College Writing Overview

College Writing is designed to help students develop their writing skill in a community of writers. Students write, share, rewrite, talk about writing and write about writing. They collect their writing, observations and ideas in a journal. At the end of each quarter students assess their effort and growth, including progress toward their personal goals. The activities in the course address student attitudes toward writing and learning as well as present specific techniques, strategies and processes for students to use in developing their own writing and their own pieces of writing.

Student Expectations

Students will be able to write effectively. Students will demonstrate the following:

  • write with an effective voice, with a sense of audience, and for a stated purpose;
  • analyze, synthesize, and evaluate ideas through their writing;
  • write in an organized way with a consistent point of view;
  • provide details and support in their writing;
  • use clear, correct, and varied sentence structures;
  • make effective word and language choices;
  • write with mechanical correctness;
  • demonstrate a positive attitude towards writing and themselves as writers;
  • use a variety of skills and techniques for beginning, revising and editing writing that serves a variety of purposes and audiences;
  • develop stamina and an appreciation of the art of revision;
  • demonstrate the ability to assess their own writing and the writing of others;
  • keep a journal that reflects their own writing processes, learning experiences and personal growth;
  • produce a portfolio of writing that reflects writing skill and growth;
  • produce at least four pieces of effective writing;
  • write at least one personal essay, one persuasive essay, one poem, one short story and one nonfiction research-based feature article;
  • become more independent writers.

Essential Questions

  • What is the best way for me to write effectively?
  • How can I improve the effectiveness of my writing by attending to purpose, audience and form?
  • How can I revise effectively?
  • How can I effectively receive and use feedback from an audience?
  • How can I use models to improve my own writing?
  • What are the characteristics of different forms of writing (personal essay, journal, position paper, feature article, poem, short story and evaluation)?
  • How can I use writing to improve my ability to reflect and learn?

Units of Instruction

  1. Journals: The journals drive the course as students are expected to write in them on a daily basis. The journal is a collection of each student’s writing and thinking for the semester including all drafts of papers and the self-evaluations. Entries in the beginning are teacher-assigned exploring student strengths, weaknesses and processes. They gradually become student-assigned as the students develop a sense of themselves as independent writers.
  2. Personal Essay: Students will write personal essays, which may be college essays for some.   One of these essays will be developed through revision and editing into a final effective draft. They will review the research on the writing process and begin to explore their own. Many models of personal essays, both published and unpublished, will be read and students will learn to “read as writers” mining these models for reusable techniques, form ideas and essay ideas.
  3. Poetry: The poetry unit is interspersed throughout the course to encourage students to use the techniques they learn and their heightened sense of language in all their pieces. The poetry unit introduces the reading-as-writers approach and introduces students to a variety of forms. Through poetry the students will study the power of metaphor, rhythm, concision, grammar and syntax and other poetic techniques, apply these techniques in writing their own poems and apply them to their other pieces.
  4. Position Paper: Students will write papers in which they analyze an issue, take a position on that issue and write a paper that supports that position. The topics may range from a literary or historical individual or event to a current issue or event. Students will examine form as well as exploring content in developing one issue into a finished piece.
  5. Feature Article: Students will write a non-fiction article based on an interview. The interview will answer a question the writer has that can be answered by a primary source. Models will be studied from newspapers, magazines as well as student feature articles from previous classes.
  6. Short Story: Students will read and write short-short stories after reading a number of published and student models and writing a number of drafts. Instruction will include a review of the elements of a story, exploration of point of view, person and the interplay of dialogue, action and description, and guidelines for limiting transitions of time, place, character and point of view.
  7. Self-Assessment: Students will complete an extensive self-evaluation each quarter assessing their performance for class participation, journals, and progress toward goals as demonstrated by a portfolio of their writing. Rubrics are provided or developed in each the three assessment areas. The self-assessment helps students make the transition from assignment-doers to developing writers and learners. It also provides experience in using a very structured and deliberate form.

Course Materials

  • Student journals: students must purchase a 9 1/2″ by 6″ for daily journal entries.
  • One inch or 1.5 inch Three-ring binder: students must maintain a binder storing the many models, articles and other handouts. The text of the course is handed out page-by-page daily in class.
  • Skill and/or technique-oriented articles include “That Crucial First Draft”, “What Dialogue Can Do For Your Story”, “How Not to Write a Sentence”, “Shaping the Short Story” and “Revising Your Fiction Manuscript”.
  • Exemplary models: papers, written by previous students and published writers are shared and discussion centers around ideas or techniques students could use in their own writing. Essays used in the past include “The Philosopher”, “The Crane” and “Even Homeowners Need Heroes”. Short stories include “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, “Thank You, M’am” and “Say Yes”. Persuasive essays include “I am Not a Camera”, “Three Years Gone” and “Reaffirm the Affirmative”. The nonfiction articles include “Fifteen”, “Crime and Punishment”, “You Could Die”, and “A Silk Chute Wedding”. These articles and models change as more effective models are discovered or different students’ needs arise.

Grading Rationale

  • Journals 25%
  • Class Participation 25%
  • Progress Toward Goals 50%