Thinking and Writing

Joe and Carlos had two main reasons for designing a Diplomacy-centered Developmental Writing course: to motivate students to work harder and to help them learn to think critically. In other sections of this site (particularly the Playing and Writing section), you’ll see the ways we tried to motivate students through the creation of an atmosphere of play; in this section, you will find some of the resources we used to help them think more effectively, and then translate that thinking into their writing. 

In many cases, what prevents very intelligent students from succeeding on the ACT test is the fact that they have never studied writing as a process. These students come to class believing that “good” writers can start writing without planning or drafting, and that their end products will be glistering, flawless essays. As instructors, therefore, we must quickly disabuse students of that notion and teach the writing process. The exercises below were created to do just that. They cover pre-writing, paragraph development, idea generation, and cause/effect.

Importantly, we used the Diplomacy game to scaffold this learning. Sometimes, this scaffolding might have occurred during the explanation and discussion in class. For instance, the “Introduction to Brainstorming” class is a document that teaches students how to structure a paragraph for the ACT test. It is a document that could be used, as is, in virtually any CUNY Developmental Writing course (and you are of course free to take and use it!).

Joe and Carlos, however, invoked the Diplomacy game when teaching it. The document shows students how they can structure a paragraph by starting with a topic sentence and, through argument, development and evidence, move toward the ultimate goal, which is to reinforce the thesis. (In terms of the ACT test, we teach students how to reinforce the criterion, or the standard by which a proposal’s value will be measured).

In other cases, the documents below are intimately connected to Diplomacy. For instance, the cause/effect PowerPoint has many elements that could be transported seamlessly into almost all writing classrooms, but there are several slides and ways of structuring challenges that integrate knowledge of Diplomacy so intimately that they would probably need to be expunged from a lesson in a standard Developmental Writing course.

Introduction to Brainstorming

Paragraph Structure as a Diplo Map

Figurative Writing Exercise

Diplomacy Cause and Effect PowerPoint

Of course, we also had to cover grammar! Again, for this course we tried as much as possible to scaffold the learning of grammar via Diplomacy. We created our own grammar assignments based on the readings we were doing (see the Reading and Writing section for more). In this way, we reinforced not only grammar rules, but reading comprehension.

Guns of August: Grammar Fragments and Run-ons

Guns of August: Run-on Sentence Exercise

Diplomacy Grammar Pre- and Post-Test, With Grammar Rules

Finally, every CUNY Developmental Writing course has students take practice ACT exams that simulate testing conditions and allow them to put all of their newly learned skills to the test. Our classes were no different: except, once again, we tried to create a bridge between the course’s content and the ACT exam by creating an ACT prompt that asked students to think about the effectiveness of using Diplomacy to teach Developmental Writing. 

This ACT prompt allowed students not only to take advantage of everything they had learned throughout the semester, but gave them the opportunity to think metacognitively about their education and their learning.

Diplomacy Act Prompt


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