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English 108: Writing Ready

M-Th 9:30-12:00

Office phone: 543-6203 Padelford A-407

Office Hours: Tu Th 1-2, and by appt

Course Overview | Texts | Syllabus | Reading Schedule

Assignments and Updates


Course Overview:

English 108, Writing Ready, is designed for those students who are not fully confident of their writing skills as they enter college. It is a "bridge" course that offers students a clearer and more helpful academic transition from high school than they'll get if they just show up for class on Day One. The course description on the Early Fall Start sign-up page reads:

English 108 will help you develop writing fluency and confidence as you look ahead to college level composition courses. The four-week course will engage you in a series of reading, writing and research activities and will help you learn to work collaboratively as a writer with your instructors and classmates. You will receive hands-on experience with campus libraries and writing centers as well as early access to UW advisers for college and career planning. Past students report that the course has been both an opportunity to establish lasting friendships and an effective way to prepare for the academic challenges of fall quarter.

But while writing will always be at the center of this course, college students (like everyone else!) don't just "write"—they write as a form of inquiry into material connected to the courses they are taking. We'll be doing that here, too, and the subjects you'll write about are two: writing itself, and learning.

For the first of these subjects, there are few things you will do at the University of Washington over the next four years that will be more useful to your life both in college and beyond than writing well. Ironically, twenty years ago there were people predicting that the arrival of computers and the internet would be the end of reading and writing, but oh how wrong they were!!  For what has happened since then is exactly the opposite: in profession after profession, and even in those professions where one might think there would be no need to write, writing well turns out to be increasingly central to long term success. Ask a mathematician, or a physicist, an engineer, or a physician—do you need to be able to write?  Almost always the answer will be yes.

But how does one strengthen one's writing? One way is by practice, and here that means I will ask you to write in one way or another just about every day of the course.  A second way to strengthen your writing is to learn more about yourself as a writer. Writing is a complex skill, and the more you understand both about how you write, and how you can change some of the things you now do as a writer, the better and more resourceful a writer you will become.

So the first emphasis of this course is writing about writing. The second emphasis of this course is learning.  You may ask, "what's so special about learning?  I've been doing it all my life." Mainly what's special about learning is, first, that it happens subconsciously, without your knowing very much about either how you learn or why, and second, that it is subject to a whole series of breakdowns and failures—none of which will help your experience as a student at the UW. And because as you enter college you are about to increase the difficulty of your learning, understanding better what good learners do and don't do will give you significantly more control of your college learning life than you are otherwise likely to have.  So we will work with a series of learning issues, exploring how you, personally, learn (or don't learn!), and, especially, in what ways you might learn better.

That's a lot to accomplish in four weeks, and English 108 can only be a beginning. But in all we do, every day of this class will be dedicated to ensuring that you will be significantly more ready for college level writing (and learning!) than you are today.

Course Learning Goals

We will work towards making you more writing ready by:

  • increasing your fluency as a writer through having you write frequently—every single day.  We want writing to become second nature for you.
  • providing an introduction to the processes of inquiry in order that you have a head start on developing the ideas and understandings without which good college writing cannot be done. A big part of what we will talk about will be how inquiry can help you move from the "outside" to the "inside"—the place where all good writing begins.
  • introducing you to campus resources to support you as an inquiring writer—especially writing center support and library-based research support.  Many new students find these things off-putting at first--but you will have been introduced to them already in EFS, and you'll have the advantage of being better equipped to find help when the need arises.
  • developing your skill with metacognition.  Loosely speaking, metacognition is "thinking about thinking," or "self-reflection." But it is also a very powerful way to build your self-assessment abilities, transfer abilities, and self-monitoring abilities, all skills critical to your becoming a confidant and successful student.
  • engaging you in the study of learning itself. Becoming a better, more aware learner is central to building confidence in yourself as a writer, and knowing more about how you learn will enormously help in that process.
  • Finally, it is our goal that you leave this class more confident of your writing skills and more comfortable in using them than you were as we began.

Course Structure: Our four weeks will be organized around two major assignments. Each of those assignments includes a graded paper, but it will also include a number of ungraded exercises designed to make you better able to complete the graded paper successfully. The two projects are:

1. Weeks 1 & 2 : My Learning Profile: Who I am as a learner, and how I came to be this way. This assignment asks you to tell me the story of how you became the learner you are. Your job will begin with an insider’s look on what you know about yourself as a writer and how you came to be that way; as we study “learning” over the first weeks of the term you will rewrite that assignment in terms of how you learn, with examples of both your strengths as a learner and your challenges.

2. Weeks 3 & 4: The Inquiry Project. This will finish with a group conference presentation on a learning or writing related subject you will have studied via library research, and will include both a group PowerPoint presentation and a final 3-4 page paper describing and then reflecting on the process you and your group went through in researching your topic for the conference and in taking part in the presentation itself.

Texts: There are no required textbooks for this course. You may, however, want a handbook like Diana Packer's Pocket Style Manual, or Andrea Lunsford's The Everyday Writer. Neither of these is a required text, but if you are going to be taking first year English you will likely be asked to buy one of them then. These are available at the U Bookstore in limited quantities; you can also order them through Amazon or other on-line retailers.  For on-line resources, go to OWRC’s resource page:


You have my general description of the class above, as well as our course learning goals. What follow are the class pragmatics—the rules by which the class is run.

Office Hours and Virtual Office Hours: My office hours are listed at the top of this page; I am also available for questions online.  So when you have a short question, you can come by my office, or you can send me a note at cicero @ If your question or concern is too complicated to address online, we will find a time to talk face to face.

Assignments: The two assignment sequences over the four weeks we have together are described above. Each will be graded based on both the writing you submit and your participation during that particular sequence. The grading breakdown is as follows: Sequence 1, 40% (My Writing Life, 15%; My Learning Profile 25%) ; Sequence 2, 40% (Presentation, 20%, Reflection and Analysis, 20%). 

The Final portfolio will represent 10% of your over-all grade, and the final in-class reflection on the last day of class will represent the last 10% of your grade. 

You can expect significant reading and writing assignments daily—the Early Fall Start Quarter moves at a very fast pace and the material is compressed to fit a time frame much shorter than a normal academic term.

Each assignment sequence requires you to complete a variety of short assignments leading up to a bigger paper or project. All of the preparatory work for each sequence’s final project, including any short in-class and out-of-class papers/assignments, must be completed to receive full credit for the sequence.

Attendance and Participation: Class discussion, group activities, oral presentations, and peer-review sessions are central to your learning in this course, and yet cannot be made up should you miss them. That means that missing class will seriously compromise your ability to do well in this course.

Participation is more than a matter of your being present and on time—though both of those apply. Your participation score on each paper is also based on: 1) your demonstrated ability to discuss, comment, and ask questions in class; 2) your preparation for class, which includes your having done all of the assigned reading for class, and your bringing all required materials; and 3) your full and effective engagement in group work and peer workshops. It also includes your making at least one visit to the Writing Center, and writing a one-page reflection about your visit.

Grades: First, I will be giving you grades on only three written assignments in this class, but you will also be getting feedback in different ways on most of the other writing you do. In general, however, the point of much of that writing is to give you practice on particular skills and to build writing fluency. Papers that are not graded we call “low stakes” papers; those contrast with “high stakes” papers for which you will actually get a grade. On some low stakes papers you will receive either a "check" or a "+"; on others I will comment very lightly, others still I won’t collect. All of your writing will, however, be handed in as part of the final course portfolio.

What I want from low stakes writing: My criterion for low stakes writing is “engaged critical intelligence,” or ECI. That means that you don’t have to be “right,” and you don’t have to be polished. You don’t even have to solve entirely whatever problem I give you. But I do want to see real effort—writing in which your intelligence is "critically engaged"—even if it’s only to explain for me the difficulties you are having as you try to come to grips with the assignment.

Writing Center: The Odegaard Writing and Research Center is open Monday through Friday afternoons throughout Early Fall Start, and it's there primarily to work with students in English 108. Students often don't know what a writing center can do to help them; for that reason I will ask that at least once this quarter you sign-up and see a tutor at the OWRC. It is located in Odegaard Library on the third floor. You may drop by, but because they are often very busy, I strongly recommend that you make an appointment (via their website:

NOTE: You can see a tutor at any point in your writing process, but the sooner you go, the more help you are likely to get, and the more effective that help is likely to be. You are required to write a one-page reflection about your visit(s) to the center before the end of our third week.

Paper Submission Guidelines & Late Policy: All papers must be typed to facilitate better our revision process in workshops and my ability to give you feedback.

Assignments should abide by the following guidelines:

  • 1” margins – note that your computer may default to 1.25” on the left and right side margins and, if so, you will need to change this!
  • Double-spaced (unless otherwise indicated), Times New Roman 12 pt. font.
  • Number all pages except for the first page in the top right-hand corner. (You can write these in if you can't figure out how to get your computer to do it!)
  • Stapled – not folded or paper-clipped.
  • In the corner at the top of the first page, include your name, your course section/my last name, and the date.
  • Include a title—(and select a title that can be a salesman!)
  • Length (double-spaced) should be within half a page of the minimum or half a page of the maximum

Papers that don't follow these guidelines will not be accepted. They will be returned to you unread to be reformatted. Such papers will then be regarded as late until they have been resubmitted in the proper format.

Grades for the Major Projects: First a word about grading at the UW. Many of you will be surprised over your first year by what you think are "low" grades. Keep in mind that the average high school GPA for newcomers to the UW is around 3.8, while their GPA for their first year at the UW will end up being about 3.0. That is an AVERAGE score, which means a lot of students won't have College GPAs even that high. That's not a prediction about you personally, it's just a citing of statistics from recent years.  In this context, 3.0 or 3.3 is not a “Bad Grade”—it is actually a pretty good grade.  You will likely want a better grade than that, but in general you will have to work harder and longer than you did in high school to get them. 

That said, in this class we have a grading policy that applies all across the 108 program:

Grading Policies for English 108: In an ideal world, grades in a class like this would, as elsewhere in the university, fairly reflect the quality of work its students do relative to each other and to other first-year students, and everyone would in fact write very well and receive a 4.0.  In the real world, however, the quality of student work differs, and the average grade in a class like this runs somewhere closer to 3.3.  

Given the goals of this class, which include building student confidence and comfort with writing, our grading policy represents a kind of compromise between the real and the ideal. 
On one hand we know that many 108 students are neither comfortable nor confident as writers, and the prospect of getting grades that are below their expectations will, for many, render them even less comfortable and confident as writers than they already are.  This will not be helpful, and argues in favor of lowering the importance of grades in the course—which means, in practice, assigning relatively high grades. 

On the other hand, an artificially high grading scale can mislead students about the quality of their work, recreating the very confusion and discomfort the course has worked to allay. 

For those reasons, the grading in this class will differ from anything students are likely to encounter elsewhere in their first year.  Because we know that full success in this class will require that our students work hard, we have set our policies to ensure that participation and engagement in the class will be rewarded. 

To reach these goals we have three grading principles. 

  1.  Any student who does all the required work and in the instructor’s judgment has been fully and responsibly engaged and participating throughout the course will receive a grade no lower than 3.3 (on a 4.0 scale—see the official UW grade equivalency scales at
  2. Each student will receive for each of the graded assignments a grade based on criteria shared throughout English 108 sections.   That grade, like most of the grades students will receive at the UW, will not be based on “effort” but will straightforwardly reflect the instructor’s criteria-based estimate of how a paper would be graded in other first year classes in which writing plays a significant role (W or C courses). 
  3.  Instructors will then add to this “advisory” grade a bonus of up to .5 grade points to acknowledge a student’s level of engagement and participation in the entire paper writing process.  (4.0 will be the top grade regardless of the participation bonus.) 

You will thus receive two grades for your graded papers: a "real world" grade, and an English 108 grade that includes credit for engagement and participation.

The result of this policy will mean that the overall GPA of 108 students will be higher than the 3.0 average GPA of first-year students over the course of their first year, even as we also help students develop a realistic sense of how their writing in subsequent courses is likely to be evaluated.

Late Papers. All assignments must be complete, properly formatted and submitted on time at the beginning of class on the due date.  Late work will result in a 0.2 deduction on the paper for each day it is late and will negatively impact your participation grade as well.  In cases of emergency it is up to you to communicate with me about your situation.  

And, of course, remember to back-up your work regularly, and always keep a copy of anything you turn in! Don’t be a victim of a failed hard drive—whether yours or mine!

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is using the words or ideas of another person without crediting that person fully and accurately. Faculty at the UW generally view plagiarism as a very serious matter.  That doesn't mean you can't use things other people say or write. We do that all the time.  The point is that you must clearly identify anything you borrow or quote, and you must acknowledge your source!  Copying, quoting, or even paraphrasing others without crediting your source is very much prohibited, not just in this class but for any class you take from here on out.  

A particularly serious form of plagiarism is copying or submitting another's work as if it is your own, an act that can result in both a failing grade and referral to the University for further disciplinary action.

There are guidelines in any handbook and available online for how to give credit to your sources, but if you have any questions at all about how best to deal with sources, please visit the OWRC, or write or talk to me!

Unforeseen Difficulties: Should any unforeseen difficulties (like injury or illness) affect your performance in the class, please let me know! Things do happen, and in spite of all of the rules and warnings above, the paramount goal for all of us here is to ensure you get as much from this course as you possibly can. So don't hesitate to talk with me about any issue that may slow you down or hold you back. I hold regular office hours, but I'm also available by appointment at other times and by email just about anytime.

Important UW Campus Resources

FIUTS: (The Foundation for International Understanding Through Students) provides opportunities for students from all over the world to connect. Consider going to a FIUT’s Friday: Every Friday during the summer, FIUTS organizes a Friday outing for students and friends (canoeing and visiting Discovery Park were two recent excursions). You do not have to make a reservation in advance.  See what event are planned at:

Writing Centers: UW writing centers can support you as you transition from high-school writing to university-level writing in any course you take. These centers are free and provide individual attention from trained mentors. During Early Fall Start contact:

The Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC)

OWRC offers free, one-on-one help with all aspects of writing at any stage in the writing process. The OWRC is located in Room 121 of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library (OUGL) and it is open Monday - Thursday from 12:00-6:00 p.m. during Early Fall Start. You can consult with a writing tutor at any stage of the writing process, from the very beginning (when you are planning a paper) to near the end (when you are thinking about how to revise a draft to submit to your instructor).

To make the best use of your time there, please bring a copy of your assignment with you and double-space any drafts you want to work on. To make an appointment or browse the center's online resources, please visit

Q Center: The University of Washington Q Center is a largely student run resource center dedicated to serving all members of the University community on issues of gender and/or sexual orientation.  

The Q Center hosts students groups and regular programming event, as well as maintaining a queer-centered library and student blog.  You can access the Q Center website at:

or stop by room 315 in the HUB Monday-Friday between 9am-5pm.

Disabilities: Please let me know if you need accommodation of any sort. I am happy to work with the UW Disability Service Office (DSO) to provide what you require, and I am very willing to make suggestions specific to this class to meet your needs. This syllabus is available in large print, as are other class materials—just ask.  More information on support at UW may be found on the DSO web site at:

Emergencies or Complaints

If for some reason I am not available when you have an emergency, or if you want to speak to someone else about the class, please contact either Dr. Carrie Matthews, Co-Director of the English 108 Program ( or Dr. Gary Handwerk, chair of the English Department. His office number is 206 543 2690, and his email address is

(And thanks to all the many teachers and students of English 108 for the past several years for conversation and thoughtfulness about how best to design and teach this class.)







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