Skip to content


Syllabus for English 101-21: Literature and Composition

Fall 2015

Class Meeting Time: TTh 11:30-12:45

Class Location: Goldstein 117

Professor John L. Boyd

Director, Writing Center

Office: Goldstein 106

Office Hours:  TTh 2:30-3:30 and by appointment

Phone: 410-778-7262



About This Class:

English 101 is a course that all students take during their first year at Washington College, and based on its title, you might assume that it is primarily focused on the study of literature. I’d like for us to think of the course more broadly, however, as a kind of introduction to academic culture. We’ll read and discuss a variety of texts in the class—memoir and fiction as well as professional articles intended for academic audiences—but we won’t just discuss them in literary terms. Instead, we’ll use them as an opportunity to explore ways of thinking and working in an intellectual environment. We’ll also spend some time reflecting on what it means to be a college student and, in particular, how writing might play a role in your growth and development over the next few years. The texts we read will form the foundation from which we’ll build, but what I hope is that you’ll gain some very specific strategies in this class for adapting to the practices of academic life. Ideally, you’ll begin to see connections between the courses you’re taking, and you’ll find ways of crafting an identity for yourself as an academic writer.


Required Texts:

  • Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (Mariner Books)
  • Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (Vintage)
  • Joseph Harris, Rewriting: How to Do Things With Texts (Utah State UP)

Ÿ Additional readings to be provided

In addition to these books and a notebook for your own notes, please consider getting another separate folder or binder to help you stay organized. I’ll be circulating printed copies of some of our readings this semester, and we’ll also be using handouts for some writing activities, so it would be helpful for you to keep all those things together in one place.


Course Goals and Objectives

The college has established four primary areas of focus for all sections of English 101, and in this class, we’ll work together toward developing in these areas throughout the semester:

  • Critical Thinking: the ability to analyze and use texts and other materials in writing, reading, and research
  • Rhetorical Knowledge: the ability to craft an effective argument
  • Writing Processes: an understanding of strategies effective for researching, composing, and revising
  • Awareness of Conventions: an awareness of the formal guidelines that define academic communication

We’ll use these four kinds of knowledge to engage in some specific academic thinking and activity. By the end of this course, my hope is that you will be better able to do the following:

  • Read a variety of texts carefully to determine the purposes and argumentative strategies used by the authors.
  • Engage with other authors and incorporate their words and ideas into your own writing effectively.
  • Use personal reflection and feedback from others to make informed choices about your writing and to revise successfully.
  • Respond to other writers with specific and helpful feedback.
  • Analyze, evaluate, and produce specific genres of academic writing, including memoir and the literary essay.

In other words, these are the five most important things you should take with you from this course.

Some Notes About Class Participation, Preparation, and Behavior:

First-year courses at Washington College are often referred to as “seminars.” The implication is that the classes are small and discussion based. This will certainly be true of our class, and so you should expect that every one of our meetings will be interactive and will require your participation. Engaging with the class texts and with other students also contributes to the sense of practice that I would like us to develop over this semester. If you don’t contribute in a class, you’ve “missed practice” as is the case with an athlete who skips a workout. To improve as a writer, you need to be especially conscientious about keeping up with assignments, preparing for class, and participating fully in our activities.

Please be very cautious about behavior that might be disruptive to the members of the class. If you expect to be successful in this class, the following things are important to remember:

  • Always be on time for class.
  • Always be prepared for class. Coming to class without having completed readings or other assignments is not acceptable, and it is usually very evident to me if you are unprepared.
  • Always be attentive and pleasant in class. No matter what your personal circumstances are on any given day, you should be conscious of the effect your demeanor and attitude will have on others.
  • Turn off your cell phone before class begins, and put away any technology that will be distracting to you or others.
  • Unless it is an emergency, don’t leave the room while class is in session. Be sure to use the bathroom and to take care of any other necessities before class begins.

If, for any reason, I feel that your behavior is disruptive or disrespectful, I will ask you to leave and count you absent for the day.

There will be some occasions when having a laptop or iPad in class will be helpful, and I’ll make announcements about that ahead of time. In general, though, unless we are engaged in a class activity online, I ask that you avoid having an open laptop during class sessions. If you have good reasons for requiring a laptop during class, please talk with me to make arrangements.


Attendance Policy:

Since this is a small class, any absence will have an effect on the group’s interaction, so attendance is especially important. Being in class also means that you are gaining the experience and practice that are necessary to developing as a writer. If you miss a class, you are missing part of the experience that this course is aiming for. For that reason, if you miss more than three classes, you final grade will be affected. Beginning with the fourth absence, your final grade in the class will drop by one degree for each subsequent absence (from B to B-, from B- to C+, etc.) It is not possible to pass the class if you have more than eight absences, no matter what the reason.

If you see ahead of time that you won’t be able to attend a particular class session, please let me know in advance. Be aware, however, that it is still your responsibility to complete reading and writing assignments on schedule, and you should check with other students in the class to get notes on what we did in class on the day you missed.


The Class Blog: Doing Writing

I’ve established a class blog for us at This blog will be the online home for much of the work we do this semester, so please plan to check here frequently for news about the class, updates on assignments, and other important details. We’ll talk about what blogs are and how we’ll use them in class, but as you’ll see right away, you’ll be setting up a blog of your own.

I’ll be making regular posts of my own to the class blog in response to our discussions, so please keep in mind that those are part of the class reading assignments. I’ll inform you when I’ve made a new post to the blog, and I hope that my reflections will give you a sense of how we’re following through on our goals for the semester.

Using the Writing Center:

As you work on the writing assignments in this class, consider making an appointment at the Washington College Writing Center. There, you can meet with a knowledgeable peer consultant and receive one-to-one feedback over any kind of writing, at any stage in your writing process: before you begin writing, once you’ve started a rough draft, or as you’re editing a final draft. In this exchange, you’ll get a new perspective on your ideas, and you’ll gain some strategies to help you improve on what you’ve written. Every writer, no matter how experienced, can benefit from the response of a thoughtful, engaged reader.

The Writing Center is a resource that is available to any member of the college community. To make an appointment, visit the online scheduling system at or drop by Goldstein 106.


Academic Integrity:

As a member of this class, you’ll want to be aware of the college’s policies concerning academic integrity. You can find information about the honor code and other college policies on the Student Affairs website at In particular, the Student Handbook indicates that plagiarism involves “presenting the language, the ideas, or the work of another as one’s own, without proper attribution.” We’ll take some time in class to discuss this definition, but just be aware that submitting someone else’s work as your own—whether it is a small passage or an entire assignment—is a violation of the college’s honor code. The same is true of submitting an assignment for this class that you have also submitted for another class. Anyone who violates the honor code in this class will receive a score of zero on the assignment in question or will receive a failing grade in the class and be reported to the honor board, depending on the severity of the violation. If you have any question, at any time, about the work that you’re doing in this class, please talk with me about it before you’ve submitted the work for a grade.


Students with Disabilities or Learning Differences:

Students with documented disabilities or learning differences are entitled to certain accommodations in the classroom through the American Disabilities Act. If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please talk with me about your needs and check with the Office of Academic Skills about acquiring appropriate documentation. I’m happy to work with you to ensure that all elements of our class are accessible to you.


Grading Criteria:

Class Participation:  15%

Blog Posts: 20%

Reading Quizzes:  5%

Essay 1:  10%

Essay 2:  15%

Essay 3:  15%

Final reflective essay: 10%

Final blog project and oral presentation:  10%


A+ = 96.5-100   A = 93.5-96.4 A- = 89.5-93.4

B+ = 86.5-89.4 B = 83.5-86.4 B- = 79.5-83.4

C+ = 76.5-79.4 C = 73.5-76.4 C- = 69.5-73.4

D+ = 66.5-69.4 D = 63.5-66.4 D- = 59.5-63.4

F = 59.4 or lower


Graded Components of This Class:

Below is a brief list of the primary graded components for this class. For a more detailed description of the essay assignments, visit the Writing Projects page on the class blog.

Your blog:  To begin our class, I’ll ask that you set up an individual blog for your writing this semester. For instructions in setting up your own blog, see the first post on the class blog. Your blog will function as a place for you to keep your own writing for this class, so you’ll be adding to it as the semester develops. You’ll post weekly reflections to your blog (see below), and you’ll also post drafts of your essays there for our peer review activities. Please be aware that your blog posts will be public, and we’ll often use them as a part of our class discussions.

