English 125, College Writing

Links to:

  1. Sample Assignments: Definition Essay, Writing Communities Essay, Tech and Collaborative Writing Assignment, Social Issue/Solution ProjectNarrative Argument Essay
  2. Sample Student Work: Christine’s “The Real Ann Arbor,” Dylan’s “The Decline of Small Family Dairy Farms,”  Sylvia’s Cyberbullying & College ACB Paper
  3. Sample Course Evaluations

Course Syllabus: Winter 2011

Course Description

This writing course focuses on the creation of complex, analytic, well-supported arguments that matter in academic contexts. Students work closely with their peers and the instructor to develop their written prose. Readings cover a variety of different genres and academic disciplines, as do writing assignments and class discussions. This section of English 125 will focus on how one’s identity and experience across academic disciplines impacts one’s approach to writing and reading different genres of text. As such, a number of our readings, writing assignments, and discussions will require students to engage in introspection, reflection, and social commentary. This course will also consider how modern technologies have impacted writing. Students will engage in multimedia projects that encourage them to problematize and critically reflect on technology and its impact on writing.

Course Goals

  • Students will write 25-30 pages of polished, revised, and reviewed prose on various topics, in various genres, and using various writing process techniques during the course.
  • Students will engage in academic argumentation, complicating their arguments and adding scholarly research to their prose to support their arguments and critically engage their topics.
  • Students will engage in and consider many different types of composition, from written composition to video/audio/spoken composition, and will discuss how these many types of composition effectively or ineffectively articulate arguments to various audiences.
  • Students will peer review and workshop their written prose in various ways, engaging thoughtfully with their papers as well as their classmates’ papers and providing written and oral feedback to classmates in an effort to better evaluate and enhance their own writing skills.
  • Students will engage in multiple forms of reflection via class discussion, written reflections, and online conversation forums with classmates in order to engage metacognitively with the concepts presented in class and to consider how those concepts relate to students’ writing experiences and written products.

Themes and Sub-themes / Course Organization

This course is organized around one central theme and five sub-themes. The central theme of this course – Identity in Writing – was designed with your needs and backgrounds as new college writers in mind. As students at the University of Michigan, you will no doubt spend much of your time this year and over the next few years (re)defining yourself as a writer, a student, an academic, and in many ways, an individual. Hopefully, this theme and its associated sub-themes prove not only interesting to you, but also challenging, thought provoking, and inspiring. The sub-themes, as outlined on the course calendar, are Perspective, Community, Technology, Society, and Self. Each of these sub-themes will be associated with one of our five formal compositions for the semester, each of which will be peer reviewed, drafted, and revised one or more times. You will notice in your assignments that while the themes and foci of readingshave been chosen for you, your topics for your papers have been left entirely up to you. This should allow you to experiment with writing across disciplines, as well as across genres.

Required Texts

While there is no required text for this course, we will have occasional outside readings that you will be expected to complete. Some of these readings are models for your own writing, while others are “craft” readings that will help you think about your writing and how you approach it. These readings can be found on our CTools website under “Resources à Readings.” Please read online and take notes or print and take marginal notes. Bring readings [if possible] and notes to class.

  • Selections from Faigley, Lester and Selzer, Jack. Good Reasons: Researching and Writing Effective Arguments. New York: Longman, 2009. Print.
  • Lupton, Ellen. “Text.” Thinking With Type. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004. Print.
  • Berry, Wendell. “Local Knowledge in the Age of Information.” The Hudson Review 58(3), 2005. Print.
  • Sanders, Scott R. “The Men We Carry in Our Minds.” The Paradise of Bombs. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987. Print.
  • Cioffi, Frank L. “Argumentation in a Culture of Discord.” The Chronicle of Higher Education May 2005. Print.
  • Kimmel, Haven. “The Kindness of Strangers.” A Girl Named Zippy. New York: Broadway Books, 2001. Print.

I reserve the right to add readings to the calendar if they pertain to the writing we are doing in class, and will probably do this on occasion. Students should plan ahead and be ready to discuss readings in class – student participation grades will be based largely on student attendance at and participation in discussions around the various readings for the course (including peer essays).

Assignments and Grade Breakdown

**Be sure to note additional requirements (besides those which are outlined here) in later sections of the syllabus**

Students in this course will be graded on a point-based system; in other words, larger formal assignments/papers and paper drafts will be worth more than daily assignments and participation grades. The following section breaks down the points possible in the course and the types of assignments you will be expected to complete.

Major Papers

You will complete five major papers during the semester. The first of these papers will be worth 50 points; papers two, three, and five will be worth 100 points; and paper four will be worth 150 points. You will receive grading guidelines for each of these papers when they are assigned; usually, papers will be graded based on the support and development of your argument, the organization of your paper, and the revisions and improvements you have made throughout the process of writing the paper. While the rubric for each paper will be slightly different, the master rubric under “Resources” on the course website is a good representation of how each paper will be graded. These papers will all have different specific foci, but for the most part should adhere to the MLA formatting guidelines. For help with MLA formatting, reference the resources listed on our CTools site.

Drafts and Peer Reviews

In preparation for each of the five major papers, you will complete many smaller writing assignments and activities. Peer reviews are an integral part of this process. As such, you will complete multiple reviews of your classmates’ papers for each of the five major papers. You will receive points for both your commentary on classmates’ papers and your active participation in small-group and full-class peer review workshops. Each peer review/workshop session will be worth 40 points (10 points for completing a thorough draft, 30 points for thorough and complete participation in the peer review process). It is very important that you are present in class on workshop days and that you keep up with peer review assignments, since your classmates will be depending on your feedback (and since earning the points for peer review will be impossible if you are absent).

Response Assignments

The best way to become a better writer is to write; therefore, we will do a lot of informal writing in and out of class, which you will occasionally turn in for credit. These smaller writing assignments will be largely reflection-based; because of this, you should feel free to experiment with your writing in your response papers, since they will be graded mostly for completion, thoughtful reflection, and participation. These will help you sharpen your writing skills and will help me to better understand you as a writer as we move through the semester. Response assignments that receive full credit should be the equivalent of 1½ -2 double-spaced pages in length, should engage with either the assigned readings for the week or with class discussions/topics at hand in class, and/or discuss current challenges, questions, or successes with assignments. I will often give you specific aims/topics for your reflections and/or ask you to focus on something specific. Note that there are six responses assigned on the calendar, but only five are graded – you get one “freebie.” Please also note that I encourage innovation in these papers and students who take risks in/with their reflection papers will likely be rewarded for doing so.

Online Participation

In addition to writing response papers about our readings/topics, you will be expected to participate in online discussions through the course’s CTools site. Posts should be completed before their indicated class sessions; CTools should be a website you check frequently throughout the week (note: we have six posting days, and you are expected to post an online response five times; thus, you get one “freebie” in which you do not have to post). In order to receive full credit for your responses each week, you will be expected to not only post your own ideas, but also to refer and/or respond to your classmates’ ideas. Effective online discussions will reflect thoughtful considerations of our reading and applications of that reading to your daily lives as students and as writers.

Discussions / Participation

When we discuss readings as a class and/or when we discuss readings online, it is important that you actively take part in order to both practice your writing and explore new concepts as they relate to your writing and that of your classmates. As such, your participation in class discussions will account for 25 points, and your grade will be determined by my observations in class throughout the semester. Participation will also be determined by your completion of smaller assignments (for example, completing the practice peer review for “History of Bitch” on 9/14); these will account for the remaining 25 points of participation. Please note that participation in this class is absolutely essential – the discussions we will have will help you develop ideas for your papers, consider different ways in which to engage your ideas in your writing, and enable you to articulate your personal beliefs about writing. Please come to class ready and expecting to talk and participate.

Grade Breakdown

Assignments Points per Assignment Total Points Possible in the Semester % Final Grade
Major Papers Varies x 5 = 500 50%
Paper Drafts and Peer Reviews 40 x 5 = 250 20%
Online Forums 20 x 5 = 100 10%
Participation 25 x 2 = 50 5%
Response Paper Assignments 30 x 5 = 100 15%

Conferences and Office Hours


In addition to discussing your papers with your classmates in peer review sessions, you will meet with me, one-on-one, to discuss your writing throughout the semester. You are required to attend at least two 15-20 minute conferences with me. One of these conferences must take place on either Tuesday 2/1 or Wednesday 2/2 (see course calendar). The other conference must take place on either Monday 3/21 or Tuesday 3/22. It will be up to you to run the conference – be sure to come with questions, ideas, and content to discuss. Conferences are required in order to receive full credit in the course; each missed conference will reduce a student’s final grade in the course by 5%, or half of one letter grade.

Office Hours

I encourage you to attend office hours regularly to discuss any concerns you might have about the class or your papers, to brainstorm ideas, to get help finding sources for your papers, etc. While my office hours are on Mondays from 10-12, feel free to request another time if this time does not work for you – I will do my best to be available to answer questions. I am also available via email and will do my best to answer your questions promptly.

Paper Length

In order for a major paper to receive full credit, it must fall within the parameters of length given for the assignment. This means that there will be penalties for going under the specified page limit. These penalties are directly related to how much a student goes under the assigned page requirement; for example, if you were to turn in two pages for a paper that was assigned as a 3-4 page paper, then the highest grade you could receive would be a 67% (or, 2/3 of 100%).  All page requirements assume MLA formatting: 12 pt. Times New Roman, 1-inch margins, double-spaced. If your formatting is different, just make sure that it falls within the parameters under those formatting guidelines, and you’ll be “safe.” If the paper is specifically supposed to be formatted according to MLA, make sure it follows those guidelines.

