Some of the varieties of In-class Writing





Unedited, unstructured brainstorming, usually used to simply get students writing or as an invention technique when an assignment is made. (Elbow)

Structured Freewriting

Here students write without stopping for five minutes, pick out two words or phrase, write without stopping for another five minutes targeted on those selected words, and so forth. (Irmscher; St. martin’s 173)

Burke’s Pentad & 6 journalistic questions

For assignment invention, to refine a thesis, or analyze a reading, have students answer one (or all) of these standard questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how.


Journal entries can be part of in-class writing either by having students read journal entries aloud or having them write entries during class.

Classical topics

The classical topics can be applied to either invention or analyzing a thesis or reading selection. The four most common and useful topics are: definition, analogy, consequence, and testimony.

Mapping or clustering

Best with invention or analyzing reading or peer writing. The main topic is circled in the middle, and subpoints and subsubpoints become “branches” of the map.


Glossing is nothing more than a word or phrase summary of each section or paragraph of a text—an outline. This is particularly useful when opening up a reading selection discussion or beginning a peer review session, whether one-on-one, small group, or whole-class.

Peer review

Having students answer specific questions about their peers’ writing in class is widely used in composition classes. Many teachers require peer feedback for each paper and some assess or grade the peer reviewer’s comments.


You can have your students write a brief letter to: the author of a text the class is reading; a note to a student expressing an opposing point of view; a letter to the teacher asking for clarification on a point

Pre-discussion question

Have students do some in-class writing in response to a prompt to get a discussion off the ground

Mid-discussion writing

In-class writing in the middle of a discussion can re-energize a stagnant discussion or cool off a hot one.

Summary in-class writing

At the end of a discussion or lecture, ask students to summarize the main points raised.

Imaginary dialogues

Mainly useful for readings discussions, imaginary dialogues between authors or historical characters can be enlightening and entertaining.

Metaphor games

Have students make a comparison between an abstraction and something else, and then extend that comparison. E.g.: “Hip-hop is like _____, but jazz is like ________.”

Practice essay exams

The instructor may assign a practice essay question, then read the answers aloud in class and have students evaluate those answers

Thesis sentence writing

Tried and true. Have students write a one-sentence summary of an article’s argument, or another student’s paper. Then, in small groups or as a whole, revise that sentence to make it more cogent and complete.

Frame paragraphs

Provide a skeleton for a paragraph, and make the students fill in the rest. Good for invention as well as development and revision. E.g.: “The tax system is biased against the poor for four reasons. 1.. 2… 3… 4…”