Shelley Reid .


English 3203:
Advanced Composition & Rhetoric

Oklaholma State University, Spring 2004

Required for English Education students

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Essay Format Guidelines: 

All formal assignments are to be typed, double-spaced, and stapled, with standard (1 or 1.25") margins, using a standard font (Times, New York, etc., 12- or 14-point), unless otherwise specified.  Where required, APA or MLA formats for in-text citation and works cited pages are equally acceptable.  No separate cover page or title page is necessary. 

For this class, one page is defined as 250-300 words, regardless of font/margins.

Three Short Essays (not individually graded):

"Writer" Essay:  Draft a 3-5 page essay that uses specific, vivid examples to respond to one of the following questions (or a similar question that you create):

Why do I write?  What do I like (not like) about writing?

What do I (don't I) write, and why?  What do I (don't I) want to write?

How do I write?  How did I learn to read/write?

         The "Writer" essay is designed as an expository essay with a focus on discovery:  in explaining something you are familiar with, in writing, to an audience of peers who cannot read your mind, you have the opportunity to learn more about the subject yourself, to clarify your thinking. 

         A conceptual challenge of this essay is selecting sharp, "one-time-only" appealing details and organizing them into a cohesive whole that addresses, without necessarily answering exhaustively, the starting question. 

         A stylistic challenge of this essay is to present these organized points in a natural, appealing, intelligent personal voice.  You also have the option of challenging yourself to experiment with a non-traditional or non-academic prose presentation, as do some of the authors whose essays we're reading.

"Place/ment" Essay:  Draft a 3-5 page essay that makes an argument about a place, a kind of place, your "place" in a larger context (or the place of someone you know well), the way a place or a person's-place can change, or a related topic. 

         This is designed as a persuasive essay.  You should draw primarily on personal experience or knowledge, but you need to go beyond description/exposition ("what is the place like," or "what is it like to be in this place") to make and support a claim or judgment about place/ment that will persuade an educated audience to see something exactly the way you think it should be seen.  What do you want us to believe or feel about this place/ment?

         A conceptual challenge of this essay will be blending personal experience with the kind of academic reasoning and formal, logical development of ideas that your educated audience will expect.  A stylistic challenge of this essay may be developing a voice that is convincing but not bombastic, or using language that is intelligent but not wordy, overly abstract, or obtuse.  You also have the option of incorporating some information from an outside source (something we've read, a text you find helpful, excerpts from an interview with a peer or grandparent), as long as it doesn't overwhelm your own experience-as-evidence.

"Anything" Essay:  Draft a 3-5 page essay (or the equivalent to a 3-5 page essay) that says something you want to say, investigates something you're curious about, reflects on something that has been dodging around in your brain, makes a point about something you know more about than the average dude on the street, notes a detail or two that most of the rest of the world has missed, shows why you strongly like or dislike something, reflects on a person or event important to you, analyzes a text or situation, or in some other way begins to make up for all the times you had to write an essay about some inane topic that someone else told you to write about.

         The "Anything" essay is designed to recreate a more "natural" writing situation:  you have something to say, a need to say it, someone to say it to, and/or an approach or format you want to try out -- internal motivations rather than an external assignment.  It will allow you to practice writing well, writing from home, and writing for change, with a willingness to try something in form or content.

         A conceptual challenge of this essay is getting over the shock of complete writerly freedom and focusing in on something worth saying to someone.  A stylistic challenge is trying to remember what your own voice sounds like if you don't have to squish it into a Five Paragraph Essay with three citations and a double-twisting-somersault dismountyet without sliding into sloppiness, laziness, or incomprehensibility.


1.  All three of these essays should be considered "beginning places," not The Final Word.

2.  All three assignment descriptions are starting points, not limitations:  if you would like to try something not exactly listed here, please see me.

3.  Because this class focuses on writing for an audience, you should aim to write essays that you can share with peers, even if they're not familiar to you.  However, if you discover that you have written an essay that is so personal that you do not wish to share with your peers, or that you wish to share only with a few hand-chosen peers, please contact me before the draft workshop so that we can discuss alternative arrangements. 


Process Assignments for All Three Short Essays

To be completed in time for and submitted with your Initial Review Folder for each essay.

Process journal:  At least 2 "pages" (page=250 words); at least 3 separate entries; may be handwritten or typed; please note down the day/time for each. 

