The beginning of the school year can be a real challenge. New teachers mean new expectations and new types of assignments. You may have learned to be a writing rock star in your classes last year, only to find out that your new teacher has much higher expectations. Don’t panic. Now is a great time to set yourself up for success for the rest of the school year.
Here are a few things you can do:
1. Get to know your teacher.
Many teachers give rubrics and guidelines in the beginning of the school year. If your teacher is one of these, make sure that you look through the guidelines carefully and clarify any questions with your teacher. He has taken the time to provide this framework because he cares about your ability to meet his expectations, so don’t be afraid to ask questions so that you can follow them better.
If your teacher didn’t provide any guidelines about his expectations, make sure to ask if he uses a rubric he can share with you. If not, perhaps he has a sample paper that shows what he’s looking for. Some new teachers may not have this available either. If this is the case with your teacher, at least he’ll know that you care about his class and will work hard to succeed.
2. Use a rubric.
If your teacher provided you with a rubric, use it. If not, use one of the following rubrics to help guide your writing:
Writing without a rubric is like driving to a new destination without a map (or a Smartphone). Use the rubric before and after writing your paper to ensure that you are on the right track.
3. Ask for feedback.
When you get your first paper back, hopefully it will be full of helpful comments that will guide you to become a better writer. However, many teachers don’t have time to write comments, or they assume that students won’t care enough to look at them. If your paper comes back with a grade but no comments, find time to meet with your teacher and ask her why you received the grade you did. Even if you got an A, you should know why, so that you can replicate it in the future. You can even bring a rubric with you to guide your meeting with your teacher.
4. When in doubt, follow these basic writing rules:
1. Write a thoughtful thesis statement containing your opinion and a roadmap of at least 3 justifications for that opinion.
2. Begin each body paragraph with a topic sentence letting your reader know what the paragraph is about.
3. Only choose quotes that support your thesis statement and that you can follow up with at least 2-3 sentences of well thought out explanations.
4. Make sure that your paper contains more of your own thoughts than it does quotes written by someone else.
5. Write an outstanding conclusion that sums up your paper without directly restating your introduction and gives your reader something to think about when it’s over. (Answer “So what?” about your paper.)
If you do all of these 4 things now, in the beginning of the school year, you will set yourself up for success in writing and have less stress throughout the year as well.