College Writing

EnglWrit 112: College Writing

Welcome to College Writing! Englwrit 112 is the only course that satisfies the university’s CW requirement. A fundamental part of your General Education at UMass Amherst, this course emphasizes critical thinking and communication, consideration of plural perspectives, and self-reflection on one’s learning.

More specifically, the purpose of College Writing is to help you grow and challenge yourself as a college writer—for academic assignments and also for the writing demands in your personal, professional, and civic lives. In this course, you’ll examine how writing is a communicative act that always occurs within a particular context, and you’ll gain practice writing for different purposes in multiple contexts.

Course objectives

By writing, reading, and engaging in discussion in this course, you’ll work to improve your ability to

  • write for a variety of purposes, audiences, and contexts;
  • identify (and even play with) audience expectations and textual conventions;
  • use the writing process, esp. peer review and revision, to re-see and extend your thinking—thus writing essays in which your thinking evolves rather than essays that defend pre-formed positions;
  • develop your ideas through critical thinking, including analysis and synthesis;
  • effectively and critically find, use, and cite diverse sources of information;
  • copy-edit your formal writing by considering conventional usage alongside your purpose; and
  • develop effective writing processes and strategies to apply beyond the course.

Required texts

Hoang, Haivan V., et al., eds. Opening Conversations: A Writer’s Reader. Plymouth, MI: Hayden-McNeil Publishing, 2015. Print. ISBN: 9780738080215.

Lunsford, Andrea A. EasyWriter. 5th ed.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. Print. ISBN: 9781457640469.

Zukowski, Patricia, et al., eds. The Student Writing Anthology, 2016-17. Plymouth, MI: Hayden-McNeil Publishing, 2016. Print. ISBN: 9780738084374.

Required materials

Please bring a notebook to class for generative writing and other in-class and at-home exercises. Please have a folder ready for each unit portfolio.

Course Requirements

College Writing has been designed based on the belief that writing is a process and a social activity, that people learn to write by writing and giving/getting feedback, that writers can gain more control over their writing by cultivating an awareness of their own processes and strategies, and that texts written by students in this class community are therefore central to the course.

Students in all sections of College Writing are required to write five essays (each 750-1,250 words); each will go through an extensive writing process, and each will introduce new challenges.

  • Unit 1: Inquiring into Self asks you to draw on personal experience, analyze how your personal context has influenced you, and write about this to a familiar audience.
  • Unit 2: Interacting with Texts asks you to develop and write a critical response to one or more published texts and tailor the response to an academic audience.
  • Unit 3: Adding to a Conversation asks you to pursue a question that interests you, engage in effective library research, and communicate what you learned to a more public audience.
  • Unit 4: TBA continues to work toward the course learning objectives but differs from section to section; stay tuned for your Unit 4 assignment.
  • Unit 5: Writer’s statement is an essay where you’ll analyze who you are as a writer and how your writing has developed in this course.

Units 1-4 Portfolios

Each unit assignment requires that you engage in a rigorous writing process. For each unit, you’ll develop and submit a portfolio that includes the following:

  • generative writing to explore ideas and writing options;
  • an initial draft;
  • a substantially revised draft, based on feedback from self, peers, instructor, and others;
  • a further revised and copy-edited final draft;
  • reflections on your own writing to help you identify effective processes and writing choices.

Each activity, including peer review, is meant to help you focus on specific aspects of your writing; you’ll get teacher feedback once during the drafting stage of Units 1-4. With certain assignments, we may devote more time to certain stages of the process, and at other times, we may move more quickly. At least once, we’ll experiment with publishing your text.

To grow as writers, we need to write, reflect, and write some more—thus, each part of the process is required, and unit grades will be based on the entire portfolio, not only the final version of essays. Be sure to save every piece of writing! For each unit, you’ll be given instructions on what to submit, how, and when.

Unit 5 Portfolio

Unit 5 is a critical analysis of who you are as a writer and how your writing has developed in this course; portfolios for Units 1-4 and additional generative writing will serve as the basis for this essay.

