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English 108: Fall, 2016


(See also: Assignments and Updates )

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


1. Reading Difficult Texts: Four Principles, and the

What, Why, So What Method of

Summarizing What you Read

2. Writing Ready Course Portfolio

3. Presentation Problem Profile

4. Six Criteria for Papers in This Class

5. My Writing Life Prompt

5b. My Writing Life Extra Credit

6. My Learning Profile Prompt

7. Outside to Inside

8. Inquiry Project Proposal and Presentation

9. Core Concepts for the Learning Self

10. Editing Practice


1. Reading Difficult Texts: Four Principles

1. Patience: Even if things are not making full sense, keep on reading as best you can through as much of the text as you can.

Doing this will help you to develop a capacity for suspending a thought until you’ve gotten enough information to put it together. Expect, too, to have to re-read in order to assemble the parts you've managed to unscramble. Learn to annotate as you go—doing so makes it easier to reread. (Yes, you can underline, but only underline key words and phrases. Many students underline whole paragraphs, but this doesn't help you understand or reread, since it really only shows that you haven't figured out WHAT in that paragraph is actually worth most attention.)

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 that seem to be key concepts in what you are reading. (You might even do an online search on these words. Often you'll find an explanation that will much simplify your task!)

3. Tolerate incompleteness: Even expert readers cannot always understand everything, especially on a first or second pass. Instead they understand as much as they can on a first reading, and then reread. Even then they will often not understand every word and every sentence or paragraph. So don’t worry too much if there are bits and pieces you don’t quite get. Those are the things you will want to ask your group members or your prof.

4. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time. No need to rush. Get one thing straight, and then get another. If you have questions you can answer, ask about them.


Summarizing what you read

Even when you understand the words and sentences of a given piece of research you read, it can still be difficult to figure out what it's about and how to make sense of it.

Often this is because the one piece you are looking at is a response to someone else, and you may be expected to know something about that other person's research as well. That's not unusual—in fact it happens frequently. Most scholarship in any field is part of an ongoing conversation. Sometimes an article is an expansion of someone else's thinking ("The argument/claim you made in your paper is right, and my paper will extend its insights..."); sometimes it is a rejection of someone else's thinking ("I don't agree with your claim, and here is why..."); and very often it is a modification: ("Yes, your argument makes sense, but it would be stronger if...").

So one thing that can help you make sense of a piece is to think of it as part of a larger conversation. You can do this via the What?, Why? and So What? questions:

  • 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!

But how do you know what the ongoing conversation is about? Often the paper points to that in its opening, mentioning other work done in the field and explaining why this particular piece is of value. You can also help yourself by getting some background on the subject. Wikipedia and similar online sources are not always reliable, but they often give you basic information about the conversations and disagreements in the field. The more background you have, the easier the reading of other research-based material generally is.

2. Writing Ready Course Portfolio

English 108 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, including the final assignment. 

3) A short Self-Reflective Essay, which you will write in class on the final day of the quarter!

In the Self-reflective Essay you will write as our term ends, you will tell me the story of your experience taking this course.

For this essay again you are the insider—you know what you have done here, 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 about you and the progress you have made than I did when we began the course —but I won’t know it as you know it.

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 as you leave this class, the better your grade on this essay will be.

The portfolio counts for 10 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 (one-half of your grade for the Portfolio itself).  The Self-Reflective Essay I'll evaluate on the basis of responsiveness and thoughtfulness as follows: 

Fully responsive and thoughtfully undertaken         = Full Credit   
Responsive but less completely thought through     = Half Credit
Marginally responsive, or not well thought through = No Credit

You must submit your Portfolio in a large, self-addressed mailing envelope in order that I can mail it back to you.  Its presentation should be neat, ordered, and careful. To have it returned, address the envelope and if you live off campus, 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, but you need to give me the full mail code for the dorm you will be in over the next week.)

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 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 editing 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 your readers will think are simply "wrong." This, unfortunately, includes a number of mistakes taht non-native speakers tend to make more than do other students.

Then there are also half a dozen other things writers typically do which make their writing more awkward or obscure than it needs to be.

a) Typical Common Errors:

1. Punctuation (commas, semi-colons, colons, apostrophes, dashes)
2. Spelling
3. Verbs (number, tense)
4. Nouns (plural or singular endings)
5. Parallel constructions

b) Awkwardnesses/Obscurities:

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

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

Finally, for English Language Learning writers whose native tongue is Chinese/Mandarin, read Five Key Grammar Errors Native Chinese Speakers Often Make When Writing English.

4. Six Criteria for Writing in this Class

Central Purpose: Are the reasons for your writing clear, appropriate, and fully responsive to the prompt?

Details: Are the words and ideas used within the assignment relevant and effective in developing and supporting the paper’s central purpose?

Organization: Can your reader easily follow and understand your paper from beginning to end? Are there writing elements, like transitions and topic sentences, which maintain a coherent flow?

Fullness: Do you do enough to carry your case? Is the document substantial enough to leave your reader believing that you know what you are talking about?

Fluency: How fluid, sophisticated, and effective is your writing at the sentence and paragraph level? Are sentences and word choices varied and clear?

Presentation: Is your paper well-edited and spell-checked? Have you reviewed your verb tense/agreement, punctuation, and other grammatical elements? Have you followed all guidelines pertaining to formatting, citation standards, and other rules of appearance as they are described in the course syllabus?

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 1 (not very good at all) up to 6 (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 details to explain or clarify the argument.)

2 A start in this category, with some successes, but needs substantial additional work (e.g., a paper that offers some specific details, but doesn't describe or explain them sufficiently to be effective).

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

4 Functional success with this category, with some lapses and/or inconsistencies (e.g., full exploration of some details, but not with all, or without consistency or clear relevance to the paper as a whole).

