Shelley Reid .

English 101.080 -- Fall 2007
Course Information

WF 10:30-11:45
Science & Tech 1, Room 212

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  On this page, go to...    
  Textbooks Course Description Grading Overview
  University Policies Grading: Short Assignments Grading: Drafts & Essays
  Optional Revisions Participation Late Work Policy

How to Contact Me:


Robinson A 420; 703-993-2772

Office Hours:

M 11:00-1:00, W 9:00-10:00, Th 2:00-3:30


Email link


AIM: ProfESReid
Yahoo: ProfESReid

Office hours only!


Robinson A 487


Course Materials:

TextsHaving Your Say (Charney et al.), Everyday Writer (Lunsford), and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Kingsolver), all at the Campus Bookstore.

Click here to go to the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website.

Other:  Please buy 2-3 basic pocket folders for your essays.  Activate your GMU email account

Note:  Plan to print early and often, and back-up your computer files regularly to another disk or keychain drive.  Don't risk losing the work you spent so much time on.

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The Official Description

This is a course in improving your abilities to read, reconsider, analyze, plan, draft, evaluate, and revise a range of common American academic essays.  This course also aims to help you find ways to value the writing you do as a tool for learning or expression, to expand your research skills and persuasive abilities, to adapt your writing to new audiences and contexts, to handle the various technologies and writing-processes common to 21st century writers, and to become your own best writing instructor so that you can continue to improve your writing skills and strategies as you move into other courses and situations.

The Thematic Description

Writers have to be able to pay attention to both "the big picture" and lots of small details.  Also, one of the shifts that happens in college is in learning how to more quickly spot, connect, and analyze Very Big Ideas and Very Nuanced Details.  So this semester, we'll take up a question that helps us think about moving our thinking between those two modes:  we'll be looking at our increasingly nationalized, globalized, virtualized world and asking: what, if any, value still remains in local events, groups, goods, and traditions?

The Straight Scoop

Everybody here is already a writer -- but writing well takes hard work.  Writing well often requires a mix of the following:  imagination, mind-reading, confidence, uncertainty, flexibility, humor, knowledge, inquiry, support from good friends, feedback from nitpicky grumps, revision, an awareness of genres and rules, time, a willingness to go outside the box (and to create your own boxes), patience, thought, intensive reading, more thought, more patience, more time, giving up, trying again, honesty, manipulation, more revision, planning, innovation, inspiration, anticipation, stomping around, having a clear purpose, exploration, and/or chocolate. 

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Instruction and Classwork Overview:  Be Here Now

Most of our class sessions will be highly interactive and involve a significant amount of focused student discussion and writing.  You will be encouraged to find ways to link class assignments with your other interests and activities.  You will also carry some responsibility for working on particular aspects of your writing that you wish to improve -- and for helping your classroom peers improve their own writing.

Good writing is more frequently a result of time and patience than of inborn talent.  Students who attend regularly, keep up with the small assignments, and block off extra time each week for thoughtful drafting and focused revising usually succeed in this class.  (Note: A common assumption in college is that you'll spend about 6-8 hours per week on homework for each class.  A writing class sometimes requires more than that.)

Basic Grading Outline


50 points

Essay 1: Speak Your Mind


100 points

Essay 2: Join the Conversation


150 points

Essay 3: Present Your Case


100 points

Drafts, Folder Assignments & Peer Reviews


50 points

Quizzes, Homework, and Friday Writings


25 points

Kingsolver Discussion Blog


25 points

Class Participation

Grading Policies

A grade of "C" or better (365/500 points) is required to earn credit in this class. 

Completion Policy: You must complete all three major drafts and essays to pass the class.

Academic Integrity:  Although you will frequently consult with others during the writing process, you must turn in formal writing that primarily results from your own thought and effort.  Your work in this class may reflect your broad, enduring interests -- but you must present new pieces of writing specifically for this class, not repeats from other situations.