At (minimum) three points during the writing process, spend 10-20 minutes writing about your writing.  You may take this opportunity to reread and rethink what you have already written, to vent frustration about the difficulty of writing, to pose questions or generate possible scenarios about your essay, to respond to peer comments, to note down what you would really like to be writing instead of this essay, to analyze the success (or lack thereof) of your current writing strategies, to make plans for writing the next page or next essay, etc.  This is informal writing:  I will scan it but not read closely. 

Note:  This is not "pre-writing," in the sense of "drafting a paragraph that will eventually end up in my essay" (though you can certainly do that for your own assistance).  Instead, it is "in medias res-writing" and "meta-writing":  writing about how and why you are writing, getting stuck, changing your mind, encountering or solving problems, trying something, learning something, etc. 

         This assignment has two purposes:  to help you learn to articulate what works and what doesn't work for you as a writer, so that in the future you don't just have to wait around for the Muse to show up; and to help me help you as a writer.

Peer review:  Your comments on your peers' essay drafts are crucial parts of their drafting process and of your own development as a writer.  Your comments should note exact moments in the essay and explaining your own reasons for responding.  You need to provide a balance of specific praise and specific suggestions for improvement, regardless of how high-quality you perceive the draft to be.

Introductory letter: "Dear Dr. Reid…"  After you have completed each draft that you will turn in to me, write me a letter introducing your essay:  at least two good, "lush" paragraphs, handwritten or typed.  You may discuss some or all of the following: 

what you wanted to accomplish in this essay (audience & purpose)

what was hardest or easiest about writing the essay

what parts of the essay seem to be working well (or not) & why

what experiments you did or risks you took in writing; what "rules" you broke

what questions you have about the overall essay or specific parts of it

what you have changed (so far) as you've revised

what if anything you learned as you wrote & revised the essay

what you'd like to do similarly or differently in another essay

what you wanted to include or do in this essay but didn't

Try to dig deep rather than cranking out an ordinary one-sentence answer to each of the above questions.  My comments on your essay will be primarily a response to your letter; the more specific your explanations or questions are, the more direct (and hopefully helpful) my comments will be.


Initial Review Folder:  Three Options

After each peer response workshop, you may choose whether to make revisions to your essay before submitting it to me for Initial Review.  As part of "trying something" as a writer, you will be asked to try out three different formats of review:  conference, reader-response, and formal evaluation.  You may choose which format to match with which essay.

Initial Review Folder Options:  Choose a different one for each early essay

You may set up a 20-minute conference with me:  submit your essay draft(s) with peer comments, initial Introductory Letter, and Process Journal at least several hours in advance of the scheduled conference, and come prepared to ask questions.  This may be a good choice for an essay you're confused about, or one that has posed a particular challenge for you as a writer, or one close to your heart.

You may submit your essay draft(s), peer comments, Process Journals, and Intro Letter for a reader-response from me:  my response will be "readerly" rather than "teacherly," focusing on the questions you pose in your Intro Letter.  This may be a good choice for an essay where you are "trying something" new, aiming to strongly affect your audience, or focusing on ideas over form.

You may submit your essay drafts, peer comments, Process Journals, and Intro Letter for a formal evaluation from me:  I will respond based on criteria for formal academic writing as well as commenting on your ideas, and will give your essay a score (not a grade) to designate your progress.  This may be a good choice for an essay you have confidently polished, or for finding out what my "standards" are.



Midterm Portfolio:  20% or 40 points

For reasons we will discuss in class, I will not give letter grades to your Three Short Essays individually.  Instead, I will give a holistic -- everything considered -- grade to your early work as submitted in your Midterm Portfolio.  The "quality" of your essays-in-progress -- whether they are "A" essays or "B–" essays -- will be only one part of your portfolio grade.  More important is your demonstration that you're working steadily and thoughtfully as a writer, thinker, and reviser.

Your Midterm Portfolio should contain:

An early draft and at least one revision of each of the Three Short Essays

The Process Analysis comments relevant to each essay

Any written comments you have received from peers or from me on each essay

The Introductory Letter for each essay (update it if you're revising since the Initial Review)

A Portfolio Reflection:  a 250-500 word informal essay introducing your portfolio as a whole, explaining what the pieces are and how they fit together, explaining how the writing therein meets the requirements (see below) and reflecting on your perceptions of the writing you have done so far

Your Midterm Portfolio will be evaluated based on the following qualities:

Completion:  all drafts, reviews, analyses, and letters

Demonstration that you have "stretched" as a writer: taking risks, trying something, adding new approaches or topics to your repertoire

Evidence that you are developing revision skills that go beyond sentence-level tinkering

The quality of your essays at reaching your audience(s) and purpose(s) and meeting the expectations of general academic readers

There is no exact formula for how these elements will figure into your Midterm Portfolio grade.  You should note, however, that what you have attempted, and your flexibility and awareness in doing so, is as important at this point in the semester as what you have achieved, and the grade will reflect that. 

