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English 1A, Jamieson. Fall 2008




Overall Description of the Course


English 1-A is designed as a writing workshop where you will improve your critical thinking and reasoning skills, strengthen your writing, and learn strategies for writing academic papers. The course will focus on argumentation as a way to achieve these things.


Our first step will be to explore some of the basic components of argumentation and effective college-level writing, especially how we can use style, grammar, and word choice to create specific effects in written prose. In this section of the course you will practice writing definitions, summaries, classifications, comparisons, and, of course, arguments. We will focus on specific writing strategies, beginning with what academic writers must do before they begin to write. You will learn how to analyze a topic/assignment, how to use all that you know to best respond to it, how to take an idea and develop an argument about it, how to focus your knowledge and organize your ideas, and how to focus a topic. You will learn different strategies for paragraph development and overall paper organization. In this stage of the course we will focus on the local--both the Drew community and the relationship between the college and the world.


In the second section of the course, we will analyze the prose of others in an effort to identify effective strategies for argumentation, and differentiate them from description, explication, narration, and comparison. Your goal will be to develop the skills to support an argument and recognize a well supported argument when we see one. Our focus for this stage of the course is the national, and our topic will be the General Election. We will explore advocacy websites (such as RockTheVote), candidate websites and speeches, and newspaper editorials and evaluate the arguments we see. This unit of the course will end with the general election and with class presentations on an advocacy website of each student's choice.


In the third section of the course, you will learn how to refine your relationship with your audience and structure an argument, and therefore a paper, accordingly. In this section we will focus the global and you will explore the coverage of one global issue that you have been reading about for the semester.  You will build on the summaries you wrote about the issue to develop an argument about the issue, and a second argument about the way the media has covered that issue. This section will end with a debate in which you will work collaboratively with others in the class to convince your audience to support an argument of your design.


Finally, you will turn the skills you learned in the first part of the course onto your own prose so that you can critique what you have written and revise it for your final portfolio. As you prepare to write the preface for that portfolio, you will revisit the placement essays you wrote in the summer and the IWP you designed in September to assess where you are now and what you still need to learn in English 1.


At each stage of this course you will learn how to evaluate your own arguments and those of others, making you a more effective editor and writer. As you become more of an expert writer, you will learn how to understand the writings of others more fully: how to perceive their thesis, analyze the assumptions they make about their audience, and follow their overall patterns of organization. This, in turn, will make you more able to analyze questions and understand what you read. You will also expand your active vocabulary (the words you can actually use rather than just recognize). When you can do these things,


English 1 and English 1-A


English 1-A precedes English 1. When you complete this course you must register for a section of English 1 in the Spring (if you do not, the registrar will automatically register you). The year long writing program (1-A and then 1) will earn you a total of 4 college credits, 2 in the Fall and 2 in the Spring. In many ways, 1-A prepares you for English 1, but it also teaches whatever skills the students in the class need to develop, and a large component of it is determined by the students who are registered in any given semester. Each student will develop an individual writing program (IWP) focusing on the two writing skills he or she would like to strengthen during the semester, and part of the final grade for the course is based on demonstrated effort toward that goal.  Students will also work with individual consultants in the University Writing Center each week to work on a topic of their choice. Some of the consultants are especially trained to work with students for whom English is a second or third language; others can focus on general writing skills, grammar, punctuation, or the development and structure of papers.

NOTE: Once you complete ENGL 1, you do not need to take any other writing classes (ENGL 2 is an option class, not a requirement).


Course structure and goals


Most of your college papers will ask you to make an argument. Your task is not to create one perfectly unified argument that might appear to be "truth." Rather, your purpose is to explore in writing the debate--the similarities, differences, and overlaps--between the authors you study to help the people who read your paper come to a fuller understanding of the complexity of the issue and the factors which influence one's position on it. The work in this class is designed to help you develop these skills.


English 1-A is designed as a writing workshop where you will learn strategies for writing academic papers and improving your overall writing skills. You will work on the basic skills of effective college-level writing, especially how we use style, grammar, and word choice to create specific effects in written prose. You will work specifically on analyzing arguments and using what you learn in that analysis to write effective arguments of your own. In order to do this we will participate in the Electronic Democracy Project, and you will also write arguments on a number of other topics. By the end of this course, you will have strengthened your ability to select and focus a topic, generate ideas, develop a thesis, plan an argument in support of it, write out that argument, and revise it. You will also be much more adept at evaluating, critiquing, and responding to the arguments of others


The Work


The writing you will do will be frequent and varied, ranging from informal journal writing, through formal papers to a formal debate, with many revisions and writing work-outs in between. At times I will ask you to share a piece of writing so that we may evaluate it in class during workshops. In order for you to practice writing in response to a number of different stimuli, I will assign some of the writing topics, while the focus of others will be collectively determined by the class, and yet others will be of your individual choosing in response to what you have been reading and thinking over the course of the semester. Because students come to college with different levels of preparation, we will work on issues of grammar, style, and general language use both in class in the context of our readings, and in conferences and individual projects. Each student will help me to design an "individual writing program" which will build on areas of strength and develop two specific skills of each student's choosing. Students will work on their program at their own pace, and will be graded on that work as part of the final grade for the course.


INFORMAL WRITING--Research shows that frequent writing produces stronger, more fluent, and more comfortable writers. Writing is a skill, and all skills need practice, so I would like you to practice writing by keeping an online Writer’s Journal in the form of a wiki. Many of you have probably already kept a journal at some point in your lives, but in this class it will take the form of a blog in which you follow specific media stories and explore local, national, and global issues.


During the Electronic Democracy Project (Oct. 1 to Nov. 3) you or another member of your group will also post at least once a day to the wiki-newsgroup we will share with the other section of English 1-A and read and respond to the postings of others.