Writing Community Membership

Creating a community that enables us to grow as writers depends on each person fulfilling our responsibilities, offering mutual respect, and being receptive readers of one another’s writing—cell phones off, please. All students are expected to adhere to the university’s “Guidelines for Classroom Civility and Respect”:

Essential learning in this course will happen as you engage in writing-related activities with peers. Performing well in writing community membership means actively and respectfully contributing to and seeking to learn from our class community. Note that participation can take a variety of forms: e.g., asking questions and giving comments during class discussion, taking notes on behalf of a small group, sharing perspectives in writing with peers.

Writing community responsibilities include the following:

  • Be prepared. Being prepared includes, but is not limited to, bringing required materials to class and actively reading the required texts. Reading texts by other writers, including classmates, will help you generate ideas, engage in dialogue, and become aware of your writing choices. Speaking up during class is easier for some more than others, but there are a variety of ways to participate in pairs or small groups. I can help out if you don’t know how to enter the conversation—just let me know.
  • Give constructive peer response. Research suggests that the instructor is not always the best reader for student writing—you need to practice writing for a variety of readers, and you need as many readers as you can get, especially readers who are not also evaluating you. That means you need to cultivate good intellectual relations with your classmates. Group work is difficult, and it’s sometimes easy to dismiss others’ readings of your papers. But you need to learn to trust others’ readings of your work; you need, also, to provide the kind of readings of others’ papers that you want as a writer.
  • Participate in peer activities, class discussion, and small group exercises. Our writing community activities will include discussion among the entire class as well as small group exercises—during class time, possibly on Moodle forums, too. These activities are designed to help you write and reflect on your essay assignments.
  • Talking with each of you one-on-one about your experience in the course is, for me, a privilege. You will be required to meet with me twice during the semester, though I invite and encourage you to meet with me more often. These opportunities for individual instruction are invaluable for both of us.

Tentative Course Calendar

Please note that the calendar is “tentative” which means it is subject to change. It’s difficult to predict how any class will go, so occasionally things may be altered if I think changes will better facilitate your learning.

Unit 1: Inquiring into Self

Week 1

Tu        9/6               Introduction to Unit 1: Inquiring into Self

Th         9/8               Discuss MacDonald, Sedaris, Satrapi

Week 2

Tu        9/13             Discuss Houle, Kim

Th         9/15             Unit 1 Draft 1 due for peer review

Week 3

Tu        9/20             Unit 1 Draft 2 due

Th         9/22             Discuss rhetorical situation and audience

Unit 2: Interacting with Texts

Week 4

Tu        9/27             Unit 1 Portfolio with final paper due; Intro Unit 2

Th         9/29             Discuss Biss, Hitchings, Summary vs. analysis

Week 5

Tu        10/4             Discuss Marton and McCarthy

W-F     10/5-7         Unit 2 Draft 1 due for conferences

Week 6            

Tu        10/11          NO CLASS

Th         10/13          Unit 2 Draft 2 due for peer review

Week 7

Tu        10/18          Unit 2 Portfolio with final paper due; Intro Unit 3

Th         10/20          Research Question due

Unit 3: Adding to a Conversation

Week 8

Tu        10/25          Annotated Bibliography Draft for peer review

Th         10/27          Discuss Brooks

Week 9

Tu        11/1             Unit 3 Draft 1 due

Th         11/3             Discuss Ahmed

Week 10

Tu        11/8             Unit 3 Draft 2 due for peer review

Th         11/10          Discuss summary, paraphrase, citation


Week 11

Tu        11/15          Unit 3 Portfolio with final paper due, Intro Unit 4

Th         11/17          Discuss public readings

M-F      11/21-25    NO CLASS                                                               

Week 12

Tu        11/29          Unit 4 Initial Draft due for peer review

Th         12/1             Introduction to Unit 5


Week 13

Tu        12/6             Unit 4 Portfolio with final paper due

Th         12/8             Unit 5 Initial Draft due

Tu        12/13          Last day of class

F           12/16         Unit 5 Final Essay due