On-time bonus:  If you have met all the deadlines for the Three Short Essay drafts (full-length drafts in time for peer review workshops) and initial reviews, you will earn a four-point -- 2% -- bonus on this portfolio, because writers who can keep calmly moving forward and meeting deadlines during a chaotic, pressure-filled semester are developing useful habits of mind.

"Writing for Change" Essay

The most powerful and useful kind of writing, and the most common kind of writing outside university classrooms, is writing that addresses a real problem close to the author's heart and aims to persuade real human readers to change their minds, their affiliations, and/or their actions.  People who write grant applications, letters to state legislators, new curricula proposals to school boards, bylaws for neighborhood groups, informational notes for relatives who need to make key decisions, stories for a local newspaper about the effects of new businesses moving into town, essays for magazines on community development or for collections about women's roles, or even New Year's Resolutions, are all writing for change. 

The topic specs:  Choose a topic that has special interest to you, to people in your intended profession, to people in your hometown or family, or to friends in your community or an organization you belong to here in Stillwater.  Find a problem that needs solving, a pending decision that would be better for being better-informed, or a change you think should be made on behalf of a person or group of people. 

Stay local with the angle you take and the recommendations you make, even if the general information you're interested in has national or global connections.  Choose a specific audience who can help make this change happen as your target audience, and choose a specific way to "deliver" your ideas to them.  Vague topics ("make the world a better place") or vague audiences ("all adolescents/ Buddhists/teachers/dog-lovers") will make achieving success with this kind of writing very difficult. 

Generalized topics for generalized audiences -- particularly topics about which people hold very unshakable opinions, such as the death penalty, abortion, gun control, environmental protection, violence, freedom of speech, whether Martians have rights, etc. -- are not appropriate for this essay unless you can conclusively demonstrate that you have a local angle and a personal conviction and a very local audience that could indeed be changed by reading what you write.

You will have time to investigate the complications, options, and sources of resistance to change, and to conduct research (in or out of the library) to find ways to address those ideas.  You may need to alter the scope or focus of your project as you develop your essay, but you should try to stay close to your target audience, so that you find ways to meet his/her/their needs with the information you discover.

The basic essay specs:  Draft a mid-length essay (7-10 "pages") that argues for specific change(s) to a local or familiar situation, person, organization, procedure, attitude, or statute.  Support your recommendations with research as necessary to inform and persuade your target audience:  "research" may involve a range of reliable, relevant, recent information from printed material, websites, interviews, and/or surveys. 

It's likely that you'll need at least 4-6 solid sources of information; you will probably wish to investigate more than 6 sources, particularly since you'll need to address opposition concerns and feasibility issues.  Your final essay will need to have a correctly formatted works cited list (your choice of citation styles) and the final folder will need to include photocopies or other printed records of all cited sources. 

Note 1:  Your "essay" format might also, in whole or in part, vary from a standard academic essay:  it may have components which are visual or personalized; it may have components that take the form of flyers, web-pages, curriculum plans, stump speeches, tables, PowerPoint presentations, appendices, letters, posters, newspaper editorials or handbooks -- whatever it takes to provoke change.

Note 2:  Your essay will be expected to follow conventions for quoting, paraphrasing, and citing outside sources as outlined in Hacker's sections on Research and on MLA or APA Documentation.  What you learned about research-source protocols in high school or in a literature class may be insufficient or even incorrect by current professional standards; to avoid earning a serious grade penalty for mis-citation of sources, be sure to read Hacker carefully and ask questions about anything you do not understand.

If you wish to work collaboratively with another class member on this essay, set up a conference with me so that we can modify the requirements to encourage equal participation and equivalent workloads.

Note:  Draft workshops, Writer's Workouts, and other small assignments are designed to encourage you to start early and work in small bits.  Previous write-for-change authors nearly always wish they had done more, earlier.  Though there is no exact penalty for missing a deadline, there is a bonus for keeping up (see next page) -- and in your exhausted haze at the end of April, you'll thank yourself!

Final Portfolio: 35% or 70 points

Your final class portfolio should include the following, most of which should be newly introduced and/or annotated to show how they contribute to your ongoing development as a writer (and/or writing teacher):

All "Midterm" drafts of your three Short Essays, with their introductory letters & any score/comment sheets

A new revision/expansion of two short pieces of writing -- two Short Essays, or one Essay and one WW assignment revised into a complete essay -- going beyond any revisions completed for the Midterm Portfolio

A new, full introductory letter for each new revision/expansion; brief introductions to sections of your portfolio to explain why you've selected these pieces or organized them in this particular way (4-7 sentences each??)