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I would rather solve a small problem with you early than try to work through a big sticky mess later.  If you have a question, please check the official course materials first, since they have a lot of information, but then please do contact me to let me know what you still have questions about.  In addition to coming physically to my office hours or setting up a conference, you may

  • Email me with questions about class.  Please put "Engl 101" in the subject line, include a salutation and signature, and describe what you already know or have tried to find out, related to your question.  Allow 24 hours for time-sensitive requests; I do email-catch up with less urgent messages on Saturdays.

  • IM me at "profesreid" on AIM or Yahoo (during office hours only) with quick questions about class.  Be sure to identify yourself as my student!  (I may not recognize your screen name.)  Please note that I may be busy helping another student and might not respond right away. 

University Policies

Midterm Grades

In English 101, you will receive a midterm letter grade based on the work of the first seven weeks of the course, to help you find out how well you're doing in order to make any adjustments necessary for success in the course as a whole. The work in the second half of the semester may be weighted more heavily, and so the midterm grade is not meant to predict the final course grade. You'll be able to view your grade online.

Final Grades

Students in ENGL101 receive a final grade of A+ (4.0), A (4.0), A- (3.67), B+ (3.33), B (3.0), B- (2.67), C+ (2.33), C (2.0), or NC (no credit). A grade of NC does not appear on students' final transcripts or affect students' Grade Point Averages, so students are not penalized for requiring additional time to meet the course requirements in ENGL101.  Because of this policy, grades of Incomplete are not given in ENGL101.

Students with disabilities

Students with documented disabilities are legally entitled to certain accommodations in the classroom.  If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at 993-2474.  All academic accommodations must be arranged through the DRC.  I will be happy to work with students and the DRC to arrange fair access and support.


Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another source without giving that source credit.  Writers give credit through the use of accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes; a simple listing of books, articles, and websites is not sufficient.  Plagiarism is not tolerated in an academic setting.

All the citation rules can get confusing, especially in a download-and-go culture.  We'll take time in class to review common expectations for citing the words, facts, and ideas that you encounter in other sources -- and to discuss how citation helps build the writer's credibility. 

In the meantime, it makes sense to take a conservative approach: provide an in-text citation for any piece of information that didn't occur to you from your own knowledge OR that you think your readers might want to investigate further. Not only is this attitude considerate of readers, it will almost certainly ensure that writers will not be guilty of plagiarism.  (Consult the George Mason Honor Code for more information.)

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Most people are only willing to write well when they're writing about something that's important enough to them that they will undertake all of the above work. 

If you want to write well in college, it will help to figure out how to find something important that you want to write about, or find what's important to you in what you must write about.  We'll take time this semester to work on that kind of strategizing, as well.

Specific Grading Information

Folder Assignments, Essay Drafts, & Peer Reviews (20%)
Quizzes, Homework, & Friday Writings (10%)

Short writing assignments will marked as Honors (100%), Satisfactory (80%), Unsatisfactory (60%), or 0.

A score of "S" marks an assignment in which the work is mostly complete, on time, and correct, showing that the writer has given some thought to the assignment. "H" work will demonstrate more critical thinking:  question-asking, suggestion-making, gray-area-spotting, detail highlighting, complexity-wrestling, or other kinds of mental-stretching.

If you earn a mix of H's and S's, you'll likely be on track with "A"-level work for this part of your grade.  Zeros will have a significant lowering effect on your grade.  (Depending on the exact number of assignments, each one will be worth up to 2% of your final overall grade in this class.)

Late essay-related assignments will go down one mark each CLASS MEETING they are late

Folder Assignments, drafts, and peer reviews may be completed for credit after the due date.  However, an assignment that would have been marked "H" will be marked "S" if it is turned in by the class meeting after it was due.  If you miss a Workshop Day and wish to complete and/or receive a peer review, you are responsible for making arrangements with other students or the Writing Center, and for notifying me, to earn (partial) peer-review credit. 