Extension Option

Students may use one extension on one of our five major papers. In order to use this extension, you must do the following:

  • Notify me at least 24 hours in advance of the time the paper is due (so, by 8:30 the morning before it is due).
  • Set up a time for the paper to be turned in.
  • Turn the paper in at the established time on the established date (no exceptions).
  • Turn the paper in before the next paper is due.

There will be no extensions or credit given to late first/second drafts or informal writings, because those pieces will be used in class discussions and peer reviews; failure to complete early drafts on time will result in lost credit. After a student’s extension has been used, no additional late work will be accepted.

Revision Option

You have the opportunity to revise and re-submit the final draft of one of the fivepapers over the course of the semester for a new grade. In order to use your revision option, you must take the following steps:

  1. Turn in the original final draft on time and in completion (papers that do not meet assignment guidelines on the first submission may not be resubmitted for revision)
  2. Inform me when you decide you want to resubmit a revision so we can establish a due date for the revision
  3. Complete your revisions
  4. Write a one-page reflection explaining the changes you made, why you made them, and how you feel your paper has improved since the first submission
  5. Submit your revision and reflection, along with all previous drafts of the paper, on the agreed-upon date
  6. Complete the revision before the following paper is due (so, you can’t revise paper one at the end of the semester).

A few guidelines: Due to the nature and pace of the course, the revision option may not be used on a paper that also received an extension. Revising a paper does not guarantee the student a higher grade on the paper – the paper is completely open to re-grading regardless of the previous grade given. Students should keep in mind, also, that revision is a whole-paper process; simply addressing teachers’ or peers’ comments will not necessarily result in a higher grade.

Late Work

It is necessary that your work be turned in on time, since much of our class time will be spent doing peer reviews and discussions of our writing. Because of the way the course is structured, late work outside of acceptable extension situations (see above) will not be accepted. **If an extenuating circumstance arises (such as a death in the family or a significant medical issue), please notify me as soon as possible. I will require written proof of any medical or family events necessitating that I accept late work**

Laptops and Cell Phones

I ask, out of respect for me and for your classmates, that you do not use laptops or cell phones during class. There may be occasions when I ask you to bring things like this to class for an activity, but otherwise these items and other distractions are not welcome. Please keep cell phones on silent (not vibrate) during class time and refrain from checking messages, etc. Even if I don’t mention it to you during class, I often make note of students using cell phones, and this could impact students’ participation grades at the end of the semester.

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

The University of Michigan defines plagiarism as “Submitting a piece of work (for example, an essay, research paper, work of art, assignment, laboratory report) which in part or in whole is not entirely the student’s own work without attributing those same portions to their correct source.” Plagiarism is when you knowingly (or unknowingly) submit someone else’s ideas or words as your own. Please see the University’s plagiarism policy at: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/undergraduate/advising/plagNote.asp

If you commit an act of academic dishonesty in this course by either plagiarizing someone’s work or allowing your own work to be misused by another, you will fail the assignment and possibly the course. In addition, I will report the incident to both the English Department and the LS&A academic dean. Please also note that if you submit work already completed for one course as original work for another course, you are violating university policies and will fail the assignment and possibly the course.

Attendance Policy

It is exceedingly important that you be in class every day since class time will be used to workshop and peer review papers; it is my preference that all students be present for every class period. However, I understand that illness or other circumstances may necessitate an absence, so students are allowed to miss two class sessions without penalty. These should be used wisely, since each subsequent absence after the two “free” absences will result in a 5%, or one half of a letter grade, deduction of a student’s final grade for the course, and five absences will result in automatic failure of the course. Also, students should keep in mind that even though missing a single day may not result in a final grade penalty, our class is largely based on participation and peer review; if a day is missed during which we do class activities or peer reviews, these points cannot easily be made up, and so a student may lose points in the course by not being present. Any students who will be absent due to a legitimate extracurricular conflict should inform me as soon as possible (at the start of the semester) and arrange for work that will be missed. Students should also be on time to class; if a student is ten or more minutes late to class, he or she may be marked absent, which could potentially result in a loss of credit.

Student Accommodations

In accordance with the University of Michigan policy, I am happy to provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities, and I will protect the confidentiality of students’ individual learning needs. I work closely with the Office for Students with Disabilities (SSD), and if you need accommodations and have not already contacted them, I encourage you to do so. Please email me by the second week of the term if you would like to show me your letter from SSD describing approved accommodations. I will set up a confidential

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