Drafts and final version of your Change essay, with an introductory letter, your proposal, a correctly formatted Works Cited list, and copies of outside sources (Note: portfolios without a formal Works Cited page and/or copies of sources may earn a significant grade penalty; essays that give insufficient citation of published work may be judged to be plagiarizing, which can result in serious penalties.)

At least 5-7 other pieces of writing you did -- Writing Workouts, Warm-ups, electronic posts, Process Assignments -- that seem relevant to your writerly story

A 3-5 page reflective Introductory or Concluding essay that ties the portfolio together, explains how the pieces therein best represent your efforts and achievements as a writer, and reflects on your status/progress/plans as a readerly writer.  This is your "final exam" for this class -- a place to show what you know about writing and being a writer.

Note:  You should give some consideration to the organization of this portfolio, so that it "goes to show" something about you as a writer or supports a larger narrative about your writing or you as a writer.

Evaluation:  Portfolios will be graded on completeness; demonstration of writing quality; thoughtfulness of revision; demonstration of growth, risk-taking, and/or "stretch marks"; evidence of having achieved an awareness of writing processes, rhetorical contexts, and yourself as a writer/teacher; and the cohesiveness of the writerly vision or development narrative presented in the final version.

On-time bonus:  If you have met all the deadlines for the Change Essay and Revisions -- all required-length drafts for and participation in peer workshops -- and the portfolio comes in on time, you will earn a four-point (2%) bonus on this portfolio.

Final Portfolios are due by Monday, May 3, 4:00 pm. 

Late portfolios will earn a 5% penalty per calendar day late.

Short Assignments

Writer's Workout Assignments:  25% or 50 pts.  About two pages each; typed.  Keep all WW assignments to turn in at the end; if you revise, turn in both early and revised versions.

These assignments are designed to help you build up your "muscles" and polish your techniques as a writerly reader and readerly writer.  Individual assignments have designated "due dates" listed on the syllabus to encourage you to complete the assignment when it will be most helpful to you as a writer in this class.  Assignments turned in after the due date will be "counted" but will not count as "on-time"; you should plan to complete all assignments on time, but there is some leeway for hectic writing schedules.

Assignments will be "graded" as either "check" for all completed assignments, or "check-plus" for assignments that have a strong "mental grappling" component: evidence that you've paid attention to details, raised and wrangled with important questions, explored some of the "gray areas" of an issue or text.  If two options are offered, you may complete one or both of them; any assignment may be revised if you wish to move from check to check-plus.

To earn an "A–" (45/50 points):

Complete at least 8 WW's (incl. 4 req. asgts), and

Turn in at least 7 assignments on-time, and

Earn at least 6 check-pluses

To earn a "B–" (40/50 points):

Complete at least 7 WW's (incl. 4 req. asgts), and

Turn in at least 6 assignments on-time, and

Earn at least 5 check-pluses

To earn a "C–" (35/50 points):

Complete at least 6 WW's (incl. 4 req. asgts), and

Turn in at least 5 assignments on-time, and

Earn at least 4 check-pluses

To earn a "D–" (30/50 points):

Complete the 4 required WWs, and

Earn at least 3 check-pluses

Failure to complete at least a "D–" level of work may result in a loss of all points:  0/50

WW1 (Required): Writer's analysis.  Respond to one of the assigned essays from a writer's point of view -- from your point of view as a writer.  Think about the essay you've read: what choices, risks, innovations, missteps, home-findings, or puzzles do you think the author was involved in?  What do you see that you wish you'd written?  What would you not have done?  What might you try, now that you've seen someone else do it?  Think about style as well as substance.  Go narrow and deep rather than providing a general response; focus on specific examples and direct quotations from the text.  Be honest rather than correct, but don't just accept your first response without questioning it.  Try something, if you wish: a letter, an imitation, a stream-of-consciousness, a dialogue -- but don't let form lead you away from serious "grappling."

WW2 (Required):  Rhetorical analysis.  Establish, using short quotations from one of the assigned essays, what you think the author's audience, purpose, and context is for this piece of writing.  Explain the evidence trail:  what sentences or words lead you to these conclusions, and how?  Then judge: Where is the author most or least successful in his/her rhetoric?  why?  (Pay some attention, if you have time/space, to the author's smaller choices:  style, diction, organization, syntax.)  Conclude: what can you as a writer learn from reading this essay rhetorically?  Attach an annotated photocopy of the text.

