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Writing Projects

Final Portfolio

The final course portfolio will be due on Thursday, December 17, by 12:30pm, and it should include the following items:

  • A final reflective essay, posted as an entry on your blog. See below for further details about this essay.
  • A substantial revision of one of your previously submitted class essays, uploaded to Canvas.
  • Your finished, remodeled blog.

You’ll receive feedback from me on the elements of your portfolio by Wednesday, December 23.

The Reflective Essay:

As a final assignment for this class, I’m asking that you write an essay that reflects on your own development as a writer this semester. The purpose is for you to consider where you stand now as a college writer and how your thinking has (or hasn’t) changed. In the process, you should engage with some of the ideas we’ve discussed in class and explore the ways you’ve found them useful, challenging, or problematic.

To focus your thinking in the essay, you might choose to take on one or two concepts from some of our course readings and explain how you’ve come to understand it and apply it in your writing. You might look at work you’ve done in another class and think about how (or if) the concepts we’ve discussed relate to that work. Or you might focus on a particular assignment or activity in this class (like the blog, the peer review sessions, the process of revising your essays, etc.) and describe how that had some effect on your writing. Whatever the case, you should aim to produce an essay that is coherent and focused, not just a list of what you’ve accomplished.

I’ll offer one other word of clarification. I see this assignment as an opportunity for you to assess your own thinking and practice so far as a college writer. It’s not intended to be an evaluation of this class. In other words, while you might identify things in the class that have been helpful or problematic for you, the focus should be on your own process of development. You shouldn’t feel obligated to write in praise or criticism of our class activities or my approach to the material. Instead, you should think critically about the concepts we’ve talked about in class and assess their uses and limits for you as a writer. Has your thinking about writing changed at all over the semester? If so, why?

This essay should be in the range of 800-1000 words (about three double spaced pages), and it should be posted as a final entry to your blog—or as a separate page on your blog if you prefer—by the above due date.

Revision of a Previous Essay:

As a part of your final portfolio, you should also submit a substantially revised version of one of your previously submitted essays for this class. Of course, the amount of revision necessary for each essay will vary, but to receive an improved grade, you will need to demonstrate that you have revisited the essays in some significant way, adding to or rethinking your draft based on the feedback you’ve received. Revisions that are restricted to sentence level changes (rewording, changed punctuation, etc.) won’t receive any additional credit. The essay you choose to revise must be one you have already submitted and received a grade for in our class. If your grade on the revision improves, that grade will replace the original one you got on the essay.

To aid you in the revision process, please take into account the feedback you’ve received from me and your fellow classmates as well as the advice Harris offers in the final chapters of Rewriting. If you think it would be helpful, you can include a note with your essays to indicate how you’ve approached the revision (or you can discuss your revision as part of the final reflective essay).

Revisions should be completed by the due date of the final portfolio, and they should be uploaded to the “Final Essay Revision” assignment on Canvas. Title the document like this: last name_essay number_revision.doc.

Your Remodeled Blog:

See the details below for your final blog assignment. You will present your blog to the class during our final three meetings, but the finished, remodeled version of your blog should be available online by the due date for the final portfolio.

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Final Blog Presentation

The Assignment:

For our last project, I’d like for you to spend some time with the blog you’ve begun this semester and develop a new vision for how you might continue to use it. Think of this as ”remodeling” your blog for a specific purpose that is meaningful to you. In the last few days of the semester, I’ll ask that you each describe your blog concept to the class in a 10 minute presentation. Here are some approaches you might consider in revising your blog:

* You might focus your blog on a particular activity or area of interest. Your blog could act as a site to promote an extracurricular activity or student group you’re engaged in, or it could be a place where you record and reflect on your own performance or progress (for instance, as a student athlete).

* Your blog might focus on a particular theme or concept that is important to you. This could be something like a favorite author or genre or reading or film, or it could be a concept or area of study you’ve encountered in one of your classes.

* You might develop a blog that will help guide you in your academic interests. For instance, you might adapt your blog so that it becomes a central location for your class notes or your research on a particular topic. Or you might use your blog as a place where you begin exploring your potential major.

* If you have a particular creative pursuit (writing, music, photography, drawing, digital design) then you could develop your blog into a portfolio of your work.

Your Blog:

Because there are so many different creative possibilities here, it’s difficult to stipulate exactly what a successful blog should contain. However, I’ll list below what I consider to be the essentials of this assignment. If your idea for remodeling your blog conflicts with these essential elements, plan on talking with me ahead of time to work out a solution.

* There should be a significant textual element to your blog. I would suggest that, in total, your remodeled blog should have something in the range of 500-1000 words of writing incorporated into it. Of course, this text might be spread across several pages or blog posts. You might also, if appropriate, include text that responds to some of the presentation questions listed below.

* There should be evidence that you have taken advantage of the blog as a medium. In other words, think about what you can accomplish with a blog that you cannot accomplish with a more traditional form of expression (like a printed essay or letter). Explore some of the features that blogs offer, and think of ways to draw in multimedia elements like video or still images.

* There should be evidence that you’ve thought about the visual presentation of your blog. Of course, all our blog designs come from established templates that are available on WordPress, so there are some limitations to what you can do visually. I also understand that this isn’t a class in web design. However, to the extent that it’s possible, you should consider how the visual presentation of your blog suits your particular idea.

* There should be evidence that your blog has a consistent point or thematic concept, and it should provide you with an opportunity to think critically about that concept.  In other words, your blog should provide your readers with a coherent experience, and it should provide you with an opportunity to do more than simply convey information. How will the blog help you to think through and make progress with the particular activity or concept you’ve chosen to focus on?

Your Presentation:

During the last two weeks, you will each have the opportunity to present your finished blog to the class. You should plan to take about 10 minutes to point out the choices you’ve made and to explain the concept or thematic focus of your blog, and we’ll all be able to look at the blog together as a class. In the process, you should consider the following questions:

* What purpose will your blog serve? What will it help you to do?

* How will your blog offer a critical perspective on your topic or thematic focus? In other words, how will it help you to reflect on and question the idea or activity you’ve chosen to focus on? How will it help you to pay attention to your own process or development in the area you’re focusing on?

* What role does writing play in your blog concept? What rhetorical situation are you responding to? (Even if your blog is intended to be private—just for your own use — you should still be able to identify things like the exigence that motivates you and the constraints you are working within.)

* How have you taken advantage of the possibilities that a blog offers? What have you done with your blog that you wouldn’t be able to do with another form of expression?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at some examples of other blogs that might give you some inspiration.

Finally, in developing your blog, please be very careful to give credit for any material you use from other web sites. Check with me if you have any questions about how to make responsible use of other online sources.

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Third Writing Project: Literary Analysis

English 101-21

The Assignment:

In her Foreword to The Bluest Eye, Morrison poses some questions that motivated her in writing the novel, and she also expresses concern about how successful she was in portraying the devastating events that occur in Pecola’s life. For our third writing project, I’d like you to use Morrison’s reflection as a framework for understanding and coming to terms with the novel. Here’s the task:

Choose one of the passages below from Morrison’s Foreword (or another passage from the Foreword that seems important to you), and use that as a starting place for an essay about the novel. In the passage you choose, what problem or question does Morrison raise for herself as an author, and how does she work through that problem or question in the characters and events of the novel?

Some passages you might consider:

“When I began writing The Bluest Eye, I was interested in something else. Not resistance to the contempt of others, ways to deflect it, but the far more tragic and disabling consequences of accepting rejection as legitimate, as self-evident.” (ix)

“The assertion of racial beauty was not a reaction to the self-mocking, humorous critique of cultural/racial foibles common in all groups, but against the damaging internalization of assumptions of immutable inferiority originating in an outside gaze. I focused, therefore, on how something as grotesque as the demonization of an entire race could take root inside the most delicate member of society: a child; the most vulnerable member: a female.” (xi)

“One problem was centering the weight of the novel’s inquiry on so delicate and vulnerable a character could smash her and lead readers into the comfort of pitying her rather than into an interrogation of themselves for the smashing.” (xii)

In your approach to this assignment, keep in mind the concepts we’ve been working with so far in class. Your own argument should be driven by a thesis statement that makes a critical observation about Morrison’s project in writing the novel, and you should draw carefully and specifically from the text of the novel to develop your perspective.

The completed essay should be 4-5 pages in length, double-spaced, and written in a standard font (Iike Times New Roman or Cambria, 12 point), with standard page margins (1 inch or 1.25 inch). Please use MLA style documentation for this essay. Although you might only make use of two sources in your essay—the Foreword and the novel itself—you should still include a Works Cited page with entries for each source. For a guide to MLA format, you can refer to any good writing handbook (like Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference) or you can use the free resources at the Purdue Online Writing Lab: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/05/.

The Process:

* One effective way to begin work on this assignment would be to reflect on our class discussions and blog entries concerning the novel so far. As you choose the passage you’d like to work with, you might also consider how some of the key words and concepts from Rewriting might apply to Morrison’s perspective on her own novel.

* An initial rough draft (at least 2 pages) is DUE and should be posted to Canvas by midnight on Tuesday, November 17.

* For class on Thursday, November 19, please bring a laptop to view your partners’ drafts. We’ll spend the class session reviewing the drafts together.

* The final draft of the essay will be DUE to me on Sunday, November 22, by 5:00pm. Final drafts should be uploaded as Word documents to Canvas. Title your draft like this: yourlastname_project3.docx.

Grading:

You’ll receive detailed feedback from me on your completed essay, and by the end of the semester, you may choose to return to this assignment for further revision as part of your final portfolio. In evaluating your essay, I’ll consider four factors:

Development of thesis: Your third essay should be driven by an observation or perspective that adds something to what Morrison offers in her Foreword. How is your understanding of the novel changed by the concerns she brings up there?

Careful, close reading of the novel and use of the text: Your essay should focus on specific details and passages from the novel as a means of supporting your thesis. This will require that you quote from the novel and that you follow up quotations with interpretation and discussion of your own. 

Sophistication of thinking: Above all, your essay should show that you are working with Morrison’s text in a thoughtful and critical way. Your own discussion should move beyond a summary of the novel to a discussion of how the novel addresses the problems Morrison raises in the Foreword.

Effective presentation: Your final draft should demonstrate a purposeful and deliberate use of language, a logical organizational plan, and an understanding of the standard conventions of English grammar, usage, and mechanics.

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Second Writing Project: Argument

English 101-21

The Assignment:

For our second writing project, I’d like you to try out some of the concepts Joseph Harris offers us in Rewriting. To complete this assignment, you’ll either need to return to some of the readings we’ve discussed so far in class or you’ll need to reach outside of our class to identify other sources you might use. Here’s the task:

 Identify a problem, question, or controversy you’d like to address. Choose at least three authors who have written about the topic you’ve selected, and write an essay in which you respond to the authors and establish a distinct perspective of your own. To do this, you’ll need to come to terms with (and quote from) the authors you’ve chosen and then consider how you might forward, counter, or otherwise adapt what the authors have already said about your topic.

Keep in mind that your purpose is not simply to take an “agree or disagree” position, so I would recommend that you avoid topics that lend themselves to a black and white approach. Instead, your job is to advance the conversation about a particular issue. You may choose any topic that interests you, either from our class discussions or from your experience beyond our class.

The following are examples of topics that have come up thus far in our class discussions:

  • Writing as a means of shaping or transforming one’s identity.
  • The relationship between personal interests and academic success.
  • The distinction between truth and fiction in writing.
  • The influence of technology on our reading, writing, and thinking practices.

At the bottom of this assignment, I’ve listed the primary works we’ve read so far in this class.

Please use MLA format to cite all sources you use in this paper, and include a Works Cited page listing all your sources at the end of the document. For a guide to MLA format, you can refer to any good writing handbook (like Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference) or you can use the free resources at Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/05/.

No matter what you choose to write about, be sure to choose reputable and appropriate sources for your essay. Check with me if you have questions about your approach to the assignment or the sources you’d like to use.

The completed essay should be 4-5 pages in length, double-spaced, and written in a standard font (like Times New Roman or Cambria, 12 point), with standard page margins (1 inch or 1.25 inch).

Some Ideas to Get Your Thinking Started: 

1) You should identify a problem, question, or controversy that interests you and consider how the authors you choose might interact over the topic in question. For instance, what might Graff and Alexie say to each other if they had a conversation about how our identities are shaped by reading and writing? How would Harris respond to what Graff has to say about academic arguments?

2) In this essay it will be essential to use the words and ideas of the authors you’ve chosen. In other words, you’ll need to demonstrate that you’re able to use direct quotation and paraphrase in ways that Harris refers to in his first and second chapters.

3) For the thesis of your essay, you’ll need to draw your own conclusion based on what you’ve said about the authors. How can you add to, change, or extend the arguments they’ve made?

The Process:

* As always, you should begin working on the assignment by reflecting on the readings we’ve done so far and, in particular, by considering the key words and concepts we’ve used in class.

* An initial rough draft is DUE and should be posted to your blog by Tuesday, October 20, at midnight. At that point, you should have around two to three pages of written text, enough to benefit from feedback.

* For class on Thursday, October 22, be sure to bring a laptop or tablet with you to access your partners’ drafts. We’ll spend the class session reviewing the drafts together.

* The final draft of the essay will be DUE to me on Sunday, October 25, by 5:00pm. Final drafts should be emailed to me at jboyd2@washcoll.edu. Attach your draft as a Word document titled yourlastname_project 2.doc.

Grading:

You’ll receive detailed feedback from me on your completed essay, and by the end of the semester, you may choose to return to this assignment for further revision as part of your final portfolio. In evaluating your essay, I’ll consider four factors:

Development of thesis: Your essay should be guided by an observation or perspective that adds something to the conversation about your topic. Think of this in the terms that Joseph Harris gives us: how does your essay forward or counter what others have said?

Use of sources: You should demonstrate that you can integrate other sources into your writing, through direct quotation, summary, and paraphrase. Think of yourself as managing a conversation between yourself and your sources.

Citation: You should also show that you can cite sources accurately and effectively in your writing and construct a Works Cited page using MLA documentation style.

Sophistication of thinking: Above all, your essay should show that you are working with some of our course topics and concepts in a thoughtful and critical way. What is complex about the topic you’ve chosen, and why is it worth thinking about?

Effective presentation: Your final draft should demonstrate a purposeful and deliberate use of language, a logical organization, and an ability to work within the standard conventions of English grammar, usage, and mechanics.

 

Our readings thus far:

Joseph Harris, Rewriting: How to Do Things With Texts

Gerald Graff, “Hidden Intellectualism”

Sherman Alexie, “Superman and Me”

Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

Clive Thompson, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (excerpt)

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First Writing Project: Personal Narrative

English 101-21

The Assignment:

Consider the following questions:

What role has reading and/or writing played in your own life so far?

What do you value most about reading and/or writing?

What experiences and texts have shaped your perspective on reading and/or writing?

For our first writing project, you should create a personal narrative that focuses in specifically on a moment (or maybe a few moments) from your life to explain how acts of reading and/or writing have shaped your development as a person. In the process, you should engage specifically with at least one text that has influenced you or that helps to explain your current attitude toward reading and writing.

The purpose of this assignment is to encourage you to think critically about your own past experiences and to draw some conclusions about them. In other words, try to push beyond the simple observation that you’ve enjoyed (or dreaded) a certain kind of reading or writing. Instead, think about how reading or writing has been a part of some change in your life or how it has helped you to work through a particular problem. You may also think of “reading” and “writing” as flexible terms. For instance, music, lyrics, or significant images would count, so long as you can write about them as texts that you can reflect on critically.

The completed essay should be 3-4 full pages in length, double-spaced, and written in a standard font (like Times New Roman or Cambria, 12 point). Please use MLA documentation style to cite the text you choose to incorporate into your personal narrative, and include a Works Cited page at the end of your essay.

The Process:

* You might begin working on this assignment by reflecting on some of the examples we’ve read so far. Think about the way that authors like Graff and Alexie reflect on their lives by recalling specific events that influenced them. Most often, their stories are motivated by a problem, a conflict, or an interesting point of tension in their lives.

* An initial rough draft of your essay is DUE posted to your individual blog, by 5:00pm on Sunday, September 20. At that point, you should have around two to three pages of text written – enough to benefit from feedback.  For class on Tuesday, September 22, you should bring in a laptop, tablet, or some other means of accessing your group partners’ drafts. We’ll spend the class session working on the drafts, and you’ll have the opportunity to interact with others over what you’ve written.

* During the week before you turn in your final draft, you’ll meet with me in an individual conference outside of class to discuss the way your essay is developing. You should bring to our meeting any questions or concerns you have about your draft. Take some time to consider the feedback you receive in our meeting and in peer review as you prepare your final draft.

* The completed and revised essay will be DUE to me by 5:00pm on Friday, September 25. Final drafts should be uploaded as Word documents to Canvas. Title your draft like this: yourlastname_project1.docx.

Grading:

You’ll receive detailed feedback from me on your completed essay, and by the end of the semester, you may choose to return to this assignment for further revision as a part of your final portfolio.

To do well on this assignment, you should focus on these five specific points:

  1. Narrative strategy: It should be evident that you’ve made some deliberate choices about how to present your story. Rather than just recounting events from beginning to end, draw on some strategies we’ve talked about and consider how to organize your narrative in a way that best suits your purposes.
  2. Incorporation of another text: As a part of your essay, you should make specific references to and (if possible) quote from another text to help make your point about reading and/or writing.
  3. Attention to detail: Rather than remaining general about your experiences with reading and writing, this assignment will require you to focus in on a few specific scenes or details from your life. Those details should help to clarify the point you want to make about reading and/or writing.
  4. Critical reflection: As a part of this assignment, you should draw some conclusions about how reading and/or writing have played a role in your own developing identity. This will likely involve identifying conflicts or points of tension that you’ve worked through.
  5. Effective presentation: Your final draft should demonstrate a purposeful and deliberate use of language and an ability to work within the standard conventions of English grammar, usage, and mechanics.
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