Chapter 1: Introductions
In 2015, I gave a presentation to a room full of high school seniors. The purpose of the presentation was to outline differences between high school and college in order to make students’ transition from high school to higher education easier. I began the talk thinking that I would review writing practices; however, students quickly began interrupting my academic talk with questions like, “Do you need a pass to go to the bathroom?” or “What is a syllabus?” or “How much homework do you give?”
These questions threw me for a loop momentarily then I realized, of course, these were serious questions that were likely on the mind of many incoming college students.
With that presentation in mind, I decided to provide my students with a brief outline of requirements and terms that you might not have been familiar with in high school. Although you will have an introduction to college life class, I feel that my ENG 100/101 courses are also good places to help you learn to navigate college. I use my class as the foundation for this discussion and I provide important concepts that will help you meet my expectations and get the most out of my course.
What is Composition and College Writing?
One common misperception involves the name of the course. Many students seem to believe that your Introduction College Writing Course will be an “English” course. Meaning, many think the class will entail reading literature, writing creatively, and practicing grammar. In fact, that is really not the case. Although ENG 100/101 is a general education requirement, the way I approach it, it also belongs within the field of Composition and Rhetoric. College Writing instructors’ utilize theories and practices outlined in various academic journals and organizations (e.g. College Composition and Communication).
This class will help prepare you for future college writing but will also help you begin to think more critically about the rhetorical moves that surround you. Think of the last political ad you saw or an article you read online–how do you know if it was legit? Do you know who paid for the ad/article or who will profit from it? If you do know, what does that mean? Do you ask yourself whose agenda is this when you interact with popular media like reality tv shows, news programs, commentary programs, blogs, articles, etc.? These are just some of the questions that are explored in this course and in other introductory composition courses, which positions it as complimentary to but also different from most “English” course you might have experienced in the past.
I would also like to point out the title of the course: “College Writing.” To me this title illustrates that it is my job to prepare you for college writing, not only for my course, but also for the duration of your college experience. Therefore, I have structured the class in a way I believe will help you become a better reader, writer, and critical thinker.
When reading your syllabus, you might have noticed a list of outcomes and course goals. Both lists are not meant to be read once and forgotten; instead, they should be taken into consideration as you move forward in the class.
As a reminder, I have listed the outcomes I hope are able to transfer to other classes while taking and after completing my ENG 100/101 course:
- Preparedness for writing to targeted and various audience members;
- The ability to recognize and use various rhetorical moves illustrating your awareness of the relationship between audience, situation/occasion, and purpose;
- The ability to access and utilize critical thinking and reading skills in any given situation;
- The willingness to participate in a classroom environment that promotes student responsibility, respect, and agency;
- The willingness to participate in writing workshops
- The ability to use peer and individual revision practices;
- A confident and secure feeling towards your writing and writing processes;
- The ability to converse using academic discourses (languages);
- The willingness to use your own experiences to produce interesting, diverse, and mature written work.
Further, the First-Year Writing Program at CSU states that students in ENG 101 will be taught techniques and strategies in order to reach the following course goals:
- Write effective explanatory and argumentative prose;
- Read, understand, analyze, and respond to explanatory and argumentative prose;
- Develop a thesis, unity, and coherence in a piece of writing;
- Anticipate and address audience expectations;
- Understand and use appropriate paragraph structure, transitions, logical development;
- Choose and use appropriate diction; development of sentence structure and documentation style based on rhetorical situations;
- Understand connotations and denotations in written texts;
- Revise, edit, and proofread.
We will spend time with these outcomes and goals throughout the semester because they are reflected in the types of essays we write, the readings we read, and the personal reflections completed at the end of each unit. As a learner, you will also add on your personal outcomes and goals.
The outcomes and goals backup my claim regarding this class as a college writing class where you will spend a lot of time talking about writing, learning writing skills, and writing. Lots and lots of writing. Our class time will be set up in a way that allows you to work during class, ask me questions directly, and collaborate with your peers. I do not force you to work in a group or with a partner but I strongly suggest you do because writing is not a solo activity. I have found my best writing has been done when I work with my friends, colleagues, and, yes, my parents. So I urge you to do the same!
Please reflect on the following questions:
- How might college be different from your experience(s) in high school?
- How might college be similar to your experience(s) in high school?