determine its purpose/ significance to the larger text.

The following ideas are from John C Bean's Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom.

What it Says, What it Does: Outside of class, have students annotate the assigned text and complete a “What it says, What it does” chart. For each paragraph, students should indicate what the text says. In other words, students are summarizing, the paragraph. Students should also indicate for the same paragraph how that paragraph functions within the essay (What it does). Instructors should model the task by filling in the chart for the first several paragraphs.

Formulating a question for further exploration: In small groups, students might look at the same text and collaboratively develop several questions that the group believes would be worthy of class discussion. Students should be asked to develop, perhaps, six questions and as a group decide on two or three of the six questions that will be presented to the class. Students will write the questions on the board and provide a rationale for having chosen them.

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