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Workshop | Spontaneous Writing Sample for TEP. University Writing Center Jaclyn Wells, Ph.D. September 16, 2014. Today’s agenda. Today’s goal is to provide general ideas and practice for tackling the Spontaneous Writing Sample for TEP Admissions. W e will: Discuss the assignment and rubric

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Workshop spontaneous writing sample for tep

Workshop | Spontaneous Writing Sample for TEP

University Writing Center

Jaclyn Wells, Ph.D.

September 16, 2014

Today s agenda
Today’s agenda

Today’s goal is to provide general ideas and practice for tackling the Spontaneous Writing Sample for TEP Admissions. We will:

  • Discuss the assignment and rubric

  • Consider the challenges of this writing situation

  • Talk about strategies for the timed writing process

  • Practice elements of the writing process

  • Learn how the University Writing Center can help

What are you doing
What are you doing?

Let’s begin by looking at the directions for the Spontaneous Writing Sample and breaking down your writing task. Below are important elements of your writing situation.

  • Genre/Medium: handwritten letter

  • Purpose: to persuade

  • Audience: educated adults, such as a potential donor, your principal, or your school board

  • Topic: related to your school or your teaching

  • Process: you have 50 minutes total—five to plan and 45 to write and edit. Use every minute you have.

Letter genre
Letter Genre

Remember that you’re writing a letter, but it’s a persuasive, professional letter instead of just a friendly hello. You will likely include:

  • A greeting [Dear Audience,]

  • An introductory paragraph that states your position (so, include a thesis statement)

  • Body paragraphs that provide support

  • A closing paragraph that reiterates your position

  • A closing [Sincerely,]with your signature

What are the challenges
What are the challenges?

The situation includes a number of challenges:

  • You are making an argument. Not just exploring ideas, reflecting on an experience, or summarizing something you’ve read.

  • You have limited resources. You will not have the internet to find support for your arguments or spellcheck to help you proofread.

  • You have to condense your entire writing process down to 50 minutes total (five minutes to plan and 45 to write and edit).

  • Your rhetorical situation (the purpose, audience, and context for writing) and genre are complex and perhaps unfamiliar.

How are you being evaluated
How are you being evaluated?

Next, let’s look at the rubric and discuss its dimensions. You will be evaluated on seven criteria:

  • Thesis

  • Organization

  • Key ideas and details

  • Sentence variety

  • Use of language and tone

  • Grammar, usage, mechanics

  • Conclusion

The writing process
The writing process

No one follows exactly the same writing process, but most successful writers follow some version of the following:

  • Pre-writing, which can include brainstorming ideas, mapping (especially if you’re a visual learner), and outlining.

  • Drafting. This is the actual writing part.

  • Revising for “higher-order concerns,” so things like thesis, organization, development of ideas, etc.

  • Editing for “lower-order concerns,” so things like spelling, grammar, mechanics, and sentence variety.

The timed writing process
The timed writing process

What’s difficult about timed writing is that you have to condense these steps down into 50 minutes. Even when what you’re writing is short, that’s quite intimidating, especially when the stakes are high.

Many writers are tempted to save time by skipping steps.


Most important advice ever
Most important advice…ever

The biggest mistake people make in timed writing situations is skipping important parts of the writing process, particularly pre-writing/planning and editing. Remember:

You must include pre-writing and editing in your process. You need time to plan your essay by brainstorming ideas, crafting a thesis, and creating an outline. You also need time to edit your essay carefully.

Why pre write
Why pre-write?

The problems with skipping pre-writing are many:

  • When you jump right into drafting, your first paragraph or two are pre-writing. You do not want your reader to see this messy process.

  • Your thesis and organization go out the window because you have not allowed yourself time to plan before you begin writing.

  • You leave out key ideas and details that you might have thought if you’d allowed yourself time to think.

  • You sometimes end up writing too much.

Why revise
Why revise?

You will not have enough time to make major revisions to your essay after drafting. In a timed writing situation, this is simply unrealistic. However, you can:

  • Check that your thesis statement is clear, strong, and reflective of the rest of your essay.

  • Look at the topic sentences for each body paragraph.

  • Consider your key ideas and details. While you will not have time to re-write them, you might have time to insert an extra example here and there and erase details that you realize are irrelevant.

Why edit
Why edit?

When you skip or rush editing, you make mistakes that you should catch. A couple points you may not realize:

  • We are not able to edit quickly. Reading slowly and carefully—as if you’re reading aloud—will help you catch errors.

  • We have grown so accustomed to autocorrect, spellcheck, and texting language that we are perhaps even more prone to making silly errors while drafting. Checking for these is very important.

  • Editing well is possible in this test, since you will write in pencil (bring an eraser!) and will have access to a dictionary.

How do i get it all done
How do I get it all done?

For this timed situation, try the process below. As you practice, tweak the process as necessary to suit you.

  • Pre-writing/planning: 5-10 minutes

    • Read the possible topics and choose one

    • Determine your position and draft a thesis

    • Jot down ideas to support your position

    • Map an outline (consider the 5-paragraph model)

  • Writing/drafting: 30-35 minutes

    • Refer always to your pre-writing/planning notes

    • Keep an eye on the clock so you can leave time to edit

    • Remember: quality, not quantity

  • Revising/editing: 5-10 minutes

    • Read through the whole essay slowly, as though you’re reading aloud

    • Double-check your thesis, topic sentences, and transitions

    • Look for errors you know you make commonly, such as homonyms or run-ons

  • Pre writing practice
    Pre-writing practice

    Let’s practice the all important step of planning your essay. With the example topic, take ten minutes to:

    • Draft a thesis statement that states your position

    • Jot down three ideas to support your position, along with reasons, examples, and details to explain fully those ideas.

    • Map an outline. Consider using the 5-paragraph model: introduction with thesis, three body paragraphs, conclusion. Don’t forget to include a greeting and closing.

    Editing in timed writing
    Editing in timed writing

    To prepare for editing in a timed writing situation, become familiar with your own common patterns of error. Below are common errors that all writers make when writing quickly.

    • Homonyms errors (like meet/meat or there/their/they’re)

    • Left out or doubled words

    • Missing or unnecessary apostrophes

    • Missing punctuation at the end of sentences

    More common errors
    More common errors

    Other common errors include:

    • Fragment sentences

    • Run-ons and comma splices

    • Subject-verb agreement

    • Verb tense consistency

    • Parallel structure

    • Pronoun usage

    • Dangling modifiers

      We do not have time to look at each of these common errors, but follow the links for more information. A UWC tutor can also work with you on any of these errors or help you with your editing process.

    Final suggestions
    Final suggestions

    As you prepare remember these final suggestions:

    • Genre: You are writing a letter, so include a greeting, closing, and signature. For the rest, the 5-paragraph model may be useful.

    • Purpose: You are making an argument, so state a position and support it with ideas explained with reasons, examples, and details.

    • Audience: You are writing for an unfamiliar audience of educated adults, so keep a professional tone.

    • Topic: Your reader cares about education, so use reasons, examples, and details that relate to schools, teaching, students.

    • Process: remember to plan well and edit carefully.

    Additional resources
    Additional Resources

    • The UWC offers free one-on-one consultations for all writers at UAB. Meet with a tutor to get feedback on practice samples or discuss your common issues.

    • The UWC’s Ask-a-Tutor service can help with short writing questions. Simply email askatutor@uab.eduwith your question and receive a response within 48 hours.

    • The Purdue Online Writing Lab contains many resources on the writing process and common writing errors. Visit the OWL:

    Thank you
    Thank you!

    Thank you for attending today’s workshop. To make an appointment with a UWC tutor, please see our website: