Chapter 1: Introductions

1.3. Introduction the Course: Classroom Materials and Policies


One of the biggest surprises I learned from my high school audience was that most of them had never heard of a syllabus. This made me ask the question, “how many times I have neglected to explain the importance and usefulness of the course’s syllabus and calendar?” It turns out, almost never. So, here it goes!

The syllabus is a contract between you and your instructor. Yes, a contract. By reading the syllabus and not withdrawing from my class, you are entering into a contract with myself, the First-Year Writing Department, and the university. This sounds scary. It isn’t, just so long as you READ THE SYLLABUS. The syllabus lists how you will be graded, required materials, course goals, expectations, mandatory attendance policies, and so on. Generally, when a question comes up about the course, you can find it on the syllabus. In ENG 100/101, the syllabus is NOT the course calendar. In this course, the course calendar is disseminated weekly via Blackboard, while an Aggregated Course Calendar is available outlining approximate due dates.

Course Calendar

I have created an aggregated course calendar listing important dates (available on Blackboard) and unit descriptions. The following gives a very brief overview of the units in ENG 101:

Unit 1 Summary and Response involves explanatory writing, summary skills, and the use of grammatical 3rd and 1st person.

Unit 2 Rhetorical Analysis Part I involves using less traditional forms of communicating to illustrate understanding of a text’s context and purpose and recognizing rhetorical moves in an article.

Unit 3 Rhetorical Analysis Part II moves away from explanatory writing and involves argumentative/opinion-driven writing, understanding how to contextualize your Point of View, and relying on grammatical 3rd person and academic language.

Unit 4 Argumentative Synthesis involves all of the previous skills and asks you to incorporate more formal sources to provide a logical argument.

Unit 5 Reflective Analysis and Portfolio Creation involves the inclusion of one essay of your choice to be revised, a revised argumentative synthesis essay, and a reflective essay. The portfolio reflects the field’s focus on revision and writing as a process, not a product. This assignment will be discussed in more depth in the future sections.

In addition to the aggregated calendar, students will be provided with a weekly Blackboard announcement showing the upcoming week’s unit, topic, and homework. I have the tendency to alter our due dates throughout the semester, so I have found that by posting the calendar on Blackboard students (and I) are able to remember due dates and homework. I also feel it creates better communication between myself and my students while helping everyone to stay more organized. That said, not all professors will give you a weekly course calendar, sometimes you are given the calendar with no review and no explanation. The course calendar provides due dates. Important due dates. So whether it is my class or your Chemistry class be sure to check it at least once a week.

Attendance Policy

Time and again, professors are asked by students, “Do I really have to come to class?” And, the answer is nearly always the same, “Yes, you really have to come to class.”

You might ask, “Is this true for all classes?” The answer is, I don’t know, but I do know in my class attendance is mandatory. The First-Year Writing Department has declared that four absences are allowed without excessively effecting your grade, anymore absences and your grade plummets. If you miss eight classes, then you automatically fail the course.

Below I have outlined the points loss correlated to number of classes missed for my course:

Absences Points lost
0-2 No loss of points
3-4 Loss of 5 participation points
5 Loss of 15 participation points
6 Loss of 25 participation points
7 Loss of 35 participation points
8 Loss of 50 participation points
9 Automatic failure of the course

Come to class, be prepared, and be optimistic because I try to make class fun or at the very least worth your while. Remember, you are learning how to read, write and think in a college setting, so it is probably a good idea to show up.

The only absences considered excused by the First-Year Writing Program are those related to university-authorized activities. You must provide documentation for the excusable activities listed below:

  • University excused absences: athletics and university-authorized group activities
  • University unexcused absences include but are not limited to: emergency room visits, doctor visits, family illnesses or deaths, military leave, court room appearances, etc.


I vaguely remember high school but when I try to remember having homework, I draw a blank. After thinking about this phenomena, I realized that I rarely had homework in high school because I had so many breaks and study halls to finish the assigned work. I am not sure if that set-up is still the same, but just in case, I want to discuss why there always seems to be so much homework in my class and in your other classes.

One reason for the barrage of homework is because you only meet for class three or four hours a week—a big change from seven or eight hours in high school. When you meet with me during class, I need to cover difficult concepts, model assignments, and assign assignments in 50 minutes or less. That does not leave a lot of time for you to complete work in class, but I do try to allow “work days” or “drafting days” so that you have less homework. Yet, in the end, you will have homework and it is very important to stay up to date with your homework so you do not fall behind.

Also, when it seems like too much and you don’t want to read or respond to one more damn article, please remember, you are swapping going to school five days a week for many hours to creating your own schedule with class being only three or four hours a week. And, arguably more importantly, you are choosing to be here. You are in college presumably for a reason and your professors, including myself, are assigning homework because it is important. So, although I know it can be hard to learn how to manage your time and be organized your first semester, it is part of the process of “doing college.”

Office Hours

Another thing that may be new to some of you is the opportunity to work and talk one-on-one with your professor. It is definitely one of the perks of the college environment. I am available during certain times in my office, meaning, I am likely sitting by myself waiting for students to show up and ask for help or to say, “hello.”

In general, it is always good (in any class) to introduce yourself to your professor. I have over 100 students per semester and it can get a little confusing, so introductions during office hours are a great way to stand out from the crowd. Furthermore, attending office hours can help answer questions concerning difficult assignments or concepts.

Below I have outlined where to find me and how to contact me:

Melanie Gagich, Assistant College Lecturer, First-Year Writing Program
Where is my office? RT 1832 (the 18th Floor of Rhodes Tower)
What are my office hours? Semester dependent; check syllabus
What is my email?