Establishing “Experts Teams” in Composition Courses:

Save Your Time and Brain Cells by Giving Responsibility to the Students

ducklings leading ducklings


Step 1:  Identifying patterns of error in the first month of the (16-week) semester


I develop groups following the first few writing assignments, after keeping track of the types of errors individual students make on their essays and short writings.


Step 2:  Establishing the teams


In the 5th week of the semester, I post the assignments to the class web page:

Tuesday, 9/27

In-class assignment: Based on the editing problems I saw in the defining moments papers and shorter assignments, I will place you into "experts teams" wherein you will research a specific punctuation or grammar convention, making yourselves, hereafter, the class experts and consultants on that aspect of editing throughout the rest of the semester. Today you will begin your research from on-line, print, and human resources, and you will plan how your group will present your topic in class and how you will supplement it with a permanent resource. You may supplement your oral presentation by developing a PowerPoint slide show (which can then be posted on the Internet for future reference), a web page or web site, or simply as an MS Word hard copy handout, which also can be posted on the Internet. The experts teams will consist of three or four members and will focus on comma uses and misuses, sentence boundary errors (fragments and run-ons), identification and use of past tense verbs, use of quotation marks (particularly as relates to other punctuation), identifying and avoiding shifting verb tenses, and effective proofreading strategies and techniques.

Thursday, 9/29

In-class assignment: Develop your experts team supplement and plan your classroom presentation of the topic. You may elect a spokesperson, or you may take turns with each group member making part of your presentation. You will be called on to make your presentation as your topic comes up during the next three weeks of class; we won't present them all at one time. Throughout the rest of the semester, as we are doing peer review and editing workshops, your team will be the consultants on your assigned punctuation or grammar convention whenever there are questions or problems related to that editing topic.

Homework assignment for Tuesday, 10/4. Outside of class, each member of your experts team will compose a works cited entry for each resource you used to develop your presentation. Follow the guidelines and samples in section 11 of the Writing Essentials handbook and in the online Guide to Grammar and Writing. On Tuesday, you will discuss these with the other members of your team and will add them to your team's presentation supplement when you have come to agreement as to the format and information in each works cited entry.

students collaborating

Step 3:  Making class time for the presentations