ENGLISH 494: Writing and Tutoring

Spring, 2002

Guidelines for Individual Presentations
on Grammar, Usage, and/or Style.

One of the challenges associated with tutoring is addressing problems of grammar, usage, and style in student writing. This assignment is intended to help prepare you for this challenge. For this assignment, you will make a brief in-class presentation about a specific issue in grammar, usage, and/or style. During the course of the semester, each student will make such a presentation on some issue of her or his choice. (See the schedule for these presentations for specific dates.) Ideally, these presentations will help make us more confident in our knowledge of the conventions of written English and provide a foundation for the development of tutoring strategies to address problems of usage and style in student writing.

Follow these guidelines in preparing your presentation:

  • The presentation should focus on a specific issue or problem involving grammar rules, usage, or style. You can focus your presentation on a common problem in student writing or on a problem that you yourself have experienced in your own writing. Some typical examples include avoiding comma splices, avoiding dangling modifiers, or punctuating restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. Other possible topics include verb form problems, apostrophes, it's vs. its, semi-colons and colons, common spelling errors, parallelism, punctuation of quotations, and subject-verb agreement.

    The important point in selecting a topic is that it is a problem that you think is relatively common in student writing and/or one you yourself would like to understand better. In addition, you might consider selecting a topic that is addressed in some way in Hacker's Rules for Writers, 3rd edition. {If possible, select a topic that is addressed in the section in Hacker on "Clarity" (beginning on p. 91), "Grammar" (beginning on p. 149), or "Punctuation" (beginning on p. 243).}

  • Your presentation should do at least three things: (1) explain the problem or issue clearly; (2) review the appropriate rules or conventions; and (3) suggest one or two strategies for identifying the problem and addressing it in a conference with a student writer.

  • Each presentation should be approximately 10-15 minutes long. (Usually these will be made at the beginning of class on the scheduled day.)

  • The presentation may include a brief oral explanation, a brief writing activity, a small-group activity, or any other activity or format that you think would be appropriate. You may use the computer, the overhead projector, the World Wide Web, PowerPoint, or any other resource as part of your presentation.

  • As part of the presentation, you must also submit a brief paper of 700-800 words based on your presentation. Like the presentation, this paper should (1) explain the problem or issue clearly, (2) review the appropriate rules or conventions, and (3) suggest one or two strategies for identifying and addressing the problem in a conference with a student writer. These papers are due on the day of the presentation. Please submit your paper in electronic form as a Microsoft Word, a rich-text file (RTF), or a text (ASCII) file. (Barring technological problems, these papers will be posted to our web site, where they can be accessed as resources for student writers.)

In preparing your presentation, you should consult Hacker's Rules for Writers and any other sources you deem relevant (including online sources, which you can access via our "Resources for Writing" page).

These presentations will account for 15% of your final grade (see grading policies). They will begin during the fourth week of the semester (February 12). A sign-up sheet will be made available in class in order to schedule the presentations. Please see me if you have any questions or concerns as you prepare this presentation.

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