WW3: Feasibility analysis. Choose one of the assigned readings that argues for a change -- in attitude, in thinking, in action, in pedagogy.  Begin by playing what Peter Elbow calls "the believing game" with part or all of the author's argument:  stand in the author's shoes, explain how she or he is writing from home, and analyze the strengths and possibilities of the arguments she or he presents.  Then play "the doubting game":  what challenges or difficulties stand in the way of this change?  Finally, brainstorm:  why might the author have written this essay even considering all the opposition? what might you as a writer learn from this effort?

WW4 (Required)Change Essay Proposal

Draft a 2-3 page proposal for your "Change" essay.  Your audience for a proposal is usually the person or persons who have the power to approve or deny your proposed project:  in this case, me (Dr. Reid).  You must convince me that there is a problem that needs investigating and solving, that there is a benefit to finding a solution, and that you have the basic knowledge and ability necessary to complete this project.  Thus you should already have begun to consider, and perhaps conduct research about, your arguments.

The specifications listed here are required, exactly as noted, for this assignment.  (Formal proposals often have pages and pages of guidelines!)  Proposals that fail to follow the format or to address the main sections/issues below will be returned to you for required revisions.


• computer printed, double spaced, 1" margins, 12- or 14-point font

• leave the first page unnumbered (number all subsequent pages, starting with "2," at the top)

• write in five sections, each about 1-2 paragraphs with an appropriate heading (see headers below)

• keep the writing style/voice formal and concise; keep quotations, stories, and explanations to a minimum length but maximum effectiveness

• add extra "white space" before each header to clearly separate sections

Main Header   

• centered near the top of the first page (no separate title page; no quotation marks); pay attention to line-breaks in the title so as not to strand words or break up phrases

• first line(s):  concise and descriptive title, including the phrase "Proposal to Investigate..." (use sensible line-breaks to group words into idea-phrases)

• next line:  "Submitted to Dr. Reid"

• next line:  "Submitted by [Your Name]" (put this only on one copy)

• next line:  "[Date]"


• describe the problematic situation to be addressed

• briefly convince audience that there is indeed a serious problem

• explain why it needs to be addressed (now)

• briefly describe your plan:  who should do what?

• explain the benefit of your investigation for the person/organization


• describe your intended research and writing process for this essay in a careful series of steps that answer the questions raised in your intro

• refer to the comprehensiveness and/or reliability of sources already located, and/or to any information you intend to locate, for writing this essay


• in table form, give an approximate time schedule for this essay project (at least 5 steps; at least one step that doesn't just repeat the syllabus asgts.)

• organize according to steps in your methods/introduction

• leave adequate time for planning and revising your essay


• readers must understand the limits of your investigation: what won't you address? why?

• what problems will remain unsolved even after your research & recommendations?

• what might need to be done in future investigations?


• re-emphasize the importance of your project and its benefits

• indicate your awareness of feasibility issues and concerns -- time, money, personnel that your audience might need (give examples) -- and note your intention to present reasonable, workable recommendations

• indicate your openness to questions or suggestions

Bring five copies of this proposal to class:  four without your name, one with your name on it.

Note:  Once you have had your proposal approved, you cannot significantly change the scope or topic of your Change Essay without writing a new proposal. 

WW5:  Contacting the outside world

Option A:  Interview or survey a knowledgeable source.  Set up an interview with someone who is likely either to know more about your topic than you do or to be directly affected by or involved in the change you recommend.  Be sure to prepare questions in advance.  OR Construct a short survey that uses both closed questions and open-ended questions; survey at least 25 people who could be affected by your recommendations.  In the WW, summarize the main points of the interview or the main results of the survey.  Then provide some analysis of what the process of interviewing/surveying was like, whether you received useful input or information (and why you think this happened), whether there were any surprises, and what you learned from the experience.  Attach a copy of your initial list of questions.

Option B:  Speak truth to power.  Write a formal business letter (check Hacker for the format, so you look "serious"!) to a real-life specific individual who would have the power to help you institute your recommended change, or compose a Letter to the Editor of a periodical read by people who would be affected by or could support your proposal.  In direct but engaging language, explain what the problem is, what you recommend, and what the reader could do to help you.  Be sure to sign your letter!  Submit two copies of your letter, and one stamped envelope addressed to the person/periodical so that I can mail the letter.  (Two-point WW bonus if your letter receives a reply or is published!)

