Shelley Reid


English 615
Composition Pedagogy

Course Assignments

Spring 2007  --  Thursday 4:30-7:10 
Professor E. Shelley Reid


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Policy Plus Assignments Plus Critical Reading Strategies
Community Participation E-posts Trading Cards
  Class Activity Bank Class Sponsor
TPA1: Guest Teach TPA2: Grading TPA3: Assignment
Syllabus Folder & Notes Syllabus Sketch Three-day Plan
Warm-up Essay Exploration Essay Exploration Revision
Portfolio Post Script Critical Learning Log


Notes about assignment "grades":  This is a workshop-based class with a strong portfolio component.   You will receive very few formal "grades" on your written assignments, though you will receive a profusion of evaluative and supportive comments from me and your peers. If at any point you are concerned about your letter-grade-standing for an assignment or overall, please come see me to discuss it.


Community Participation Exercises

About twice a week this semester, you'll need to share your thoughts, ideas, or resources formally with the rest of your peers in this class.  You could think of this as a sort of "public journal" assignment with two "entries" a week. 

Tell me why....(click here)

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To earn an "A": Complete a minimum of 20 CPEs, including 10 required CPEs; complete them thoughtfully and regularly throughout the semester (not in clumps here and there); complete at least 10 total CPEs before Week 8.

Ten CPEs are specifically required, to ensure that we build a community that is continuous as well as varied in its resources:  eight e-posts, one trading card, and one class-activity-bank post.  You may choose any combination of CPEs to complete the rest of your work.


E-posts:  Minimum 8 required

  • Post at least eight times—five by Week 8—to your Engfish listserv.
  • Write about 2-3 full paragraphs per post and "wrangle" a bit with some idea or question related to the week's questions or readings.
  • Include at least one direct quotation from the peer-post and/or reading to which you are responding.

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Trading Cards:  Minimum 1 required

Create a Writing Teacher Trading Card, based on one of the articles you've read.  These cards will be printed out and distributed to class members.  In addition to the author's name and article title, your trading card should include at least

  • one direct quotation
  • one interpretive summary sentence
  • one practical application note
  • and one question or connection. 

You may also include items (serious or lighthearted, true or fictional) such as graphics, nicknames, mottoes, vital statistics, hobbies, vanity license plates, Voted-Most-Likely-To…, etc.  Forms and models can be downloaded from WebCT; I'll provide the cardstock and help with the printing.

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Class-Activity Bank: Minimum 1 required

At least once during the semester you should contribute a brief description of an in-class activity for a writing class to the Class Activity Bank on WebCT.  You should also bring copies (three-hole-punched) of the activity description (or some element thereof) to class to distribute to everyone else.

Please also add a few sentences about why you chose to share this activity:  how does it fit with your own philosophy or style?  how do you see it contributing to students' own learning?  what made it stand out to you, or gave you the idea in the first place?

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Weekly (Co-)Sponsor: Optional

At some point during the semester, you may sponsor or co-sponsor a week of class, leading up to and including the class meeting.  As a week's sponsor, you should be looking for one or two ways you can help to build the classroom learning community that week. (We'll talk about options for sponsoring a class as the semester goes on; feel free to propose other ideas as they occur to you.) 

To complete your sponsorship, send me a short email paragraph describing (a sentence each) what you noticed, what you tried to do, how you thought it turned out, and what if anything the experience contributed to your own learning.

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Class and Workshop Participation

Particularly strong or particularly passive engagement in in-class activities will have the effect of raising or lowering your final Community Participation grade by up to 10%.


Teaching Practicum Assignments

The Teaching Practicum Assignments ask you to wade into the weekly work of a writing teacher:  designing a writing assignment prompt, grading student essays, and running part of a class session.  All three of the TPAs are required, and will be evaluated as check-plus, check, or check-minus.

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TPA 1: Guest Teaching Session

Once this semester, you'll be asked to teach 15-20 minutes of class in such a way as to allow/encourage class members to draw thoughtful connections about their current reading, writing, teaching, and other conversations. Please time your activity:  by the 20-minute mark, you should have a way of concluding the exercise. 

