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The Writing Section of Connections.

Assignments

Summary of Assignments

Conferences
Responses
Workshops
Papers
Oral Presentations
Portfolio and Portfolio Presentations

Conferences

You will be required to meet with me at least five times during the term, including an introductory conference at the beginning of the term. (Naturally, you are welcome to consult me more than three times.) If all goes well, this should be a pleasant requirement to fulfill; I just want to let you know the conferences are coming. All I ask--nay, beg--is that you show up when we agree that we'll meet. If you really really can't do so, please email me to let me know not to wait for you.

Responses

This assignment was adapted from one given by Michael Barsanti

There are many assignments due for this class that are called "Responses." Students are often confused by these assignments, in part because they are less formal than what they have been asked to write for classes in the past. These are not essays or themes: they do not need to support a single argument or provide a neat introduction and conclusion. Responses can include questions for the class, conjectures, gut feelings, and speculations. They should, however, provide specific textual evidence for whatever points they want to make. (In other words, quote readings specifically, with page numbers, rather than referring vaguely to them.) Responses should represent a first attempt to make sense out of the assignment, a first attempt at getting the bits and pieces you have marked in the reading to hang together in some way. In grading them, I will reward careful presentation of textual evidence, intellectual risk-taking, and efforts to provide material for class discussion. I also expect you to write in standard prose, as opposed to the less formal language of email. As far as the content of responses goes, however, be fearless: the correctness of these preliminary thoughts is not a factor. Responses are due by 9:00 the evening before the class for which they are assigned. Because the success of this course depends on our ability to read and consider responses in advance of each class session, late responses will incur severe grade penalties: the maximum grade for a late response will be a C.

Here's how I imagine you doing these assignments:

You read the assigned readings, and mark them up accordingly with passages that strike you. In some cases, you may be assigned to follow a particular theme or answer a particular question. Other times, I will leave the assignment open-ended.

  1. Having finished the reading, you page back through what you have read, scanning over the things you've marked. You look at the clock and note with satisfaction, or even a touch of smugness, that you have left ample time to think through your ideas, write a careful response, and edit your prose.

  2. You sit at a computer and type. You do this in a word-processing program. Blackboard is incredibly unreliable as a text editor, and as some students and I have discovered, it will sometimes forget what you have typed if you try anything tricky. Let me repeat that with emphasis: Do not compose responses in Blackboard. You will get burned if you do, and I will not be sympathetic because I am warning you, in bold type, of the danger. You can be tentative, speculative, or downright wrong about what you're saying.

  3. You type a response of fewer than 250 words and read it over, fiddling with it as you please. (If you get carried away and write more than 250 words, choose the parts you most want us to read and bring your other ideas to class for discussion.) You take the time you have left between writing and the deadline to read your response aloud and edit it for clarity.

  4. You copy and paste your response into the appropriate place on the class discussion board.

Should you have trouble with the discussion board server for any reason, send an email to the class (including me) with your response, and post it to the board when the technical problems are resolved.

These responses will be fodder for class discussions and for papers. Each student should print all the responses for each class and mark potential comments or questions. I might collect your copies of the responses occasionally to see how well this process is working.

Workshops

As you can see on the syllabus, we will have six class sessions dedicated to workshops of your writing. In order to ensure that each of you has the chance to get the advice of the class on one paper and also to act as the respondent, or discussion leader, for one workshop, I have set up the workshop schedule in advance. We will establish other guidelines for the workshops in class discussion during the term.

Papers

The first time you turn in each paper, it should be about 4-5 pages (1200-1500 words) long. You will always have the chance to vary the length of papers in revision. We will discuss the goals of class papers throughout the term, but you can get general information about what to aim for by consulting my grading standards and the Writing section of Connections, especially the Thesis subsection.

Oral Presentations

Each of you on one occasion during the term will give one of your responses as an oral presentation to the class. This exercise will not be graded; rather, it will provide an opportunity for your classmates and me to critique your presentation skills before the portfolio presentation at the end of the term.

Portfolio and Portfolio Presentations

The portfolio represents the culmination of the writing you do for this class. It will include at least 4,500 words (15 pages or so) of your best writing, along with the drafts of papers that I have graded previously. That amount of writing can come from two, three, or four papers. The portfolio should include graded first drafts of each portfolio paper (with my comments), and all revised papers should clearly indicate the location and nature of your revisions. Portfolio papers should use MLA style for documentation.

In addition to the papers, and not included in the word count, the portfolio will include a short account of how you see the work you've done. In that brief essay you can consider questions such as these: What problems did you address in preparing the portfolio? What insights pleased you most? Were you particularly happy with the way a given paper progressed? How did you struggle?

The portfolio presentations will take place on the next-to-last day of class. Each of you will give an oral presentation of six minutes or less about the papers you will be submitting in your portfolio. We will discuss these presentations further as they approach.

Grade Breakdown

All of the writing for this class moves towards the culminating project of the portfolio, which will count as 60% of your final grade. The remaining 40% will come from responses (15%), workshop participation (15%), and oral presentations (10%).