Each week of the semester, unless otherwise noted on the syllabus, you’ll post a reflective entry to your personal blog. You can post your entry at any time during the week, but they are due no later than each Sunday at midnight. These entries should be an opportunity for you to extend our classroom discussions and to interact with our course readings. At times, I will specify a prompt for your blog post, but on some occasions, I’ll leave the focus up to you. In general, however, you might approach your blog entries by identifying and describing a question or point of interest or confusion that came up for you in one of our readings, or you might extend or challenge an idea posed by one of the authors.

An effective blog entry should be in the range of 300-400 words (or two to three paragraphs), and typically, your entries should make specific connections to course concepts and readings – quoting or paraphrasing where appropriate. They should also demonstrate the kind of critical reflection that we’ll be discussing in class. In other words, they shouldn’t merely offer summary or personal experience, but they should respond and add something to the readings and concepts of the class.

You’ll receive regular, supportive comments from me on your blog, and you’ll also receive more formal feedback and a grade on your entries twice a semester (once at mid-term and once at the end of the semester). Each blog entry will be worth approximately 10 points, adding up to a total of a possible 100 points for your final blog grade.

Over the course of the semester, you may skip one blog entry, on a week of your choice, without any penalty to your grade.

Class Participation: I’ll keep regular records of your class participation over the semester, and the most important advice I’d give you is that a good attitude goes a long way. In class, be attentive and alert, be supportive and polite with other members of the class, and be willing to share your perspective in discussions. I’ll do my best to make class discussions energetic and interesting, but you have a role to play in that as well. In general, I rate participation on the following scale:

A:  Participates often in class discussions; adds new and relevant perspectives; engages actively with other members of the class as well as the professor in productive ways; is always present, attentive, prepared, and makes the most of class experiences.

B:  Always appears attentive, positive, and prepared for class; contributes to class discussions; interacts productively with other class members in group work or other activities; rarely absent.

C:  Makes occasional relevant contributions to discussions, though not as regularly as others in the class; generally appears attentive and prepared and makes an effort to interact with other class members during group work and activities; may be absent on occasion but not consistently.

D:  Does not regularly contribute to class discussions, or contributes in ways that are at times disruptive or unproductive; often seems distracted or unpleasant about class activities; may be absent on regular occasions.

F:  Does not generally contribute to class discussions, or contributes in ways that are disruptive or disrespectful; often seems distracted or disconnected when in class and has difficulty with group work or activities; often absent.

Individual Conferences with the Instructor: For our first two writing projects this semester, I’ll schedule an individual conference with each of you during the week before the final draft is due. This will be an opportunity for us to discuss your draft in progress, address any questions you might have, and think about how you might continue developing your draft from here. My hope is that you’ll come to these meetings with some specific ideas about what you’d like to work on and what kind of feedback would be most helpful for you. Please be mindful of any scheduled meetings you have with me; missing a scheduled conference will count as an absence from class.

Reading quizzes:  There will be occasional, brief in-class reading quizzes and writing prompts. These may or may not be announced, and they cannot be made up in the case of an absence. On the reading quizzes, I won’t ask for obscure details. Instead, I’ll be interested in seeing your specific reaction to the readings for the day. I’ll typically ask three to four questions, and I’ll give you 10-15 minutes to collect your thoughts and compose a brief response.

Essay Assignments: You will complete three substantial essay assignments over the course of the semester, each of which will involve a process of drafting, reflecting, and revising. The first essay will ask you to reflect on a significant experience in your own life that involved reading or writing, the second will require you to apply argumentative strategies to a topic of your choice, and the third will be an opportunity to engage in a critical analysis of a work of literature.

Final Project: Instead of completing a final exam in this class, you’ll turn in an online portfolio of materials. I’ll provide you with more information about this later in the semester, but the portfolio will include a final project involving your blog, a substantial revision of previous work you’ve done this semester, and a final reflective letter.

Oral Presentation: There will be a brief (approximately 10 minute) oral presentation connected to the final blog project of the semester.

%d bloggers like this: