Yesterday Jane wrote about helping a student who’s a visual thinker to actually understand what was wrong with her/his paper. She mentioned using cards and sticks to do this, and that this was a technique she’d learnt when working in writing centres as a grad student. (In the US they have writing centres where students can drop by when they need help writing their papers – and the people working there actually know about techniques for helping people with various disabilities or just different styles of thinking and learning – it sounds a wonderful concept.)

Anyway, we all chimed in in the comments asking what the cards and sticks system is. And Jane answered – and it sounds glorious! You write down your thesis statement and supporting claims and evidence for them on cards and join them all up in a tree shape – that way you can see whether your “argument tree” is not going to stand up because it has no roots (no evidence, for instance) and also whether it’s lopsided, so there’s lots of evidence for some claims and none for others. There’s lots more too it, go read it yourself.

I want to try and use this with my students. I really don’t have enough techniques yet for really helping students understand WHAT is wrong. The way I was trained, it was all sort of implicit, we were expected to either just get it or to drop out, I suppose, but really, it would be better to be able to actually teach these sorts of things.

4 thoughts on “cards and sticks for teaching writing

  1. Ali

    What a great idea. I too struggle with getting students to understand why I gave therir paper the grade it got….using visual aids had never occured to me.

  2. Jess

    I always draw them a hamburger for explaining argument paragraph structure — without the top (claim) it’s a mess, without the meat (evidence) nobody will eat it, and without the bottom (analysis), well, the bottom falls out. It’s always very gratifying to see them dutifully copying down hamburgers in their notebooks. But that doesn’t work for the structure of the whole paper. I love the tree analogy, though I’d be sort of mixing my metaphors.

    P.S. hi, I’m back in the blogging game. :>

  3. Jill

    Great to see ya, Jess, I was wondering where you went! But, um, you realise that’s a pseudonymous or even anonymous blog you got yaself? And hamburger – ha – might try that, though they’d accuse me of americanism 😉

  4. Jess

    Yeah, it’s roughly anonymous for now until I’ve got more good stuff up. See, my mom’s a science writer and I want to avoid coat-tailing as much as possible. Quite possibly this is a miscalculation.

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