Post Game Analysis :  Within one week after the class session, you will turn in (paper or email) a 2-3 paragraph reflection addressing your initial goals for the activity, any connections you see to what we've been reading/discussing about principles for teaching, your analysis of how the activity actually went, what you learned, and an idea for how to translate this kind of activity to English 101.

Note 1:  You should prepare to teach your current peers in 615, not undergraduate students in a hypothetical (FYC) class.  Your teaching session should thus get to be real teaching, not a mock-up performance. 

Note 2:  Completion of the Guest Teaching session and the Post-Game analysis will automatically earn you a check-plus.

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TPA 2: Conscientious Grading

Submit via conference with Prof. Reid two composition papers, with your comments (and tentative letter-grades), from the set posted on WebCT.  Be sure to read the assignment prompt that engendered the papers, and be prepared, in each case, to discuss the principles behind your responses as well as your questions. 

Post-Game Analysis:  After the conference, email me 1-2 paragraphs:  What were your assumptions going into this assignment? How, if at all, did they change?  What 3 reminders do you want to give yourself about responding to students?  What questions are you still wrestling with?  Save a copy of this email.


TPA 3: Clearsighted Assignment

Draft an assignment prompt for a main essay for English 101 or a similar class.  Include the instructions as you would give them to the class, as well as a description of the specific criteria for evaluation (what constitutes an "A" or "C" essay?) and/or a grading rubric. 

Post-Game Analysis:  Add a paragraph or two reflecting on your goals for this assignment, any difficulties that you would expect college writers to encounter in working on this assignment, and how you might help those writers meet your goals.



Syllabus Folder

Building a syllabus that meshes principles with good practices, that matches your style and goals as a teacher with the requirements of the course and the university, requires you to synthesize a lot of information.  Experienced teachers often complete a syllabus without specifically noticing the various steps in the process or articulating their thinking about these actions.  In this class, we'll take the time to notice the process, and we'll go stepwise through it so that you can ask questions and try out ideas regarding each element.

Why all this? (click here)

Your Syllabus Folder will comprise three parts:  your preparation notes, your three-day plan, and your tentative syllabus frame.  Drafts, steps, and notes will be marked S or I; completed assignments will be marked √+, , or √-.


Syllabus Prep Notes

We'll work through some preliminary steps toward designing a syllabus, such as

  • Reviewing others' syllabi
  • Observing another writing class session, and discussing its syllabus with the teacher
  • Comparing composition textbooks
  • Identifying key learning goals for the course, and matching assignments to them

You'll write up some informal notes, plans, and questions in these areas to serve as guides for drafting the syllabus itself.  You'll receive feedback on your notes from your peers and from me. 




English 101 Syllabus Frame

Step 1: Sketch.  Draft a sketch of an English 101 course you could teach.  At this point, you should include at least 4 key kinds of information:  the textbook(s) you might use, an outline of the main essay assignments you would give (what kind of essay; how long), a breakdown of the grade-weights for the course, and a semester-long schedule noting the main essay dates (drafts due, workshops, finals due).

Reflective writing (1 paragraph):  What elements of this syllabus sketch connect to core principles you have about teaching?  What are some assumptions that you're making—about your students, about learning, about teaching—in sketching this plan?  What questions have come up as a result of doing this sketch?

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Step 2: Expanded draft.  To your sketch, add some of the standard "front material" as specified by the online composition handbook (contact info, description, policies); more fleshed-out statements of your essay descriptions or other assignments; clear explanations of your grading criteria; and a few more key items in your daily schedule (workshops, conferences, special events).

Reflective writing (2 paragraphs):  Practice hat-switching, and look for four ways people can connect with as well as resist or question your syllabus.  1. Where do you most strongly connect with it? question it?  2.  Where might a student most strongly connect with or question it?  3.  Where might a memorable teacher from your past feel most at home, or most surprised?  4.  Which composition theory/theorist is most in tune with (part of) this syllabus, and which one questions (or is questioned by) it?


Step 3: Portfolio draft.  Concentrate on articulating your main principles, getting a general rhythm down, and taking steps toward meeting key learning goals thoroughly—rather than on filling in every date/task. 

