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English 108: Fall, 2010


(See also: Assignments and Updates )

(This page will be used for miscellaneous postings over the course of the quarter)


1. Reading Difficult Texts: Six Principles

2. Writing Ready Course Portfolio

3. Presentation Problem Profile

4. Six Criteria for Papers in This Class

5. Outside to Inside

6. Group Research Presentation and Research Proposal

7. 6 Key Concepts for the Learning Self


1. Reading Difficult Texts: Six Principles

1. Patience: develop a capacity for suspending a thought until you’ve gotten enough to put it together. Correlative: insofar as possible, don’t let an inability to comprehend something stop you from plowing on through! Expect, too, to have to re-read in order to assemble the parts you've managed to unscramble.

2. Look for Key Words: Whatever field this reading is in is likely to have a few key words--core concepts upon which other things depend. Look for words you know to be key concepts here, and look, too, for words that seem to be central to understanding what you are reading. Do an online search on these words. Often you'll find an explanation that will much simplify your task!

3. Bracketing: break a tough sentence into its crucial parts, bracketing off as much of it as you already understand so you can work out the sense of the remaining bits.

4. Tolerate incompleteness: these are hard ideas, with a lot of allusiveness, and (truth to say) few readers can understand everything, especially on a first or second pass. So don’t worry too much if there are bits and pieces you don’t quite get. They may come into focus as you get the basic structure; they may never fully make sense for you. But you may still be able to get what is crucial to a given piece in any event.

5. One, Two, Three: Get one, then two, then three things straight. One step at a time.

6. Contextualize. Work to understand how this piece is a move in a larger conversation. You can think of this process as having three steps:

  • What, as clearly as you can figure out, is the argument (or at least part of the argument) of this piece?
  • Why might someone ever decide to write about this subject in this way? What is it trying to do, really? To whom does it respond? With whom is it in conflict? What work do you already know that can be brought to bear to help explain this piece? (If you don’t know, then search on the internet, ask your teacher, or call the library information desk.) And finally, see if you can figure out:
  • So What? What difference does this argument in fact actually make? What does it do both in terms of your understanding, and in terms of the critical conversations that surround it? (It may be very useful to you without necessarily being a big contributor to an on-going conversation—and vice-versa!



2. Writing Ready Course Portfolio

A portfolio for an English class is like many other portfolios:  a collection and display of the work you have done, together with a reflective essay describing your experience in the course.  This project thus offers you a chance to review your quarter's work, as well as to put that work into some kind of narrative perspective.  Your  portfolio should include:

1) A detailed listing of the contents of the Portfolio. 

2) All of the writing you have done for this class over the course of the quarter. 

3) A 3-4 page Self-Reflective Essay.

The Self-Reflective essay will look back at what has happened in the class, and ahead to what happens next. Based on what you have learned during the term about writing and about learning, this assignment asks you to describe yourself now as a writer and a learner, not in terms of narratives as you did in the first project, but in terms of your work in this course. You will by now have learned a number of ways of talking about writing and learning that you didn’t have as the class began, and you will have learned a number of ways to address some the challenges you face.

For this essay again you are the insider—you know what you have learned, what you still have to work on, and some of the means you’ve developed to cope with problems that have arisen for you. And I am again the outsider. I’ll know more than I did when we began—but I won’t know it as you do. This will be your chance to tell me what kinds of difference this class has or has not made in your Writing Life. And paradoxically, the more honest, thoughtful and convincing you are about the challenges you still will be facing, the better your grade.

The portfolio counts for 20 per cent of the course grade; I will evaluate the daily assignments included in the Portfolio on the basis of completeness and quality of involvement (30 points total).   The essay I'll evaluate on the basis of responsiveness and thoughtfulness as  follows (30 points total): 

Fully responsive and thoughtfully undertaken               = 30   
Responsive but less completely thought through           = 20
Marginally responsive, or not well thought through       = 10
Unresponsive                                                             =  0

The Portfolio should be submitted in a large mailing envelope.  Its presentation should  be neat, ordered, and careful. And please INCLUDE A SECOND COPY OF YOUR SELF-REFLECTIVE ESSAY!! To have it returned, either come visit me once fall quarter has begun (I'll be happy to know how your quarter has begun), or be sure to address the envelope and to provide postage sufficient for the thirty pages or so you will have submitted! (If you have an on-campus address, you don't need postage)

3. Presentation Problem Profile

Creating a Presentation Problem Profile

Learning to recognize editing problems is hard in part because we often don't even know when we are going wrong. This page will list some common problems, but to begin with, you probably will also need help from either teachers, Writing Center tutors, or even friends who have a better ear and eye than you do for sentence problems. After a while, patterns will begin to emerge; at that point you will need to keep track of the presentation problems you have, and to classify them according to various categories. Having done this for three or four papers, you will have developed a Problem Profile—your own personal tendencies as a writer, and thus your own list of problems to watch for when you edit your papers.

Problems People Often Have: Errors and Obscurities

As many as they seem, there are really only a few things you can do that are simply "wrong." Then there are half a dozen other things writers typically do which make their writing more awkward or obscure than it needs to be.

a) Errors:

1. Punctuation (commas, semi-colons, colons, apostrophes, dashes)
2. Spelling
3. Verbs (number, tense)
4. Reference (pronouns, dangling modifiers)
5. Parallel constructions

b) Awkwardnesses/Obscurities:

1. Passives
2. Diction and usage
3. Wordiness
4. Variation
5. Too much thought in too few words

All but one of these topics are treated in any handbook (though sometimes at intimidating length); the last one—too much thought in too few words—may need explanation.

Too Much Thought in Too Few Words

Studies of error have demonstrated that grammar and usage errors increase as the difficulty of the writing task increases. That means that even though you will be doing your very best to edit your class assignments carefully, you are nevertheless also likely to have more presentation problems in a history paper or in an essay for your English class than you will in a letter home. How come? Two reasons.

First, the more complex the task, the more your mind’s attention will go to content. Remember the Rule of No More Than 3 Things in Your Head at Once: as a writer you are working hard just to think of something to argue, or in finding ways to relate your reading to the assignment before you. With so much of your attention on conceptual issues, you have less mental capacity left over to worry about passives and commas.

Second, as your task grows more complex, so does your thinking, and as your thinking grows more complex, you'll find it more difficult to get your thoughts into sentences in the first place. The usual effect of this is a series of sentences with various punctuation and clarity problems, most of which are really only symptoms of a struggle to get a complicated notion into some sort of coherent form.

The solutions to these two problems are different: the first can be dealt with simply by giving yourself more time—time, for example, to let the all-but-final draft alone for a day before going back to pay attention to the presentation issues you know are likely to arise. But the second requires your learning to recognize in your own writing that complex thoughts often require more space than simple thoughts. Very frequently, students underestimate the complexity of their arguments, with the result that they try to put too much thought into too little space. For these cases, the solution isn't better just punctuation or different wording, but expansion—of one sentence into two sentences, or of two into three, or of three sentences into a whole paragraph.

As you work to establish your own Problem Profile, then, keep the "too-much-in-too-few" problem in mind. While on the one hand you always want to be watching for ways to use fewer words—"get the flab out" and so on—at the same time you need to be alert for those places that need more words (often giving specifics!) that will clarify, illustrate, define, or simply make something easier for your reader to follow.

To help you begin to master the list of problems you come up with, I offer you a Style Watch mini-handbook. It doesn't cover everything (that's why you have a handbook!), but it covers a surprisingly large number of the errors most students tend to make.

4. Six Criteria for Writing in this Class

Center: effectiveness and interest of argument; clear, appropriate and useful purpose

Specifics (or grounds): their appropriateness to and effectiveness for the argument/purpose;

Focus: coherence-connection—is the paper clearly organized and connected? Transitions? Topic Sentences? Effective beginning, ending? Can a reader easily follow?

Fullness: do you do enough to carry your case?

Fluency and style (level of sophistication of sentence structures,
voice and word choice),

Presentation: is your paper well-edited with spelling checked, verbs checked, punctuation checked, and have you followed the guidelines given in the syllabus? This one is about grammar and usage and “presentation”!

The Grid

On papers for this class you'll find in addition to comments a set of six numbers, like:

3 1 2 3 4 2

These numbers correspond to each of the criteria described above in "Six Criteria for Writing in This Class." All count equally towards the final grade.

The point of these numbers is to give you a quick mini-grade on each of the criteria I use to score papers. You can get from 0 (not very good at all) up to 5 (as good as it gets) in each category. The number represents my judgment about how well your paper has done on that one category, as measured against both my general sense of how well 100-level students ought to perform, and the performances of other students in the class. As I assign them, I have in mind the following general sense of what they mean:

1 Not enough sense of this category to be functional in college level work. (e.g., a paper without any specific examples to explain or clarify the argument.)

2 Some sense of what this category is, but not much more. (e.g., a paper that metions specific examples, but doesn't explain or develop them sufficiently to be effective.)

3 Functional success with this category, but not yet showing full control. (Some exploration of a few specifics, for example, but not with much fullness, or without consistency.)

4 Functional success with this category, with only minor problems. (e.g., a paper with a good sense of how to use specifics and to develop them far enough to make them useful to the argument.)

5 Full success with this category. (e.g., a paper with truly insightful, and fully developed specifics, all pertinent and effectively informative.)

There is no exact relationship between these numbers and the final score you get (I don't just add them up), but there is a very strong correlation. Five 5's, for example, would undoubtedly earn full credit. (And nobody’s going to get five 1’s!)

6. Getting to the Inside

The work of weeks two and three introduce you to what makes a university a very different place from just about all secondary schools, and that’s that the faculty here are not just teachers, they are also researchers, each engaged not just in some form of inquiry, but also in writing about the results of that inquiry. In this class the fields we will research will be writing and learning. By next week you will have been introduced to a series of writing and learning issues, and your job, working in four groups of five, will be to identify, locate and offer brief summaries of a set of resources for further study of that topic, and it will identify and explain 3 to 4 key ideas that will your audience understand how this concept, rightly understood, can be useful to them as learners or writers over the years of their college education. Then in week three you and your group will present in an all-section conference in which you will use a Power Point presentation to set out your findings.

In short: the aim of this project is learn to use library resources to enable yourselves to become insiders to your topic in a way none of your peers can be, since they will not have consulted the sources you will have consulted. You will have become at least in some degree an insider, and you will be able, like all the rest of us who work on this campus, to write and speak about the results of your inquiry.

What you will need to do: working as a group (and as individuals within a group) you need to learn as much as you can about your key concept as in the few days we have for this assignment. Your end products are four:

First you want to locate materials you can read to learn more. This is what tomorrow in the library is to help you do—we want you to learn to navigate the information world, both the easily accessible and the more remote. You as a group are then responsible for TEN different sources (more is fine, but don’t lose your minds!). Four can be the easily accessible (e.g., Wikipedia articles); six must be “remote.” (You will need to read Hacker on citations to learn how to cite them in a list.) You can, and should, collaborate on these.

Second, you must supply a 100-200 word annotation for each source you cite. An annotation is a summary of the What, Why, and So What of a piece. (See “Reading Complex Texts” on the course Blackboard page.) You can divide this task between you, obviously, but you need to communicate amongst youselves your findings, sharing your annotations, in order to produce your third product:

Third: A presentation for the Conference next Thursday. You’ll produce a Power Point presentation to accompany your presentation. You will have 20 minutes TOTAL for your work, and you must make sure to leave 5 of those minutes for questions from your audience. You need to provide a bibliography of your sources in your PP.

What should you talk about in your presentation? From your readings you want to locate three to five Core Concepts associated with your topic. You should select these concepts because they help explain the topic you are engaged in researching. Suppose your topic was Resistance to learning. It is a major concept in education and it can take on a number of different forms. Not learning (in Kohl’s sense of conscious rejection), boredom, temporary learning, anger. Then you would explain each of these concepts, with a conclusion if you can come up with one that suggests how knowing more about this concept might make you a more successful student over the next year. We’ll talk more about this on Thursday—especially in terms of developing an understanding of the underlying problems—the Why—each study addresses.

Finally, I will want a 3 page paper from you as individuals reflecting on the process you have gone through, recounting what you did, what you found difficult and how you solved those difficulties, and, finally, an assessment of how well you think you did, both as a group member and as an individual trying to understand an important idea in the field of Writing or Learning, and what your basis for that assessment is. That last will be due Monday, September 13th.

7. Group Research Presentation and Proposal--More information

Group Research Presentation
The culminating project of Sequence Two is a group research project that publishes (“makes public”) the results of your ten day-long inquiry and presents them to your peers. Your presentation will be PowerPoint-based, but will also require your physical and vocal presence. You’ll be giving your presentation during a day of conferences: on Thursday, September 9th, you, along with every other English 108 student, will be presenting your projects for other 108 students, instructors, and even a few folks from campus who are might drop in. It’s going to be awesome—your work will be received by an actual, involved audience, and you’ll leave your presentation having had an experience that few other newcomers to campus will be able to claim.
Now, the presentation will be the (almost) last part of a series of assignments, so it’s not as though you’ll just be putting this together overnight. You’ll be performing a number of targeted, scaffolded tasks along the way to help you generate your ideas, interests, questions, and practices. You’ll receive training and orientation in library tools and have computer lab time to work on your PowerPoint presentation in order to facilitate this process.

We’ll answer a lot of the questions about “what you’re gonna do” and “how’re you gonna do it” along the way, but honestly, it is you who will be making most of these decisions in conjunction with the sequence goals listed below. You will be responsible for a group presentation on the methods of research you conducted and the results you found. Use this opportunity to present yourself and your ideas in a professional manner – remember: you will have become the insiders, and your audience hasn’t done the work you have done! You will have to do many presentations at the UW, so take this opportunity to practice and put your best foot forward.

