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Models-Based Instruction in Writing: Tips for Faculty


Model essays, like the ones published in Schemata, give our students added direction and support for a writing task. However, we should not simply point to a given model and essentially say to our students, "Do this." We need to bridge the gap by presenting and using models carefully and effectively as part of our instruction in writing.

Relevance to Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Program

As the following strategies illustrate, the use of models helps faculty to fulfill several W-course requirements:

  1. In-class instruction in writing
  2. Informal (even formal) writing component
  3. Assessment of student improvement in writing
    • Note: Faculty can gauge the effectiveness of their instruction in a given course by keeping track of the number of student essays they end up recommending for publication in Schemata.

Strategies For Using Models

In-Class Activities

  • Read the model essay out loud, pausing occasionally to discuss strengths in relation to the assignment guidelines and expectations.
    • To urge student participation and critical thinking, ask "why" or "how" questions about the essay and require students to take notes. Afterwards, take and respond to any questions the session may have sparked about the assignment or writing in general.
  • If possible, invite the author of the model essay to class to discuss his/her writing process and take questions from students.
    • Also if possible, get an early draft from the author to distribute to students, thereby making the finished model essay less mysterious.
  • Discuss the model essay's thesis and ask students to take a moment to consider or draft their own thesis statements. Conduct a thesis workshop.
  • Ask students to compare their own bibliographies and citations to those in the model essay. Address citation issues and take questions as necessary.
  • After the oral reading of the essay, have students write a "minute paper" in which they summarize their observations, pose further questions, etc.

Out-of-Class Activities

  • Require students to read the model essay and construct a detailed outline of it.
  • Provide a worksheet for students to complete, asking them to consider the effectiveness of elements such as thesis, structure, development, style, citations, etc.
  • Assign an informal response essay (or journal entry) in which students answer the question, "How does this model essay fulfill the assignment guidelines?"
  • Without indicating that the model is an "A" paper, ask students to "grade" the essay using your rubric.
  • Assign a "double-entry" journal entry in which students pull one or several passages or examples from the model essay and respond with an observation, response, and/or question.
  • Require students to compile a list of questions for the author of the model essay in preparation for a real or imagined interview.
  • Assign a formal, critical analysis of the model essay in preparation for writing a similar essay. (Good idea for a capstone or research methods course.)

Prepared by Shanna Wheeler, WAC Program Coordinator & Schemata Advisor