Reflective writing (Annotation + 2 paragraphs):  Using post-its, scribbles in the margin, or a different font, annotate your syllabus with 4-6 comments that "pull back the curtain":  which best practices or teaching principles are you enacting (or hoping to enact)?  For instance:  "I want this paragraph to help students see me as a Murray-like reader, not a red-pen slasher" or "I'm doing a researched essay second to help students see that all writing is research-based."  For your paragraphs, choose from any of the standard "Post Script" questions.


Three-Day Schedule

Submit a three-day course plan for an English 101 or similar course.  For each day, describe the activity/ies that you would have students engage in as they worked toward completing an essay, and note the approximate time given to each. 

Reflective writing:  Begin each day's plan with a brief statement:  what are your main learning goals for the day?  Conclude each day's plan with 1-2 sentences about possible pitfalls and/or back-up plans, and a few sentences connecting it to principles, goals, or procedures we've been discussing (grab your Trading Cards!).


Essay-length Writing Assignments

Warm-up Essay

      In an organized, thoughtfully-focused short essay (3-4 pages), explain to your peers (and articulate for yourself) whether you believe in principle that First Year Composition classes best serve students if they focus primarily on encouraging students to develop their independent voices, or if FYC best serves students when it focuses more strongly on helping the students master conventions and meet the expectations of American Academic Prose.  For now, please don't answer "both are important."

Note:  There is no right answer to this question, or at least no commonly agreed-upon one.  I continue to wrestle with it myself, changing my mind a little each time I teach.  Like me, you are a student, a writer, and a teacher, and you thus already have an answer to it—you have atheory that you can explore—whether you've thought about it in these particular terms before or not. 

Bring three copies for a peer workshop on Thursday 2/1.  You'll have the opportunity to reflect, review, and revise, before you complete a Post Script (see below) and turn everything in to me the following week.  This essay has no grade weight:  it will not affect your  course grade.

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Exploration Essay, Three Sketches:


Write about a page or so (300 words) describing each of the following three scenes (thus, around three pages total):

A memorable incident in your life as a student

A vivid memory from your life as a writer

An important encounter with (or as) a teacher

The memories can be positive or negative, or more mixed. Focus more on describing your experiences and responses at the key moment than on background or exposition.  This is informal writing: our goals emphasize discovery and insight, not (yet) craft. 

On a separate page, please list 5-8 questions about (your) writing, teaching, and/or learning that these scenes raise for you.

Bring one anonymous copy of everything to class Thursday 2/15 to share (but not to turn in).

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Exploration Essay, Initial Draft: 

      Choose one or two of your sketch-questions (or one[s] like them) about learning, teaching, and/or writing—one(s) that you do not know the answer to already, but that you have an answer to, or the start of an answer—and draft an essay-length response (4-8 pp.) to it/them.  Write "from home":  that is, this should be a (first-person) essay about what you want, believe, and wonder (and why).  Your own experiences should form a core of the essay, since they (will) form a core of your teaching; your own analyses should give the essay motion.

You may but do not need to include material from one or more of your sketches.

This assignment is not designed to elicit a "teaching philosophy statement," polished and complete, though it asks for the kind of exploration that may lead you to articulate some of your basic principles.  You may consider this draft of the EE a personal/creative essay, allowing for experimentation and innovation in voice, format, and diction/style, and allowing for the possibility that you do not have a single, clear answer. 

Bring 2 copies for the workshop 3/1; email me a copy as preparation for your conference.  Set up a writing conference before break; then revise (& complete a Post Script) to turn in after break, 3/22.

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Exploration Essay, Revision/Expansion: 


      Revise and expand your early draft in order to integrate regular, thoughtful, specific references to a range of the articles, experiences, and theories you've encountered during this class (and your ongoing teaching, noticing, or observing).  Your revised essay may thus begin to resemble more closely a "typical" graduate-level research essay, but need not obliterate the personal voice or experience that lies at its foundations. 

      The expanded draft should be about 7-10 pages long.  You should directly quote from at least 4-6 outside sources either in support of or as contradictions to your own ideas; take the time to "sit" with each outside reference for at least a sentence or two of professional conversation, rather than just name-dropping.  At least one source must be one you find (new) outside of our class materials.