Below is a list of requirements for the presentation. Please make sure that you complete all parts.


  • Presentations must be 10-12 minutes in length (no shorter, no longer)
  • Each of the 5 members of the group must speak during the presentation, ideally in equal amounts
  • After the presentation, the group will take questions—if the audience is lacking in its own responses, you should have a few follow-up points or icebreakers of your own ready (but I will be harassing the audience into asking questions, so don’t worry too much)
  • The PowerPoint element of your presentation needs to be done purposefully and with a sense of balance.
  • Remember to use the MLA format for all of your materials (see Hacker)
  • Be Creative! – This is your chance to show off your own creativity so I’m looking for you to bring out your personality to this presentation. You don’t need to be crazy or silly for the sake of originality—instead think about what individual traits you bring to the table and use your skills to their best ends

What to Say: During your presentation, make sure to include the following:

  • Main Ideas – What is your topic, the question you have asked, and what you have developed as answer to that question?
  • Process - what you and your group went through to collect information for this project – be specific about your steps and strategies. Talk about both primary and secondary sources.
  • Results – What kind of information did you find and where can students go if they are interested in your topic? Here talk a little about the articles and findings from primary research.
  • Difficulties – Name the various difficulties you and your group faced during the process. What was the hardest part and how often did you find yourself stuck?

Tips on Presenting:

  • Introduce yourselves – say your names so everyone can ask you specific questions later.
  • During your speech, make sure to make eye contact, speak clearly, loudly and slowly (you may be nervous, and that tends to make us speak FAST!), avoid reading from the handouts or visual aids, and smile!
  • Remember that you will be giving a presentation – so aim to be professional during your talk (formal tone, no jokes or laughing).
  • Keep your audience in mind—your speech, your posture, your demeanor, your attitude…it should be pitched and practiced towards your particular listeners
  • Practice your talk in front of your team and the mirror – make sure that you sound confident about the topic you are speaking about. Know what you’re going to say before you say it.
  • Make sure in your practicing that you are within the time limits! It is VERY easy to lose track of time….

Your Group Proposal--

Your job for Tuesday is to go from the preliminary steps of lookinf for material to a play of action. Not a full campaign, but a proposal. Because audiences usually find themselves more engaged by an interesting question and an answer youthen give than by a report, most of you will find that what will work best is to focus what you are learning around a research question. So how can you get this focus? The proposal should be 1-2 pages, and make plain the following:

  1. The question you are researching, and why you are inquiring into it.
  2. What you now see to be the main points of what you want to say (this may change!)
  3. Why other 108 students would find your inquiry interesting/relevant
  4. Questions you still have about what you would need to do next and how you would do it if you had more time.

This is a group assignment--to be turned in Wednesday am.

6 Key Concepts for the Learning Self--or, How You as a Learner are Made

The first rule of Key Concept Club is: talk about Key Concepts. The second rule of Key Concept Club is: talk about Key Concepts.

Be Metacognitive: Recognize Classroom Learning Situations! Additive, Revisionary, Active, Passive

Use your Prior Knowledges: the Velcro rule

Control Resistance: Positive, Negative, Active, Passive

Be reflective about Motivation: The Intrinsic, the Authentic, and the Paradox of Autonomy (or, it's all about choices, and choices have consequences!)

Challenge Difficulty: Threshold Concepts and Core Concepts

Look for Transfer: Adapting prior knowledge to new situations


My Learning Life

(Assignment adjusted and moved to Assignments and Updates)





from William Wordsworth's "Ode on Intimations of Immortality"

... Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

Key Terms from :

  • Inherently proactive: what's that mean and where do we find it?
  • Intrinsic motivation: definition, three key characteristics, examples for each
  • Extrinsic motivation: definition, three key characteristics, examples for each
  • Blended motivation: definition, three key characteristics, examples for each
  • Who you are vs. What you have: definition, examples for each
  • Autonomy: definition, three key characteristics, examples for each
  • Control (internal locus of causality/control): definition, examples
  • Competency: definition, examples
  • Relatedness: definition, three key characteristics, examples for each
  • Authentic self; definition (i.e., vs. What??), example
  • Integration: definition, three key characteristics, examples for each
  • Introjected regulation (Introjection): definition, example
  • Physical limitations: definition, example.

(The Robin Hood Question: If autonomy is "choosing to act according to your own values," and if your values include feeding the poor, and you have a lot of very rich people in your country, and by taking money from them you believe others can live better, does autonomy basically mean that it is OK to rob a bank? )



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