In addition to all of this, you may send me questions, and comments via e-mail). I will try to reply to each message as soon as possible, although at certain points in the semester I might take up to 24 hours to do so.


COLLABORATIVE WRITING--in the world of the work place, and in many academic disciplines too, collaboration is the name of the game. Corporations organize workers into teams responsible for conducting necessary research, identifying problems, brainstorming solutions, and then writing up what they find. For Portfolio #4 you will work with your team to compile a candidate log and a collaboratively written introduction to the log tracing the themes and patterns the log reveals. At first you may not like this kind of writing, and with some cause because it involves cooperation, trust, and some loss of ego--things we have learned to avoid if possible. Yet these team skills are also the very things that will make you successful in the workplace and, more important to me, in college. There are a number of ways to work collaboratively, and you will learn them in this class. There are also strategies to make it less painful, and you'll learn those too. The end result will be worth it. Carefully produced, collaborative research, planning, and writing are better than any of the individuals in the team could have achieved alone.


DEBATE--At the end of the semester we will hold in-class formal debates in which each team will adopt a position and try to persuade classmates to agree with your position. Although you will work collaboratively on the debate, you will write up your findings individually as a traditional argument paper for Portfolio #5.


PORTFOLIOS--Each time you hand me a paper you will include a number of other things, too. You'll find those things listed on the syllabus on the day the paper is due. The work MUST be handed to me in a plain manila file folder (available from the book store for about 15c). On the day the paper is due your journal is also due (put it into the portfolio). I WILL NOT GRADE INCOMPLETE PORTFOLIOS


Ground rules


There is one rule for this seminar, which is my opinion is the one rule for life: You must respect your fellow writers and human beings. This means that you must take them and their ideas and writing seriously and comment constructively with sensitivity to their feelings. Failure to do this will result in a collapse of the trust necessary for a workshop and you will be asked to leave (and marked as absent). Lack of respect ranges from discriminatory comments (homophobia, racism, sexism, ageism, disabledism, etc.), to yawns, the pulling of faces, drumming fingers, laughter, asides to other members of the seminar, and so on.


A seminar is only as strong as its laziest member, so it is essential that each member of the seminar accepts her or his responsibility to the other members. Thus, you will be expected to attend every class prepared to participate and share your ideas and writing with your writing colleagues. If you are unprepared, the workshop will not work and your colleagues will suffer. This, then, is also a sign of disrespect to your fellow students who want to learn.


I assume I can expect mature behavior from members of a college class. If I am wrong, I can certainly invent penalties (for example, if you are unprepared you will be marked as absent and more than three unexplained absences will result in your final grade being lowered by one letter--don't make me impose adolescent rules like this!)




The grades for this course are assigned on the basis of the distance each writer travels during the semester in addition to the place each person has reached by the end of the course. Specifically, grades will be based on the following:


  • The mid-term and final portfolios of papers comprise 50% of your final grade (20% for the mid-term and 30% for the final). They will be collaboratively graded by all of the professors teaching English 1-A. As they read this final portfolio, the professors will be paying special attention to the way you have applied the material covered in the course.


  • Preparedness and contribution to class discussion and writer’s workshops, attendance of conferences with the professor, and regular attendance at the writing center make up 10% of your final grade. Obviously if you do not attend class, sleep through it, or otherwise fail to participate I cannot assess the extent of your preparation, and will be forced to assume there was none. Failure to attend writing center appointments or conferences with me will lead me to the same conclusion.


  • Projects 1-7 and your overall effort toward accomplishing your IWP make up the remaining 40% of your final grade. The grade for the first Project will not be included in your final grade, but will act as a benchmark of the progress you need to make (remember that the final paper in that portfolio may be graded as part of the mid-term portfolio). I will judge your effort on the basis of your notes, prewriting, drafts, and revisions, paying attention to the grades for the first drafts and for the final drafts of each paper. I will also consider your Writer's Journal entries as part of this grade.




Please buy the following:

* Chris Anson & Robert Schwegler's Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers (the book you used for your FYS)


You also need:

o a good dictionary (or access to an online dictionary, which we will use in class),

o pens of several colors (at least one green, purple or red) for editing,

o two plain manila folders to hold portfolio work (also available from the bookstore),

o network cables and a working portable computer.

Our main text will be your writing, so you must bring to every class and conference all of the handouts and homework assignments for English 1-A and have access through your computer to all of the work you have done on them. You must also save all of your computer work on your hard drive AND in your folder on the network. I suggest that you also make backups onto a flash drive -- when using a computer there is no such thing as TOO careful!


Class time


This class meets in a seminar room for good reason. Classes will be spent writing, workshopping or discussing writing, writing assignments and examples of writing produced by writers from a variety of discourse situations, including this class. In some class periods we will be using material from the LAN and/or the internet in class. You must bring your computer and network cable to every class unless the syllabus tells you that you do not need to do so.


University Writing Center


Drew is blessed with an excellent Writing Center and Tutoring service. Both are free, so there is no excuse for not using them except your own folly. Writers work with others to develop time management strategies, research schedules, outlines, and writing projects. Professors ask other people to read drafts of their papers and articles; books are reviewed by scholars before being published and authors depend on feedback from professional editors; and graduate students regularly take papers to the Writing Center. Some foolish undergraduates think they "don't need any help." Don't be one of them. Think smart: get a second opinion!!


The University Writing Center is located in Brother's College across the lobby from the BC Café. You can call to set up an appointment (x3617) or just stop by. To learn more, visit the website (http://depts.drew.edu/writecen/)



                                  Final word                                     



Students get exactly the same amount of learning out of a writing class as the amount of effort they put in. This puts the onus on you--if you don't put anything in, you won't get anything out (except a bad grade).



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