WW6:  Considering alternatives

Option A:  Consulting the opposition.  Find and then summarize information from one or two informed, reliable sources that clearly explains why someone would be opposed to or resistant to the change you are proposing.  Thoughtfully explain the strength and reasonability of their argument(s): why might they feel this way?  Conclude by analyzing what kind of information or approaches you will need in order to gain the respect -- if not the agreement -- of such an opposed or resistant audience.

Option B:  Investigating feasibility.  Expand on the feasibility-analysis that you started in your Proposal.  Think as broadly and imaginatively as possible about the human, financial, and temporal resources that might be necessary to implement your plan.  If you don't know the exact requirements, speculate about kinds of research or sources that could help you find out.  Conclude by analyzing your strategy in the face of these challenges: can you modify your program, or provide persuasive evidence that makes the expenditures or efforts seem worthwhile?  how so?  Will you need to recommend smaller changes, or suggest a slower process of change?


WW7 (Required):  Warm-up Writing Assignment Design.  Design a short warm-up writing assignment for the class to complete in 5-10 minutes.  This should be different from any of the other warm-ups we have done (people who go early may have an advantage).  The assignment should ask/help your peers to "try something" with their writing that they might otherwise not think of doing, or not get to do in an average school day.  (You may focus on structure, voice, style, form, ideas, rhythm, imagery, etc.; you can ask them to work with assignments or revisions they're currently involved in; you don't necessarily need to stay with "college level" writing.) 

         On the written version of this assignment that you'll turn in, you will provide an explanation of the goal(s) you had in giving this assignment:  why did you choose it?  how is it connected to issues we have read about or discussed concerning writing or writing-teaching?  You should also speculate about the results: what kinds of responses do you expect? what risks are being taken, by you and/or by the writers?  how might the assignment help the writers? 

WW8Reflecting on a range of short assignments

Option A emphasizing your teaching:  Collect responses to your WW7 assignment from as many classmates as are willing to share them with you.  After you review them (you can make short, positive, signed comments on your peers' papers if you'd like), explore what you saw in the responses compared to what you thought you'd see.  What might account for the similarities/differences between the assignment you gave and the assignments your peers wrote?  What surprised or moved you?  Would you suggest this assignment to another student/writer/teacher?  Would you make changes before giving this assignment again?  Give the responses back to their authors within one week; turn this response in at some point on or before the deadline.

Option B emphasizing your writing:  Keep all of the short warm-up assignments that you write as they are returned to you.  At the end of the warm-up assignments series, select a few (3? 5?) of the most memorable responses you wrote; write a lush, reflective response about what you tried, what came of it, what you learned, how it connects to what you saw your classmates doing when they responded to your assignment, what assignments you found valuable or not as a writer (why?), and/or where you might go from here; turn the selected assignments in with your response.

WW9: Imagining a Future Writing Assignment:  Describe a one- or two-week writing assignment sequence that you could teach (or would want to be taught) in the future -- pick a relevant grade-level.  It should incorporate elements of both student voice/passion and academic conventions/correctness.  Post this to the online discussion; turn in a paper copy in your folder. 

         Your posting should include the formal assignment as you would present it to a class; it should describe the end-product(s) that students will be required to complete; it should describe any separate steps or in-class activities that you would include as part of the assignment; it should indicate your main criteria for what an "A" assignment would do.  You should also add a brief note about your assumptions or goals as they affect this assignment.  You may borrow from or refer to any of our readings or class activities. 

Reading and Writing Community Assignments:  20% or 40 points max

Switching the emphasis:  In most English and Education classes, class-time is reserved for discussing issues in your reading assignments, and you complete your writing assignments "on your own time," in isolation without much feedback.  In this class, the situation is reversed:  at least an hour of class time per week will be reserved for you -- or someone else -- to work very specifically on planning, writing, and revising your written assignments, giving you support and feedback that is often unavailable to writers. 

Even so, writers and teachers still have much to learn from reading and discussing what they've read.  Short quizzes will help "keep you honest" about doing the reading that prepares you to be a member of a writing community.  Online "fishbowl" discussion sessions will give you a chance to practice writing thoughtfully in an electronic environment, and let you see what your classmates are thinking.

Spillover Policy:  In both RTQs and Fishbowl assignments, you have the opportunity to "max out" by completing more tasks than required.  Up to 3 points earned by extra RTQ scores may spill over into the Fishbowl grade, if needed, or vice versa.  (No more than 40 points may be earned total for these assignments.)  If you're a Quiz Queen but not an Email Emperor -- or you're a Fishbowl Fanatic but a Quiz Quake-in-the-boots -- this is your chance.