Quizzes, Homework, and Friday Writings cannot usually be made up or turned in late

These assignments are time-sensitive, designed to help you Be Here Now for a particular class meeting.  If you can't make it to class, the assignment has much less value, to you or to me.  (Exceptions can be made for truly exceptional cases; see the late-work policy below.)

To accommodate the curve-balls that life tosses at all of us, your two lowest short-assignment marks (except Complete Early Drafts) will be dropped before the final grade is calculated.

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Complete Early Draft scores are advisory.

They carry a low grade-weight, and serve to alert you to general strengths or weaknesses.  They are meant to be relative indicators of the quality of work that has already been done as well as the revision work that lies ahead.  An "H" does not mean your essay right now will earn a "B" or an "A," nor is a "U" the sign that you're doomed to earn an "F."  Improvement is expected and possible in all cases:  indeed, "significant revision" is a key criterion for all final essay grades.

Complete Early Drafts will be marked as follows:

H  --  Drafts receiving this mark have a very clear focus; they have sufficient specific evidence to support their claims; they have intelligently analyzed the issue at hand, wrestling with complex issues; they flow smoothly and have coherent organization.  They have few or no major errors, and do not make the reader do additional work to guess at their meaning or progression.  They will nearly always still benefit from revision:  revisions will focus on further developing ideas, polishing organization or style, or fine-tuning the voice or interaction with readers.

S  --  Many early drafts will earn this mark.  They generally meet all the assignment requirements:  they demonstrate significant attention to focus, evidence, analysis, and organization.  They make the author's general intentions clear, but often they will need significant revisions in one or more fundamental areas of the essay assignment:  the author may not yet have settled on a single focus, may have misinterpreted the assigned reading or provided description rather than analysis, may have relied on too-little or too-general evidence throughout, and/or may not chosen a clear organizational path.  Essay drafts with persistent grammatical errors may also earn this score. 

U --  When an author's intentions are not yet clear or his/her arguments are currently too thin or disorganized to support the essay's purpose, a draft will earn a lower mark.  Such drafts are difficult to read, lacking focus or relying entirely on vague generalizations that require the reader to guess at meanings; they may have serious, distracting grammatical errors.  The author may have misunderstood the assignment, misread of one or more of the assigned texts, invested less time than necessary in the drafting process, and/or have misunderstood the expectations of a university-level academic audience.  A conference with the professor before revising is strongly recommended; substantial changes may be necessary for the final essay to earn a passing score.

Final Essay Scores will have letter-grade equivalents; you can divide points-earned by points-possible and use standard 90%-80%-70% breakdowns to see how you stand.  Generally,

A "C" level grade (70-79% of possible points) denotes average college-level writing and achievement.  The essay is a competent response to the assignment:  it meets, to some degree, all the assignment requirements, and demonstrates that the author has put significant time and effort into communicating his/her ideas to his/her targeted audience.  It has a thesis, presents some support, moves from point to point in an orderly fashion, and contributes to the classroom conversations on the topic. 

A "B" level grade (80-90%) highlights a strong example of college writing and thinking.  In addition to meeting the "C" level requirements, such an essay demonstrates some insight into the "gray areas" of the topic, provides original or very thorough support that is tightly woven into the overall argument, reads smoothly at both the sentence and paragraph levels, and/or exhibits a personal "voice" or style.  It has few if any errors.

An "A" level grade (90-100%) marks an essay that is a delight for the reader.  Even more than in a "B" essay, its author anticipates and responds to possible reader questions, uses a wide range of supporting evidence, engages the reader in a provocative conversation, provides unexpected insights, and/or uses language with care and facility.

"D" and "F" level essays do not meet the basic expectations of the assignment.  They should be revised after consulting with me.

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Optional Revision Policy: 

Essays #1 & #2 may be re-revised for a possible new grade. (Late-work penalties cannot be changed through revision). 

1.  Before completing an Optional Revision, you must schedule a Revision Conference with me.  You should come to this conference prepared to explain and ask questions about your revision plan.

