Teaching Writing

Elisabeth Pain “How to (Seriously) Read a Scientific Paper”

As scholars in our various disciplines, we know that reading papers in our field is the first step in being able to write papers in our field. Many of us integrate these readings into our courses as a way of introducing our students to scholarship in our field – what kinds of claims we make, the evidence needed to make those claims, how we organize information, what kinds of citations and formatting are required –  however, it’s easy to forget that students need instruction on how to read in a new field just as much as they need instruction for how to write in a new field.

In her piece, “How to (Seriously) Read a Scientific Paper,” Elisabeth Pain compiles a number of scholars’ and practitioners’ voices on reading scientific writing: how they approach a paper, what they do when they don’t understand something, if they ever feel overwhelmed, and other tips. The collection provides different perspectives and strategies for reading scientific papers.

Teaching Writing

Infographics: A Fun, Multimodal Tool for Student Thinking and Writing


Main pic

By: Ben Causey

Ben Causey is a MA in English (Teaching of Writing & Literature concentration) student at George Mason University. He is also an active-duty Marine and currently teaches instructional methods at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. You can contact Ben at

Students are often encouraged to formally prewrite, outline, or somehow plan their written course work. Often, they are reluctant to conceptualize their thoughts outside the pages of their written assignments. Over forty years ago, Janet Emig (1983) realized that “able student writers voluntarily do little or no formal written pre-figuring, such as a formal outline, for pieces of school-sponsored writing of five hundred or fewer words” (p. 92). Since then, we have recognized the need for students “to draw upon a wider range of communicative resources than courses have typically allowed” (Shipka, 2005, p. 299), Students have also gained access to a host of software and media tools that allow them to compose in creative new ways. Infographics can fulfill the need for students to plan and re-conceptualize their written work, as well as provide a fresh alternative to the typical written assignment. When students are too preoccupied with language, grammar, and form to participate meaningfully in the disciplinary discourse, infographics can free students from some of those restraints so they might think more clearly.

Teaching Writing

Placing Writing Processes on the Wall

By: Donald R. Gallehr

Donald R. Gallehr is an Associate Professor in the English Department at George Mason University.  His research focuses on learning beyond the cognitive and its application to the classroom, as well as how meditation enables the writer.  He teaches courses in advanced nonfiction writing, the teaching of writing, and theories of composition. You can reach him at

As we all know, the process we use as writers is central to the writing we do. It can prevent such things as writer’s block and it can lead to high quality revision. In a previous blog post called “The Sticky Note Exercise,” the video shows us how one poses several questions to her students about writing, then gives them sticky notes for them to answer her questions and places these notes on the wall next to the questions she posed. She then forms students into small groups for them to share their ideas, and later the whole class discusses their comments. This gives everyone in the class knowledge of what they’re thinking about writing and writing processes.

No matter what discipline we teach in, we’re all assigning papers and giving our students advice on how to make their papers the best they can be. One problem that students in all our courses at times face is postponing their writing until the last minute. If we talk to them about the impact that their processes have on the final product, they are more likely to start their papers earlier in order to have time to think things through and to make the revisions that are necessary. This article will show you how to focus on the writing processes of your students so that they produce really good papers.

Teaching Writing

Four Primary Considerations for Teaching Non-Native Writers


By: Jessica McCaughey

Jessica McCaughey is an Assistant Professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she teaches and writes about the intersections of academic, creative, and professional writing. Previously, she taught non-native English speakers writing and research strategies at George Mason University. You can reach her at

Teaching non-native speakers is often the root of significant anxiety in writing-intensive courses. We get bogged down in sentence-level issues. We worry over—with good reason—issues of inadvertent plagiarism. We fear that these students won’t be able to demonstrate the learning we need to see, yet we often find ourselves lacking the substantial time we want to spend helping them.

While it can be difficult to implement more effective practices for teaching non-native writers, it’s also crucial to both your success as a teacher and the success of a significant percentage of your students in the classroom. This essay offers four concrete and essential strategies that I use when working with non-native writers, drawn from the research and from my experiences teaching international students.