Clear Writing: Demonstrating Critical Thinking Skills through Writing

clear writing, critical thinking, developing critical thinking through writing
Creating writing prompts and providing clear feedback help improve critical thinking skills in students.

How Do Critical Thinking Skills Improve Writing?

Writing and thinking skills go hand in hand. Whatever the subject, our students need to learn, practice, and demonstrate critical thinking skills like observation, analysis, and subject-specific communication styles. Writing exercises provide opportunities to practice, and frequent writing assignments—along with prompt and constructive feedback and multiple revisions—are proven to advance students’ skills.

But, that’s a lot of work! Creating writing prompts and providing feedback are the two most time-consuming challenges we face. Too often we just don’t have the time required for these tasks, and that can discourage us from assigning written work.

How to Craft a Writing Prompt to Improve Critical Thinking

First: Let’s consider creating writing prompts by having a look at “Crafting a Good Prompt” from the Dartmouth College First-Year Writing: Pedagogies, Methods, & Design website:

Consider what you want the assignment to require the students to do, in relation to the course outcomes. What outcomes are most important at this point in your course? How can the assignment move students closer to achieving these outcomes?

Identifying the outcome is a first important step in creating a writing prompt, but if your assignment isn’t getting students closer to those outcomes, it won’t be as beneficial. The best way to do this is by breaking down the assignment into specific tasks. Making sure each of these individual tasks will use a skill that will build up to your course’s outcomes.

You can break up a large assignment into tasks by asking several questions to guide your students. Not only will this help the students understand the overall assignment, but also how these elements work together to create a complete essay, and eventually how to ask (and answer) these questions themselves when approaching a new writing prompt.

At LessonWriter, we developed tools that simplify those tasks and make it quick and easy to bring the best practices in writing instruction to your students.

Reviewing Lessonwriter’s Task Wizard options will help you clarify objectives. The prepared prompts, which utilize Bloom’s Taxonomy, the Hess Matrix, and other standards, are easy to customize to your students and to all lessons. For more information on using Bloom’s taxonomy to develop writing assignments, take a look at the University of California Berkeley’s “Creating Writing Assignments: Articulating Objective.

Provide Feedback that Demonstrates the Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Writing

Second: Providing feedback is key in developing a successful classroom and student-teacher relationships. Teachers know arbitrary numbers without explanations are more frustrating than educational. Feedback allows educators to do a bit of coaching, and for students to use this feedback in future assignments. Research indicates that feedback will promote better learning for the recipient and the provider.

This is why we included online feedback in LessonWriter’s Premium and School features. When students complete assignments online, you can quickly score answers on a 0-4 rubric, making it easy to allow partial credit. Not only that, but you can also add formative comments in the comments section, so students understand exactly where they went wrong (or right) and how to improve.

Using Feedback to Improve Writing

Third: Sometimes, no matter how clear you’ve felt you’ve made your writing prompt, students will struggle. This is where feedback is more important than ever, especially if you’re giving your students a chance to rewrite. Revisions have been proven to advance students’ writing skills.

For revisions, LessonWriter’s “Assign to Retake” feature allows you to re-assign the same lesson as many times as you feel is appropriate. Once you provide clear feedback, you can allow that student to take it into account when revising their work.

But of course, be aware that student grades aren’t the only data that’s important. Read more here on how you can use teacher data, not just student data, to help your classroom.

Critical Thinking & Skillful Writing

We hope these features make it easier for you to include more written work in your classes. For more information on clear writing and critical thinking, we have great resources below.

1 https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/teaching-talk/revision-strategies-encourage-strong-student-writing

2 http://writing-speech.dartmouth.edu/teaching/first-year-writing-pedagogies-methods-design/syllabus-and-assignment-design

3 http://gsi.berkeley.edu/gsi-guide-contents/student-writing-intro/creating-writing-assignments/assignment-objectives/

Have any questions? Curious how LessonWriter can help you out in the classroom? Check out all of our offerings here!

Calling All Writers! 

LessonWriter is currently accepting blog post submissions from educators and school administrators. Head to our “Write for LessonWriter” page for more details.

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