Friday, April 21, 2006

MS Word Comments: A Two Way Street

When my students turn in papers to be graded, I use Microsoft Word's comment feature to enter comments in the margins as I read them. However, today it occurred to me that comments can be a two way street. Students can make comments on their own papers just as easily as I can. We can turn comments into a space for dialog about their writing.

So today I will ask my students to enter their own comments in their own papers before they turn them in. I will ask them to place a comment next to each paragraph and in that comment tell what they believe that paragraph does in their paper (how they think supports the thesis, how they intend it to focus and direct a reader's attention, etc.).

Many instructors ask their writing students to communicate the same sort of information (metacognitive comments about the student's rhetorical choices) in a "cover letter" in advance of their paper. I think having students report on their rhetoric may work better if they do it in marginal comments, right next to the writing they're writing about.

The next step, then, is for me to use their comments on their as springboards for my own.


Anita said...

That kind of "metacommentary" is precisely what we've been about on the emma project at UGA. I think you'll find that your students will benefit tremendously from engaging their writing this way.

JN said...

This looks like a very good idea, having the comments linked directly and visibly to the text in the document. That way, the evidence of their work and their comments on it are visible side by side. That's one of the things that can be lost as a reader tries to consider two documents on only one screen.

cyberian said...

Hi Dan: I like this idea and will try next semester.