The Power of Word: Syllabus for English 848 Introduction to Composition and Reading

To gain the power of word, the enormous advantages that come from the ability to understand and use words effectively in school, career and daily life

Required Texts:
Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. “They Say / I Say”: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010.
Cooley, Thomas. The Norton Sampler: Short Essays for Composition. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010.

Catalog Description:
Practice in reading, writing, listening, speaking, and thinking to develop and refine composition proficiency. Includes instruction in reading comprehension and vocabulary development, elements of the essay, and composing techniques necessary for college writing (writing from source materials, analytical reading, and English usage and mechanics). Designed mainly to prepare students to meet competency standards required for entrance into English 100.

Student Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to:
1: use effective reading strategies (main point and supporting points) to comprehend a  variety of texts.
2: write expository essays unified around a clear thesis statement.
3: develop essays using specific details drawn from assigned texts as well as personal experience and knowledge.
4: write fluent, clearly focused, complex sentences.
5: proofread effectively for basic grammar and usage errors.

Gaming System for Grading:
Rather than giving grades (which often feel like a punishment), I will be awarding points, much as in a scoring system of a game. Every score adds to a student’s total, so students should feel that they are constantly moving forward. Only a few things, such as unexcused absences and tardiness or not having the reading material will result in penalties. Some extra credit activities will come up, but students should not rely on them for the final grade. They must complete all the core work in order to pass. I expect my students to work very hard to improve their reading, thinking and writing skills.

As in gaming, higher numbers are more psychologically satisfying, so I will be awarding points by the hundreds. One hundred points is equivalent to 1% of the final grade. 1,000 points is 10%, or one full grade level. 10,000 points is a perfect score for the course of 100%.

Grading: Points break down as follows:

Class participation 1000 points
Reading forum, research databases, and exercises (25 points each) 450 points
Quizzes (50 points each) 300 points
To be arranged requirement (25 points for each conference and tutorial) 250 points
Unit I: Finding Your Hidden Intellectualism (2000 points)
1st Paper, Part 1: Summary and quote 100 points
1st Paper, Part 2: Description of hobby or interest 200 points
1st Paper, Part 3: Narrative 200 points
1st Paper: Finding your Hidden Intellectualism 1500 points
Unit II: Issues of language, education and identity (3000 points)
3rd Paper, Part 1: Arguing one side of the issue 750 points
3rd Paper, Part 2: Arguing the other side 750 points
4th Paper: Combining the two sides in complex, balanced argument 1500 points
Unit III: Researching an Issue (2000 points)
Proposal for research paper 50 points
Two annotations 100 points
The Research Paper 1750 points
Presentation 100 points
Final In-Class Essay 1000 points

Translation of points to grades:
9000 points or higher is an A
8000-8999 points is a B
7000-7999 is a C
(Anything less than 7000 is not enough to pass.)
6000-6999 is a D
0-5999 is an F

Class Participation:
1000 points
Regular attendance and meaningful participation is essential. Each class missed without a valid excuse will result in 100 points deducted from the course total. Each late arrival will cost 25 points. Respect for others, regardless of race, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation and physical ability is required.

Reading Forum, Databases and Exercises: 450 points
Whenever we have a reading assignment, students must post a thoughtful, detailed question set up with a quote or summary from the text. Questions may be about an aspect of the reading that is confusing, unusual, thought-provoking or profound. Students should read other questions before adding their own to ensure they are not repeating. Questions that echo preexisting questions will not get points. Students should then respond to at least two other students’ questions. Adding more to discussions will increase participation score.

Questions are due by 8am on the day we are going to discuss the text (to give me and your classmates time to read your questions) and comments are due by class time. Unfortunately, we may not always be able to discuss every question during class, but even an unanswered question will help students interact with the text, generate ideas, and practice writing.

Questions and responses get scored for completion. Since this is part of the generative phase of writing — the phase when students are producing ideas — grammar, spelling and punctuation will not be graded, although students should make an effort to produce clean, understandable writing. Especially thoughtful or detailed questions will get extra credit.

Homework: All exercises, as well as reading and writing assignments, listed to the right of a class on the syllabus must be completed after that class and before the next. Students must bring a copy of all readings in order to refer to the text during discussions. Those who do not bring a copy will lose 25 points for each reading. (Electronic copies are acceptable.)

Quizzes, Proposal and Two Annotations: 300 points
We will have two surprise quizzes on readings at some point in the semester. However, if I suspect that students are not completing the reading assignments, I will add more frequent quizzes. Towards the end of the semester, we will have three review quizzes: one on the grammar of the sentence, one on the main points of the book “They Say / I Say,” and the third on The Norton Sampler.

To Be Announced (TBA) Requirement: 250 points
To Be Announced hours are required activities designed to improve reading and writing skills: conferences with composition instructors and tutorials on grammar, organization and critical thinking. Students must have one conference and one tutorial per essay, or else I will refuse to read the essay. Getting appointments can be difficult, so plan ahead and make appointments early. TBA activities must be completed in the 800 Center (18-102) or Writing Center (18-104). Be sure to log in and out of the SARS system every time you participate in one of the activities.

Major Writing Assignments: 8000 points
The major essays of the course are divided into three units and an in-class final essay. For the first paper, we will produce three smaller pieces (a summary and quotes, picture description, and narrative), showing how academic skills are demonstrated in a hobby or field of interest. Students will rewrite, reshape, and adapt these pieces, adding new material, for the first essay. The second paper has two parts, each laying out separate sides of an argument involving language, education and identity. The third paper interweaves the two parts of the second paper in a balanced and complex argument. The fourth paper is a research project on an issue the student chooses and will involve a formal proposal, two bibliographic annotations, and a presentation. The fifth paper will be an in-class final.

If you cannot make a deadline, students must contact me before the due date and make new arrangements. All final drafts must be turned in as a hard copy in class along with drafts in a folder. To conserve paper, writings may be printed on both sides of a page or on recycled paper, even in final drafts. Since the purpose of writing is communication, all final versions of papers must be posted on the class Web Access site. If students do not post the paper on Web Access, I will not read or score the paper. You are strongly encouraged to read your classmates’ writing and doing so will add to your participation score.

On each assignment, I will lay out the basic requirements. If the paper does not meet these requirements, I will return it to the student. If the paper meets basic requirements, I will read and score the paper. On each assignment, I will also offer suggestions for extra credit for those who want to challenge themselves to take their paper to another level.

I am a very, very tough grader, awarding points only for college level writing demonstrating clarity, concision, grammatical accuracy, specificity, organization, carefully-staged argumentation, support and citation. With some papers, I will require revisions of previous smaller pieces. I will not read or score the new paper unless these pieces are substantially different in the new context, meaning at least 85% of the wording has changed. The second and fourth papers may both be revised twice. Such revisions are due one week from the day I return the scored paper to the student. Correction of surface errors will result in a slightly better score. For significant improvement, students must thoroughly revise wording, organization, argumentation, and support. I encourage you to meet with me to discuss your revision plans. Good writing requires revision. The best writers rewrite their work many, many times. Take advantage of this opportunity to improve your writing . . . and your score!

Electronic Devices:
I encourage the use of electronic devices in the classroom for academic purposes. Students should look up unfamiliar words, check facts, and add solid research to discussions. However, if students use devices for other reasons (for instance, checking social networking sites), I will deduct 25 points from their class score. Three infractions will result in the loss of the privilege.

The purpose of the class is to give you the skills you need to frame your own original ideas in effective prose, so plagiarism–copying someone else’s work without giving them credit–is not only stealing someone else’s hard work, but also cheating oneself out of the opportunity to gain the power of the word.

Disability Policy Statement: If you have a documented disability and need accommodations for this class,
please see me as soon as possible or contact the Disability Resource Center
(DRC) for assistance. The DRC is located in Bldg. 16 Room 150.  (650) 574-6438; TTY
(650) 574-6230

Date of Class



Unit I: Finding Your Hidden Intellectualism1st week: IntroductionsJanuary 14th, Monday Introduction to the course Writing: Create a profile (with picture) on WebAccess and introduce yourself on the forum entitled “Introducing Yourself” by 8 am on Wednesday by telling us a little about your background and future plans and respond to others’ posts.
Writing: “You Write the Class” questionnaire
January 16th, Wednesday Getting to know each other: community building activityIn-class essay: “What are the Benefits of Writing Well?” Research: Find at least five short examples of good writing from new media: text messages, tweets, social network status updates, emails, and blog posts. Gather them together in a document (one or two pages) and turn in a hard copy in class. Post the best example on the Web Access class forum and add a comment (several sentences long) explaining why you think the piece is an example of good writing. Respond to two other students’ posts by 8 am Friday agreeing or disagreeing with the other student’s assessment of the quality of writing.
January 18th,
Community building activityWhat  is good writing? Reading: “English is a Crazy Language” by Richard Lederer (159-162) and “The Reading Process” (36-40) from The Norton Sampler
(Post a question about one of the readings in this week’s reading forum on WebAccess and respond to at least two other students’ questions by 8am Wednesday.)
Extra Credit Reading: “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr. (question and responses)
January 21st,
Martin Luther King, Jr. DayNo classes!
2nd week: Joining the ConversationJanuary 23rd,
Writing warm-up exercise“The Reading Process”: reading discussionA crazy language: reading discussionUnderlining and annotating Reading: Underline and annotate “Hidden Intellectualism” by Gerald Graff (198-205) and “Introduction: Entering the Conversation” (1-15) from “They Say / I Say”
(Post a question on one of the readings in this week’s reading forum on Web Access and respond to at least two other students’ questions by 8am Friday.)
January 25th,
Joining the conversation: reading discussion“Hidden Intellectualism”: reading discussion1st Paper: “Finding Your Hidden Intellectualism”Visit to the 800 Center Reading: Underline and annotate “Why Sports Matter” by Wilfrid Sheed” (handout) and “‘They Say”: Starting with What Others are Saying (19-29) from “They Say / I Say”
(Post a question on one of the readings on the reading forum on Web Access and respond to at least two other students’ questions by 8am Monday.)
Extra Credit Reading: “In Defense of Cheering” by Jennie Yabroff (on WebAccess) (question and responses)
3rd week: Popular IntellectualismJanuary 28th, Monday Brainstorming: hobbies and interestsClustergraph: how your hobby or interest reflects hidden intellectualism“Starting with What Others are Saying”: reading discussion“Why Sports Matter”: reading discussion Reading: Underline and annotate “Extra Lives: Why Videogames Matter” by Tom Bissell (on WebAcess), “‘Her Point is’: The Art of Summarizing” (30-41), and “‘As He Himself Puts It’: The Art of Quoting (42-50) from “They Say / I Say”
(Post a question about one of the readings on this week’s reading forum on Web Access and respond to at least two other students’ questions by 8am Wednesday.)
January 30th,
Freewriting: “Your Hobby and HIdden Intellectualism”Summarizing and quoting: reading discussionMLA: in text citation“Why Videogames Matter”: reading discussion Reading: Underline and annotate “Watching TV Makes You Smarter” by Steven Johnson and “Thinking Outside the Idiot Box” by Dana Stevens (handout) in preparation for Friday’s debate . (Don’t forget a question and two responses.)
February 1st, Friday Topic sentence for summary and quoteDebate: Does TV make you smarter? Writing: 1st paper, part 1: a brief, but detailed summary of the main points of an article we have read, introduced with a topic sentence and including at least one key quote in a quotation sandwich (introduction, quote, explanation of relevance, citation, and response). Summary and quote should be one or two paragraphs with eight to ten sentences total. Bring in hard copy.
4th week: Writing is SeeingFebruary 4th, Monday The right wordThe color of words: connotation Reading: Underline and annotate “Description” (41-50) and “A View from the Bridge” by Cherokee Paul McDonald (52-55) from The Norton Sampler. (Don’t forget to post a question and at least two responses.)
Extra credit reading: “No Wonder They Call Me a Bitch” by Ann Hodgman (77-83) from The Norton Sampler
(A question and two responses)
February 6th, Wednesday Description: reading discussionThe inner eye: reading discussionUsing topical questions Writing: Write two to three pages responding informally to various topical questions on the handout describing the hobby or interest you have selected for the 1st paper.
February 8th,
The Importance of detail, detail, detailExperimentation with point of view, dominant impression, and vantage pointTopic sentences Writing: 1st paper, part 2: an extremely detailed description of your hobby or interest, as if you were describing it to a blind detective. Description should be at least two full paragraphs of five sentences each, each with a topic sentence giving topic and opinion. Scored for topic sentences, exactness of wording, thoroughness of detail, point of view, dominant impression and vantage point. Bring hard copy of description to class.
5th week: A Convincing StoryFebruary 11th,
Replacing vague words with concrete nounsAppositives Writing: Change eight to twelve vague words for concrete nouns and underline them and add six to ten appositives to description and highlight them. Bring hard copy of first paper with improved nouns underlined and added appositives highlighted.
February 13th,
Exquisite Corpse: writing gameThe Elements of Narrative Reading: Underline and annotate “Narrative” (84-91) and “Once More to the Lake” by E. B. White (473-479) (question and two responses)
February 15th, Friday President’s Day RecessNo classes!
6th week: The Backbone of the SentenceFebruary 18th, Monday Telling a story to make a point: reading discussion“Once More to the Lake”: reading discussion Writing: One long narrative, or three shorter narratives demonstrating how you or others use academic skills in your selected hobby or interest. Narrative or narratives should be two to four substantial paragraphs of at least five lines each, organized under topic sentences with stated topic and controlling idea. Bring hard copy or electronic copy.
February 20th, Wednesday “Mr. Morton is the Subject of My Sentence”Subjects and verbs Introductory Tutorial: “Identifying Subjects and Verbs”
February 22nd, Friday Subjects and verbs: Follow up to tutorialThe backbone of the sentence: introduction to sentence focus Writing and grammar: Underline the main subjects and verbs in your narrative. Bring to class.
7th week: FocusFebruary 25th,
Strengthening the backbone: sentence focus Exercise: sentence focus
February 27th,
Sentence focus: follow up to exercise“Verbs! That’s What’s Happening!”The muscles: making verbs active Writing: Revise narrative for sentence focus and active verbs in at least fifteen sentences. Underline improved sentences and bring in a hard copy in a folder with previous draft.
Reading: Underline and annotate “‘So What? Who Cares?’: Saying Why It Matters” (92-101) from “They Say / I Say” (no question or responses, but there may be a quiz)
(Please bring The Norton Sampler to class on Friday.)
March 1st, Friday Catchy TitlesThe Thesis: So what? Who cares? (The Norton Sampler, page 24)Hooks and Intros (The Norton Sampler, page 27)Conclusions (The Norton Sampler, page 28-29) Writing: 1st paper, “Finding Your Hidden Intellectualism,” an essay describing a hobby or interest through which you or others demonstrate academic skills. The paper must include an introduction, thesis, topic sentences, summary of and at least one quote from an article, a detailed description of the chosen hobby or interest, a longer narrative or three shorter narratives showing how academic skills, such as argumentation, are demonstrated through the hobby or interest, and a conclusion. The summary, quote and description must be completely rewritten and revised from previous versions. Bring in three hard copies to class and The Norton Sampler.
8th week: Thinking CriticallyMarch 4th, Monday Focus: writing activityWorkshops: Teacher-led (The Norton Sampler, pages 32-33), then student-student Reading: “Editing and Proofreading” (33-36) from The Norton Sampler
Writing: Thoroughly revise first paper according to feedback and by going through the editing and proofreading checklist from The Norton Sampler. New draft must be significantly improved over previous draft or I will not read it. Print a hard copy and bring to class with previous drafts. Post on WebAccess on the writing forum and read your colleagues’ papers.
Unit II: Language, Education and IdentityMarch 6th,
Classification: writing activityCritical Thinking Reading: Underline and annotate “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan (173-179) from The Norton Sampler (question and responses) and “‘Yes / No / Okay, But’: Three Ways to Respond” from “They Say / I Say” (question and responses)
March 8th,
Flex DayNo classes! Writing experiments: Write three informal responses to Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue,” one full page each handwritten or typed and double-spaced:
Agree, but with a difference
Disagree–and explain why
Agree and disagree simultaneously
9th week: Our EnglishesMarch 11th, Monday “Three Ways to Respond”: reading discussionOur Englishes: reading discussion2nd and 3rd Papers: Issues of language, education and identity Reading: Underline and annotate “The Color of Success” by Eric A. Watts (185-189) from The Norton Sampler and “‘And Yet’: Distinguishing What You Say from What They Say” (68-77) from “They Say / I Say” (question and responses)
March 13th, Wednesday Who is Saying What?: reading discussion“The Color of Success”: reading discussion Reading: Underline and annotate “Definition” (300-307), “Se Habla Español” by Tanya Barrientos (317-320), and “Always Living in Spanish” by Marjorie Agosín (371-374) from The Norton Sampler (question and responses)
Extra Credit Reading: “Why and When We Speak Spanish in Public” by Myriam Marquez (429-430) from The Norton Sampler
March 15th, FridayThe Ides of March Definition: reading discussion“Se Habla Español”: reading discussion“Always Living in Spanish”: reading discussion Writing: Choose an important word you may use in your in 2nd paper and write a definition (three to five lines).
Writing: Completely revise 1st paper according to feedback.
10th week: Engendering IdentityMarch 18th, Monday The ligaments: coordinators, transitions, and subordinators Reading: Underline and annotate “Comparison and Contrast” (246-253), “Watching Oprah from behind the Veil” by Jeff Jacoby (255-257) and “Gender in the Classroom” by Deborah Tannen (282-288) from The Norton Sampler (question and responses)