Prepare a draft—according to your writing group's preferences (discussed in class)—for the workshop on 4/12.  You will turn in a draft to me (with a Post Script) and set up a conference.

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Teaching/Writing Portfolio

Your final class portfolio should include the following, arranged in an order that makes sense to you and helps your work cohere into a single story.  Most pieces should be introduced and/or annotated (short paragraphs, section introductions, post-it notes) to show how they contribute to your ongoing development as a writer/writing-teacher:

All major workshop and final drafts of your Warm-up and Exploration essays, with original Post Scripts—and a new Post Script for your new Exploration revision

All elements of your Syllabus Folder: notes, drafts and final versions, including reflective writing

At least one set of notes or write-up from a class observation, this semester or last (why this one?)

Two (other) CPE assignments or posts (why choose these?)

A short, reflective Introductory and/or Concluding essay that ties the portfolio together—something more than just a list of what's in there (2-4 pages; we'll talk more about this in April)

You may also include copies of other e-posts, class handouts, or other teaching-related materials selected for their connection to and/or support of other required materials.

Also, I'd be delighted if you'd include a selection of writing you've done recently outside this class—not to be graded, of course, but to round out your picture of yourself as a writer/teacher, and to show-off a little of what you can do when you're more "in your element."  (Why this one?)

Note: In this portfolio, risk-taking will be noted and considered positively.

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Post Script

Complete a 300-400 word post script for any essay draft you're submitting for my review, including portfolio drafts.  Please respond to Question 1 and Question 6 at least briefly; otherwise, you may respond to any or all of the questions below, and/or explain something else important about your thinking/writing process. 

Tell me why....(click here)

1.  What (if anything) was most dis-orienting and/or difficult about writing this essay?  how did you cope?  what might come, for better or worse, from having experienced this challenge?

2.  What (if anything) was easiest about writing it?  why?  is this usually easy for you?

3.  What do you think is the strongest part of this essay? where do you come closest to affecting your reader the way you'd like to? what did you do to make this part work?

4.  What changes have you already made in the essay from its earlier draft(s)?  what (if anything) did you learn as you were writing/revising? which(if any) of the peer or teacher comments did you find useful as you revised?

5.  Where, if at all, are you still having difficulties?  What other changes or additions might you make if you had an extra week of peace and quiet to work in?  What (if anything) might you do differently on your next essay?

6.  What, if anything, did you learn from writing this essay that will be useful in teaching other people to write academic essays?  What about the assignment or process would you do differently if you were assigning a similar essay to undergraduates?



Critical Learning Reflection Questions

Adapted from Stephen Brookfield, Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher

A1: What did you learn this week, from any source, about writing or teaching?

A2: At what moment in class this week (or during class-related activities) did you feel most engaged with what was happening?

A3: What action that anyone (teacher or student) took this week in class (or in class-related activities) did you find most affirming and helpful?

B1: What did you most struggle with or puzzle over this week about writing or teaching?

B2: At what moment in class this week (or during class-related activities) did you feel most distanced from what was happening?

B3: What action that anyone (teacher or student) took in class (or in class-related activities) this week did you find most puzzling or confusing?

C1:What about the class or your learning this week surprised you the most? Why?


Critical Learning Log: Optional, Anonymous:  Please take about 15 minutes to respond to the questions below about the past few weeks of English 615.  If you wish, you may refer to or include material from your earlier notes on your learning in class.  You should type your answers; don't put your name on the page.  After reading the responses, I will share the overall sense of them with the group; I may share individual comments with the group as well, with permission (see below).  I appreciate your taking the time to do this—what you write will help me make the class more responsive to your concerns.

Please describe

  • one or more positive learning moments related to this class recently
  • one or more learning struggles, puzzles, or frustrations related to this class recently

Please comment briefly on one or more of the above moments: you might want to

  • make a suggestion, to me or to your (future) self
  • question an assumption that is linked to the learning moment, one held by me, by you, or by others

Please type the following statement at the bottom, indicating your preference:

  • I DO // DO NOT give permission for these exact responses to be shared (anonymously) with current members of English 615.






Last updated January 2007.Email Shelley Reid