How to get better grades on Writing Assignments for High School and University?
1. Effective Planning
The problem most students have, when faced with a writing assignment is that they dont know where or how to start. This confusion can result in procrastination. The first thing to do is to plan out your work schedule. You need to do this the moment you get the assignment. If you ask, some teachers and professors will give you a list of all the assignments expected to be completed for that semester or term.
You will need a day-planner or a calendar. These can be electronic or paper. Most universities and high schools provide day-planners at no charge. If you are at a university, check the bookstore or the student union or student society. One of those places will usually have free day-planners for you.
Once you have your preferred day-planner or calendar, check the date that you are required to submit the assignment. Mark that day in your calendar and name it Hand-In Day. Remind yourself that the only activity for that day is handing in the assignment. Hence, the name of that day is Hand-In Day. Your commitment is to do nothing but hand in the assignment on that day. As a result, that day will less stressful and even a happy day. Stress is the number one reason that students do not perform at their optimal, so calling it Happy Hand-In Day will allow you to see the assignment in brighter light (also, its impossible to say Happy Hand-In Day without smiling!).
The day before Hand-In Day will be the day that you print the document. If you do not have to print the document but are submitting it electronically, then use this day to perform a very brief check for minor errors.
Count back two days from Hand-In Day and mark that day for the last edit. It is recommended that you accomplish at least three edits on an assignment before handing it in, so name that day Edit 3. For an assignment between 750 and 1000 words, a good guideline would be to leave approximately 15 minutes for that last edit. For an assignment between 1000 and 1900 words, a good guideline would be to leave approximately 25 minutes for that last edit. For an assignment between 2000 and 2500 words, a good guideline would be to leave approximately 35 minutes for that last edit. Adjust your time for that edit accordingly.
Count back two days from Edit 3 and mark that day for the second edit, Edit 2. This edit will take approximately twice as long as Edit 3. Count back two days from Edit 2 and mark that day for the first edit, Edit 1. This edit will take a significant amount of time and will depend entirely on your writing ability and how roughly you completed the first full draft.
Count back two days from Edit 1 and mark that day as the day that the full draft of the paper will be complete. Name this day Full Draft Complete. The days preceding this day will be devoted to activities involved in drafting and pre-writing such as research, brainstorming, mapping, planning, thesis development, etc. Now, imagine how you will feel when you have completed the drafting portion of the assignment a full week or more before the Hand-In Day! How would you feel? What would it be like to have the assignment essentially completed a full week or more before the assignment is due? What do you think the quality of your product might be now that you have only editing and revising left to do? Write down the answers to these questions and remind yourself why you are committing to this pattern of work as you complete the assignment. Put the answers to these questions in your day-planner and maybe even on the wall near your workspace to keep you motivated and doing the work as planned.
2. Creating A Personalized Approach
For each of the days that you have named, decide on the specific time of day that you will do the actual work. Athletes understand that to get fit and maintain a level of fitness that they must commit to doing workouts. All accomplished athletes plan their workouts to their personal needs and then workout as planned. The same principle applies to writing assignments.
When deciding on the time to do your work, ask yourself some personal questions. What time of day do you do your best writing? Is it the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening? Maybe its in the middle of the night! If you havent been getting the results you want, you may want to experiment with different times of the day.
Once you have decided to write, preparing yourself to do the activity may take some actions. Some writers like to have soft music playing. Even loud music could be playing! Some writers prefer silence. Do you like to have a cold or hot drink or a snack beside you? Some writers like to write on screen using a word processing program, while others like to use a sheet of paper. If you write on a sheet of paper, do you prefer a pen, a pencil, or a specific type of pen, pencil or paper? Heres an interesting one: some writers have to clean their room or even the whole house before settling down and writing. Some writers need to be seated at a certain chair, lying down or reclined. Do you prefer to go for a walk before writing to clear your head? Again, if you havent been getting the results you want, you may want to experiment with different methods.
Once you have set up the writing space to your liking, make sure that you have all the notes that you created for this project nearby. Some writers prefer to have the notes out of sight but easily reachable. That way, they avoid getting bogged down in reading notes rather than drafting.
Remember: when you are drafting, you are getting the ideas down in order to have something to revise. Write as much as you can. Many successful students find that writing at least 30% more than they think they need for the assignment allows them to better choose what they will include in the final product.
Remember that writing is an organic process and not a series of steps, but a set of actions that happen simultaneously. So, you could be researching when a great thesis statement hits you. You draft the thesis and then go right back to researching. This is quite common to have writing activities happening almost at once. While writing, you could be drafting a sentence and, in the midst of writing it, you could be editing it and moving around words as you write. This can especially be the case when writing on screen.
So, engage with the writing process knowing that as long as you have a full draft by the date you have set in your planner, you have a greater chance at creating a better quality document, and, as a result, receiving a better grade.
Written by: Jason Bermiller, Canada (MA in Professional Writing and Language (2000, University of Waterloo))
Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )