How to Use Shorter Assignments

These assignments are designed for first-year composition classes, and they share a thematic focus on civic education and voting.  The lesson plans provided are designed to be modified and organized into multiple class activities, discussions, and/or homework according to the instructor’s style and the needs of the class.


Each lesson assignment contains:

  • a guiding question

  • a suggested lesson plan with resources and exercises that guide students through considering that question

  • a suggested writing assignment

  • a link to a Google Doc copy of the website assignment which can be used to adapt the lesson

Suggested Uses

  • Teach each question as an individual writing assignment.  

  • Teach the questions together as a complete, coherent course about American civics and elections.  Taken together, the questions and suggested assignments build on one another, progressing from shorter assignments to longer ones.  The ideas and skills required for each assignment culminate in the Voter Persuasion Research Paper.  Another option is to assign a different Election-Related Research Topic.  

What is an American? 

definition/narrative - 2 paragraph essay 

In this unit, students will consider the meaning of "American" and then write two paragraphs in which they define the word and explain whether they themselves fit this identity.  Steps include reflecting on relevant quotes and considering how other multimedia texts have defined "American."


Are Americans Informed About Civics?

summary/response - 4 paragraph essay

This assignment asks students to read, summarize, and respond to a recent court case in which a Rhode Island student is contending that her constitutional rights have been violated because her public school education has been insufficient to prepare her to be a good citizen.  Steps include assessing their own knowledge of American government by taking a citizenship test and studying the definition and purpose of civic education.

Should Americans Vote? 

persuasive essay using provided sources - 5 paragraph essay

This assignment requires students to use provided sources to construct a reasoned argument that persuades eligible citizens to vote--or not vote.  Steps include discussing the rights and responsibilities of citizens, as well as the meaning of voting.  Students read a series of articles arguing for and against voting.  

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