English 14: Writing

Shelley Reid, Austin College

Course Description About Portfolios  

Link directly to English 14 Essay Assignments

Course Description, Fall 1997


This is a course in improving your abilities to read, analyze, plan, draft, and rewrite a variety of American Academic Essays.


1. Everybody can write, and we can all learn to write better than we already do--college chemistry majors, English teachers, and professional authors alike. Writing is much more a skill than a talent, and so can be taught, learned, and, most importantly, practiced. Writing does not operate on a fixed path from "non-writer" to "great writer." There are simply stages of better and better writing.

2. Writers revise, because good piece of writing does not happen out of the blue, nor is there such a thing as a piece of writing that is perfect and cannot be revised. This class will focus on helping you understand and refine your writing process(es) so that you can continue to improve your writing both within and beyond the boundaries of this classroom.

3. The American Academic Essay is not the be-all and end-all of written communication in English. But the AAE is a kind of "common tongue" that allows educated Americans to communicate with each other with a minimum of misunderstandings. It also requires you to think critically and logically, which is why so many college teachers use it to measure student progress. This class should provide you with an understanding of the nuts-and-bolts of U.S. academic prose--and an understanding of when and how best to use it.

4. Writers always write for an audience, and frequently write in collaboration with one or more friends, colleagues, teachers, editors, supervisors, or fellow group members. There is also an increasing need in the "real world" for employees who have the ability to work collaboratively. So this class will ask you to do a fair amount of your thinking, drafting, and revising in the company of the best audience/collaborators you'll ever find: your classroom peers.

5. Early drafts receive no final judgments. Would you buy a half-finished painting? Celebrate a victory in the third quarter? Ask for a serving before the cook has added the final two ingredients? Probably not. So while you will receive extensive comments on your class essays describing their strengths and weaknesses, early essays will not be letter-graded. Instead, you will submit a final portfolio of your work--featuring your best writing--which will be graded at the end of the semester to form the core of your final grade. I will of course always be willing and happy to talk with you concerning your progress relative to your initial efforts and potential abilities in this class. (See Portfolios below for more information.)

Texts: Purpose and Process (Stephen Reid) and A Writer's Reference (Diana Hacker); Course Packet (photocopied assignments and supplements) from the book store.

Etc. You should be writing on or near the texts as part of reading actively; if you plan to re-sell the book at the end of the semester you need to invest now in pencils & erasers, post-it stickers, or small notepaper that can fit inside the book. You should also purchase two or three sturdy pocket folders to use for handing in your essays and keeping track of your collaborative assignments and portfolio revisions.

The Computer Classroom

As part of AC's commitment to helping students learn to use and benefit from computer technology, this section of English 14 will take advantage of the computer classroom in Abell Library for several of its assignments. Special software will enhance the collaborative writing exercises and assist your efforts in drafting and revision. No prior computer experience is necessary, though your patience with this new technology will be appreciated.

Basic Weights & Measures

Essays: You will draft and revise five essays this semester, all of which will be thoroughly evaluated and commented on but not initially given letter grades. One of these essays will be a collaborative effort with your problem-solving team. You must further revise two essays to be included as Final Revisions in your Essay Portfolio.

The Essay Portfolio, including your collaborative fifth essay, will be handed in at the end of the semester and letter-graded for approximately 65% of your final grade.

Drafts and revisions turned in after the beginning of class on the day they're due may be subject to penalty (see Space-Time Continuum handout).

Essay Exam: While there is no mid-term exam or final exam for this class, learning how to write effectively under the pressure of time is a valuable experience, so there will be one in-class essay examination. Your in-class essay will be holistically scored and included as part of your Portfolio grade.

Response to Reading: Good readers make good writers, so responding to reading will be part of your final grade. In-class written responses to assigned texts will demonstrate your readerly analysis, and will be supplemented by some take-home response assignments. These assignments will be scored and counted as approximately 20% of your final grade.

Class participation: Your interaction with other members of the classroom community--including your role in class discussions, your written and oral responses to other students' essays in draft workshops, your involvement in the collaborative essay assignment, and your overall attendance (see Space-Time Continuum sheet)--will count for approximately 15% of your final grade.

There is no final exam for this class.

if you need special assistance or assignment modifications to complete the requirements for this class, they will be provided upon request.

About Portfolios

Drafts & Draft Workshops: Five times this semester you will be required to bring a draft of an essay to class for review by one or more of your classroom peers. Each draft essay should be a complete essay, already organized, supported, and polished to the best of your current abilities. Your draft essay should be typed or computer printed (or in an emergency very legibly handwritten) and should come close to the designated length: for this class, "one page" equals approximately 250 words. Drafts or folders that are incomplete or missing at the time of the workshop will have a negative effect on your final grade.

As a participant in a draft workshop, you will read and comment on essays by other students in the class, while other students provide you with reactions to and suggestions for revising your essay. Missing a draft workshop deprives you and your peers of valuable practice and advice; unexcused absences--and any absence not arranged in advance--on workshop days will seriously affect your learning experience and will lower your grade.

Revisions, round 1: One week after each draft workshop (except the final one), you will turn in a revised copy of your essay to me. You should hand in your essay in a folder accompanied by a collection of other papers:

* * * * * * * * * * Important Note * * * * * * * * * *

While you will receive extensive comments on your revisions, you will receive no letter grades at this point in the process. Please feel free to talk with me concerning your progress in the class.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

After receiving a first round revision with my comments, you are welcome to talk about it with me and/or to make another round of revisions and resubmit it for further comments (still no letter grade) at any time before you turn in your final portfolio.

Final Revisions: You will be required to resubmit Final Revisions of two of your first four essays for inclusion in your portfolio.

Portfolio Grading: At the end of the semester, you will submit a final portfolio of your writing, which will contain the following:

Your fifth essay's Final Revision will be submitted separately by your peer group.

You will receive a final letter grade on your portfolio based on (1) your (on-time) completion of all workshops and assignments, (2) the effort and achievements of your revisions, (3) your overall improvement through the semester, (4) and the quality of your three Final Revisions. This will be a holistic grade: you must demonstrate your accomplishments in all four areas to earn a strong grade. (See Portfolio Grading Sheet.)


This page last modified 8/97 (minor updates 1/2006)