2.  Optional Revisions must demonstrate substantial change to the focus, support, approach, or organization of the essay in addition to comprehensive error correction, or they will be returned with no grade change.  Substantial change may be thought of as change to at least 15-20% of the essay's text; the author must address widespread problems as well as providing small fixes.  Revised essays must, however, retain the original text's topic and approach; revision does not mean "write a new essay."

3.  Optional Revisions must be completed within two weeks of the essay's return to you.  This is true even if you were not in class when most essays were returned.

4.  Optional Revisions should be resubmitted in a folder with all earlier essay parts and a paragraph describing the key changes made and how they affect the overall essay.

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English 101  Be / Here / Now: Participation and Late-Work

Be: Writing isn't really about formulas, grammar, word-counts, or fonts.  It's about one human communicating with other humans.  To write, you have to be: you have to be yourself and think and speak for yourself, to be active and involved, to be listening to other people, to be different from but connected to the people and world around you.

Here: In a collaborative, workshop-based class, as with band practice, lab courses, or team sports, being here in body and mind is crucial.

This means being actively here, demonstrating awareness and involvement as well as the basic courtesies of formal social gatherings.  Students who are sleeping, reading the newspaper, carrying on private conversations, texting on cell phones, or working on assignments for other classes (etc.) are not really here, and will lose participation credit.   

Participation Grade:  Showing up prepared and participating in the basic events of each class meeting will earn you a Satisfactory grade (80%) for participation; to earn a higher grade, you need to find a way to contribute more actively: ask/answer questions, provide feedback, keep your writing group on track, help others be themselves and be here.  (Any serious breach of good conduct may cause the loss of all participation credit.)

Coming late:  Please plan to be here on time.  If you are frequently late, you may lose participation credit.  However, in an emergency I would rather have you come late than not at all; if you have a bad day but you can get here 20 minutes late, please try to come.

Daily assignments:  You need to be ready to be here: to have given some thought ahead of time to what being here means.  Daily assignments are part of being here.

Thus with rare exceptions (see below), daily assignments are not accepted after the start of class, and they cannot be emailed or handed in by a friend.  (Your lowest two short assignment marks will be dropped at the end of the term.)

Now:  Lateness is allowed for, but as in most places in our society, it will not be without consequences.  The quickest way to get frustrated by a writing class is to fall behind in it.

Late assignments are those arriving any time after class on the due date.  If you need to, you can email me a copy of an Essay or a Folder assignment before class to avoid the grade penalty, but you will still need to turn in a paper copy for grading.

Late Folder Assignments will lose 1 point each CLASS day that they are late.  These assignments are time-sensitive: completing them on time helps you move another step closer to your essay.

Late Essays will lose 5% of their points each CALENDAR day that they are late.

Lateness due to Rare, Uncontrollable Natural Disasters will not usually incur penalties; it is your responsibility to provide explanation/documentation of such occurrences.  (The flu is not rare, an extremely busy work week is not entirely beyond your control, and a lack of parking spots is not a natural disaster.  Alien abductions and blizzards of the century qualify as RUNDs; for other events, please contact me as soon as possible to discuss your situation.)

Computer Crises are neither Rare nor Natural, and most of them can be avoided or controlled with good advance preparation.  Assignments which are late due to electronic disasters will earn sympathy but will also earn the grade penalty.  Back up your files, print often while in process, and print final assignments before you get to the very last minute.

Three-Day-Pass Policy for Late Work

For any one Essay or Folder assignment you may be up to three calendar days late without penalty.  To qualify, you must state in writing at the top of the first page of any late assignment that you are using your Three-Day Pass; it cannot be taken back to be used for another assignment:  I won't automatically give late work a pass.  (If you use the three-day pass for a workshop draft or peer review, you will need to arrange for peer-review on your own in order to earn full credit.)


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Last updated August 2007.Email Shelley Reid