Classroom Exercises for Teaching Style and Form

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Writing Guidelines
Writing Exercises
Writing Courses

Classroom Exercises:
Exercise 1 (Style)
Exercise 2 (Structure)
Exercise 3 (Illustration)
Exercise 4 (Language)
Exercise 5 (Structure)

Keys to Exercises:
Key to Exercise 1
Key to Exercise 2
Key to Exercise 3
Key to Exercise 4
Key to Exercise 5

This web page presents classroom exercises that you, the instructor, can use when you discuss writing style and form in your engineering and science courses. These exercises have been used with much success in writing courses for engineers and scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Texas, the University of Wisconsin, and Virginia Tech. To use these exercises in class, you simply print out the exercise, make photocopies, and distribute to your students. For each exercise, possible answers can be found at the link at the bottom of each exercise.

These exercises, which are listed in the left column, are designed such that they require about 20 minutes for the students to perform. On all these exercises, I recommend that the students be encouraged to work in groups. Working in groups forces the students to explain and defend their choices to the other members of the group. That explaining and defending causes the students to develop a deeper understanding of the principles. In other words, it is one level of understanding for the student to know the right answer, but it is a much deeper level of understanding for the student to explain to someone else why that answer is correct.

The first exercise, labeled Exercise on Style, is simply a collection of several excerpts from professional and student reports that have one main problem. The task for the students in this exercise is to identify the main problem with each excerpt. By doing so, the students become more aware of those problems and are in a better position to avoid those problems in their own writing. Other exercises are similar except that their focus is on specific areas of style: structure, illustration, and language. You are free to use these exercises as long as the source (The Craft of Scientific Writing) is acknowledged. Note that exercises on grammar, punctuation, and usage can be found at the Writing Exercises for Engineers and Scientists.

One classroom scenario is speak for 15 minutes or so about writing, and then give an exercise pertinent to the topic of my discussion. While the students work on the exercise for 20 minutes, walk around the room and help groups that are slow or are off track. Then spend 15 minutes or so reviewing the exercise to the entire class. For some of the exercises, consider projecting possible answers.

Last updated 3/00
You are more than welcome to use these materials in your classroom as long as you acknowledge the source.