Reading & Thinking Quizzes:  7.5%, or 15 points

RTQs will consist of one question given at the start of the class period.  They will be open-note but closed-book, with questions designed not to "trip you up" but to reinforce key issues from the reading.  Generally, you should be able to answer any question in a sentence or two. 

RTQs will be marked "check" or "check-plus"; a check earns half a point, and a check-plus the full point.  To earn a check-plus, you need to do two things:  answer specifically enough to show that you read the whole text (don't just guess based on the title and the first paragraph), and answer thoughtfully enough to show that you spent some quality time running the issues through your brain.

RTQs may not be made up.  If you miss class, or you arrive late, you'll miss the RTQ opportunity for the day.  There's some leeway built into the overall grading, so missing a few won't doom you to a low RTQ grade.  If you earn 15 points early in the semester, you can choose not to complete any more RTQs (but see the "spillover" note above).

To earn an "A–":

Earn at least 13.5 points

To earn a "B–":

Earn at least 12 points

To earn a "C–":

Earn at least 10.5 points

To earn a "D–":

Earn at least 9 points

Failure to complete at least a "D–" level of work may result in a loss of all points:  0/15

Fishbowl Posts:  12.5% or 25 points

         Holding a lively discussion with a room of 25 people can be daunting:  some people speak all the time, even when they're not prepared; others don't speak, or can't get a word in, even when they have intriguing contributions to make.  On the other hand, it can be exhilarating to have an involved discussion with four or five people all tuned in to the same issue.

         One classroom exercise designed to provide both the small-group experience and a classroom-wide engagement is called a "fishbowl."  In the face-to-face version, class members form two concentric circles:  a large one looking in at a smaller group of 4-6 people.  The people in the inner circle discuss and debate an issue for several minutes (you'd think this would make people more self-conscious, but actually it can be quite absorbing!) while everyone else listens; this forms the "seed" of the discussion, which is then opened to the whole room. 

         This semester, we'll do an electronic fishbowl:  each week, 3-6 people will post online over 72 hours, discussing one or more of our assigned readings.  Then they will invite the rest of us to participate if we wish. 

"But 'discussing' though a computer isn't really discussing!"  Maybe not, but there are other benefits.  Early research on electronic discussion formats suggests that they can make many participants feel "safer" than they would feel in a face-to-face discussion, so that they can raise tough questions or sticky issues more easily.  People who are "quiet" in class also report liking electronic discussion because they can have time to think through their responses without being stared at.  You'll have to see if any of these benefits accrue to you or to your discussion group.  Regular postings to the class e-mail list will also allow you to develop fluency in writing for a live, always-shifting audience, and to "find your e-style" in what will be an increasingly common written-discourse genre during your lifetime. 

General procedures and requirements for participating in the fishbowl discussions with the class web board will be available on a separate handout.  Each class member will be required to participate as a central member of two fishbowls (at least one before Spring Break), contributing three posts of at least 150 words each.  Texts and topics for weekly fishbowls will be determined by class interest or, if needed, instructor fiat. 


To earn an "A–" (22.5 points):

Complete the requirements for a "B–", and
contribute at least four 150-word posts to other fishbowl discussions (your posts must appear in at least two different fishbowls)

To earn a "B–" (24/30 points):

Complete two fishbowl discussions on time, each with
• One thoughtful 150-word post by the first deadline
• Two thoughtful 150-word "response-plus" posts by the second deadline

and post at least once to another group's fishbowl.

(seven posts total)

To earn a "C–" (17.5 points):

Complete two fishbowl discussions:  3 150-word posts

To earn a "D–" (15 points):

Complete at lease one fishbowl discussion: 3 posts

Failure to complete at least  "D–" work may result in a loss of all points:  0/25

Note 1:  Any significant breach of classroom etiquette, any serious misuse of the webboard or of postings made to that discussion, or any pattern of problematic postings may result in the loss of some or all of the Fishbowl points, down to a grade of 0/25.

Note 2:  If electronic participation poses a significant hardship for you, in general or due to a techno-crisis at some point during the semester, see me immediately to arrange substitute assignments.

Grammar Guru Assignment 

Experts in teaching writing have discovered several things about how students learn to write without having too many grammatical errors.  One thing they have concluded is that simply being told what the rules are doesn't usually help.  Another thing they know is that working with the kinds of "fake sentences" that show up in workbooks doesn't help as much as working with real sentences written by real students.  A third thing they know is that teaching someone else how to solve a problem is a great way to remember the solution yourself.   So in this workshop, we'll be taking the experts' advice and using our own knowledge to help each other out.