Or: “Comparison and Contrast” (246-253), “How Boys Become Men” by Jon Katz (220-224) and “Guys vs. Men” by Dave Barry (309-316) from The Norton Sampler (question and responses)
March 20th, Wednesday Comparison and contrastGender: reading discussion Reading: “Developing Paragraphs and Using Transitions” (29-31) from The Norton Sampler and “‘As a Result’: Connecting the Parts” (105-118) from “They Say / I Say” (no question or responses, but there may be a quiz)
Writing: An informal comparison and contrast, either in chunks or slices of key elements or groups of people, which you may use in your 2nd paper, using coordinators, transitions and subordinators (one to two handwritten or typed and double-spaced pages).
March 22nd, Friday The joints: connecting the parts Writing: 2nd paper, part I: Issues of Language, Education and Identity, arguing one side of the issue and including definitions and comparison and contrast. Bring in three hard copies.
11th week: Making an ArgumentMarch 25th, Monday Workshops: Teacher-led (focused especially on connections), then student student Writing: Revise 2nd paper, part 1. Revision must be significantly improved over previous draft or I will not read it. Bring in a hard copy with previous draft, definition, and comparison and contrast writing exercises. Post on WebAccess and read your colleagues’ papers.
March 27th,
ParallelismThe Believing Game Reading: Underline and annotate “Argument” (376-388) and “An Open Letter to Diversity’s Victims” by Greg Lewis (436-439) from The Norton Sampler (question and responses)
March 29th,
ArgumentationDiversity’s victims: reading discussion Writing: 2nd paper, part 2, arguing the other side of the issue. Bring in hard copy or electronic copy.
April 1st – 7th Spring BreakNo classes!
12th week: Maintaining ComplexityApril 8th, Monday Sentence BoundariesReading a paper backwards Writing: Thoroughly revise 2nd paper, part 2 for sentence boundaries. Bring in hard copy with previous drafts. Post on the writing forum and read the papers of your colleagues.
April 10th,
Audience awareness: writing activityPurpose: writing activity Reading: Underline and annotate “‘Skeptics May Object’: Planting a Naysayer in Your Text’ (78-91) and “‘But Don’t Get Me Wrong’: The Art of Metacommentary (question and responses)
April 12th,
Writing experiment: Dialogue with the devil’s advocateNaysayers and Metacommentary Writing: 3rd paper, combining the two sides of the argued in the 2nd paper, parts 1 and 2. The 3rd paper must interweave the two and 85% of the sentences must be rewritten or the paper will not count as a separate writing assignment. Bring in three copies to class.
Unit III: Taking Issue13th week: Finding Out for YourselfApril 15th,
Workshops: Teacher-led, then student-student Writing: Thoroughly revise 3rd paper. Bring in a hard copy with previous draft and marked and scored copies of 2nd paper, parts 1 and 2. Post paper on Web Access and read your colleagues’ papers.
Research: Get a library card for College of San Mateo (if you don’t have one already)
(Please bring The Norton Sampler to class.)
April 17th,
Research Project: 4th paperBrainstorming IdeasDoing Research and Evaluating Sources (The Norton Sampler, pages 487-491) Writing: Detailed proposal for research project, including at least two sources (at least two full paragraphs). Email to Ron by 8 am Friday.
Reading: “Acknowledging Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism” (495-512) from The Norton Sampler (no question or responses, but there may be a quiz)
April 19th,
MLA bibliographic informationAnnotations Research: Find a chapter from a book from the library or an article from a library database arguing the other side of your issue.
Writing: An annotation, brief but detailed summaries (6-8 lines each) and critiques of research materials with MLA formatting.
Review: sentence grammar for quiz
14th week: The Semester RevisitedApril 22nd,
Game show style review for upcoming quizzes Research: Find and read a chapter from a book from the library or an article from a library database arguing the other side of your issue.
Writing: An annotation, brief but detailed summaries (6-8 lines each) and critiques of research materials with MLA formatting., “They Say / I Say” and The Norton Sampler to prepare for quiz
April 24th,
Review Quiz on Sentences Review: “They Say / I Say”  for quiz
April 26th,
Review Quiz on “They Say / I Say”Go over quiz / writing experiments for final paper Review: The Norton Sampler for quiz
15th week: The Writing ProcessApril 29th,
Review Quiz on The Norton SamplerGo over quiz / writing experiments for final paper Reading: “The Writing Process” (19-29) (no question or responses)
Writing: Various prewriting materials of your choice:  (6-8 pages)
(Bring in reading materials for final project.)
May 1st, Wednesday “They Say / I Say” chartOutline for the final paper Writing: Draft of the 4th paper. Bring in three copies for workshopping.
May 3rd,
Workshops: teacher-led, then student-student Writing: 4th Paper Final Draft, Due Monday, May 6th. Bring hard copy with previous drafts. Post on Web Access and read your colleagues’ papers.
Writing: Presentation
16th and 17th weeks:
Student PresentationsMay 6th-15th
Presentations of Final Project Prepare for final in-class essay
May 17th, Friday Final: In-class essay Word!

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