Read the assignments from Hacker's handbook with some care.  Choose at least three sections to focus on, ones discussing grammatical rules or stylistic principles that you think are difficult to remember, complex to operate, hard to spot when proofreading, etc.  Choose at least one section that seems to be more about "style" than about specific "rules."  (Don't wimp out and choose "how to use a period"!)  You can limit your focus to a part of a rule, if you'd like -- one kind of semi-colon use, for example.  Take notes on these sections, and create some sample sentences of your own to demonstrate the principle.  You will be asked to teach these rules to your group (and will turn in these notes to me).

         Then write an 8-10 sentence paragraph on a topic of your choosing (anything from Dick and Jane to basketball to corporate subsidies).  In this paragraph, which you will share with your peers to test their knowledge, you should have at least six incorrect sentences that demonstrate common errors related to the rules you chose.  (These sentences should be original creations, not plagiarisms or lazy paraphrases of sentences in Hacker's text.)  Also, include at least one grammatically correct sentence that resembles your incorrect sentences; try to create a sentence that will challenge your readers at least slightly as they try to determine its correctness.  Do not label Incorrect/Correct sentences. 

         Type your paragraph -- double-space to facilitate corrections.  Bring 5 copies of this sheet with you to class.  Finally, only on your own copy of your sheet, the one you'll turn in to me, note down the errors, the corrections, and the section numbers in Hacker that explain the corrections for each sentence.

Essay Scoring Rubric

6, 5         Upper-range essays succeed wholly on several counts.  They have a clear and intriguing angle, focal point or argument, anticipating and answering a reader's question, "so, what?"  They maintain a reader's interest and attention on this topic throughout the essay, and provide sufficient and sufficiently-specific evidence to bring the ideas or arguments to life and alter the thinking of their target audience.  Organization, in individual paragraphs as well as across the essay as a whole, allows the reader to progress a step at a time without hesitation or confusion.  Errors of usage and grammar are practically non-existent in these essays, and the style is lively and appropriate to the audience & context of the writing.  In a "5" essay, one of these aspects may be slightly less polished -- a roughness to style or organization, or a few fuzzy details or questionable generalizations -- but the essay as a whole is quite a successful interchange between writer and reader(s).  Revisions are likely to involve expansion or extrapolation along the essay's current lines, or consideration of related angles or tangents to deepen the analysis.

4, 3         Most competently-written early drafts -- particularly those by writers who are experimenting with a new topic or approach -- settle for a while in this category.  These middle-range drafts generally address the assignment, issues, and/or intended audiences/purposes of the essay; present some clear main ideas and details; and have a sense of organization.  Generally, though, the reader still has to do a lot of the work:  supplying missing details or extrapolating lines of argument, drawing connections and making transitions, re-reading sentences or paragraphs to catch the meaning or intention.  A "3" essay is often less-developed, is struggling to find a focus, and/or has more significant problems maintaining a consistent or appropriate error-free style. Revisions will likely involve "global" changes to sharpen the thesis, to further develop paragraphs or realign organization, and/or to increase supporting evidence.

2, 1         Lower-range drafts are those that miss the mark, either from the author's misunderstanding of the assignment or writing context, or from not having spent enough time or effort to develop the essay.  They have an unstable or inappropriate focus, seriously insufficient development, and/or disjointed presentation of ideas.  Essays may have serious or repeated errors.  Revisions to lower-range essays will often involve significant re-thinking of the underlying concepts as well as large-scale changes to the essay's organization and development

Explanation of letter-graded evaluations

A "C" denotes a competent response to the assignment:  the essay or portfolio 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.  Essays have a thesis, present some support, move from point to point in an orderly fashion, and contribute to the classroom conversations on the topic.  Portfolios are complete and organized, and show that the writer is beginning to develop clear revision strategies.

A "B" rewards a strong example of academic writing and thinking.  In addition to meeting the "C" level requirements, an essay or portfolio demonstrates 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 demonstrates that the writer is also a thoughtful reviser and is conscious of his/her writing.  It has few if any grammatical errors.

An "A" is reserved for essays and portfolios that are a delight for the reader -- and that probably provided some moments of delight for the writer.  Even more than in a "B" assignment, it is easy to see that the author anticipates and responds to possible reader questions, uses a wide range of supporting evidence, engages the reader in a provocative conversation, takes risks as s/he writes and revises, provides unexpected insight, and uses language with care and facility.

"D" and "F" level assignments do not meet the basic expectations of the assignment.



lLast updated 2008. Email Shelley Reid