5 Success with this category, but a success not fully integrated throughout the draft with only minor problems (e.g., a paper with a good sense of how to use details and to develop them far enough to make them useful to the argument).

6 Full success with this category (e.g., a paper with truly insightful, and fully developed details, 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. Six 6's, for example, would undoubtedly earn full credit.

Conversion Chart

This is a chart correlating criteria scores with grades. It is not an absolute table. The criteria are valuable for identifying and judging elements of the paper, and there should certainly be a strong connection between criteria scores and grades. But papers have an overall rhetorical dimension to them as well as a set of component skills, and that dimension may influence a reader towards one end of the scale or another.

To convert scores to grades, add up the first four categories plus half of sum of the fluency and presentation scores. That is, the last two categories are weighted half.

For instance, a score of 254566 would receive a 22 (2+5+4+5 = 16; (6+6)/2 = 6; 16+6=22).

I can’t imagine giving a 666666 (30) score to a paper and not giving it a 4.0, but I can easily imagine giving a 3.4 to a 664442 (23) score, or 3.2 to a 354566 (23).

28-30 3.8-4.0

23-27 3.4-3.7

18-22 3.0-3.3

13-17 2.5-2.9

08-12 1.9-2.4 and Come see me

00-08 Come see me


5. My Writing Life: Prompt

Prompt: Tell me about who you are as a writer and give me accounts of three or four different events in your writing life that you think support and make clear your self-description.  Your purpose is to help me get to know you as a writer, and to help me understand the kinds of things we will need to work on during the next four weeks.

Explanation: This assignment asks you to introduce yourself as a writer.  Tell me about your strengths, about things you don’t feel you are good at, about when you have been successful and when you have not, and why. 

This is something you know a lot about—even if you haven’t reflected much on it—but about which I know exactly nothing. Yet as your teacher for the next four weeks it will help me greatly to know as this course begins about your strengths and needs as a writer, about the kinds of writing you’ve done, and, especially, what problems you have had. 

Pre-writing: In thinking about what to write, you might reflect on the following questions:

Would you say you are a good writer? What have you written in your life? Has all your writing been for school? Is it online? Is writing part of your social life? Have you ever really wanted to write something? What? When? How? With what results? 
Do you like writing? Do you hate it? Fear it? Are you comfortable as a writer?  Confident?  Why, or why not? 

Length: 1000-1200 words (3-4 pages)
Format: 12-pt Times New Roman font, double-spaced, 1-inch margins

Please include a heading (your name, course, date, assignment) and bring 2 printed copies to class..

Grading Rubric is provided above

  • Final Version Due Friday, August 26, 9:30am
  • Length: 3-4 pages (1000-1200 words)
  • 2 copies, typed and printed out

5b My Writing Life: Exercise

Introduce yourself to me as a writer—you have one paragraph. 
Would you say you are a good writer? What have you written in your life? Has all your writing been for school? Is it online? Is writing part of your social life? Have you ever really wanted to write something? What? When? How? With what results?  Do you like writing? Do you hate it? Fear it? Are you comfortable as a writer?  Confident?  Why, or why not? 

[The paragraph below is my own paragraph--use it to think about how you can create a similar self-description.]

I am actually a very fluent writer, sometimes too much so because I can lack concision.  I write a lot, and in many different forms—notes, memos, academic papers, letters to friends.  One hard thing for me is “audience”—to imagine who I am writing for, and to shape my language to them.  I write for colleagues, for other faculty, for students, for friends, and each needs different levels of detail and expertise.  But I’ve done this a long time and I am usually pretty confident about success—unless I’m trying to explain something that I still don’t really understand or have the right words for.  That’s really hard.  I also can be a procrastinator—I depend on “cooking”—getting a beginning into my head so it can “cook” while I do other things.  I like to write by hand, and then go to computer, and then I revise from double spaced printouts—but with a pencil, at least at first.   I like to write, and I’m usually confident I can succeed; I’m comfortable except when I’m trying to do something new—something I do not yet fully understand. 


6. My Learning Profile

Context: In the last paper you used anecdotes from your life to tell the story of how you came to be the writer you are.  In this essay, you will again use examples from your own experience, but your focus will be on applying the concepts we have studied to understanding your own tendencies as a learner today.  With this writing assignment, you are both an insider and an outsider as you write:  you are not expert insiders (yet!) on learning issues, though you have certainly learned some things about them; you are, however, expert insiders on yourself.  You know as I can’t how you’ve dealt with difficulty in the past, or how you have resisted at points, both positively or negatively, or what has motivated you in the past to keep going, or where and how you have not-learned.   

Prompt: Tell me about yourself as a learner, using key learning concepts we have developed over the past two weeks and supporting your self-analysis by recounting three or four different events in your learning life that give a profile of you as a learner. Your purpose is to help me get to know you as a learner, and to articulate for me as well as yourself the kinds of things you will need to work on during the next school year, as well as what things (academic subjects, skills, and practices) you would like to learn in your first year at the UW.

Note: This is a formal essay, but it is also about you: in other words, your learning trajectory—past, present, and future—is the object of study. Your essay should include a description in the introductory paragraph that describes you as a learner, as fully as you can, and then follows with "evidence" in the form of vignettes that support your claim about how you have learned (and not-learned!) in the past as well as what you have learned and would like to learn about learning in the future.

Pre-writing: In generating material to write about, think about distinct moments in your learning life—a time when you were unmotivated to learn, say, and couldn’t perform, or when you thought you couldn’t perform and then found a way.  What happens when you encounter difficulty?  What have you typically done?  What are your characteristic forms of resistance? How do you know?  What are the prior knowledges you have—personal and academic—that you think will be strong resources for the classes you are about to take?  Have you ever found yourself not-learning in the way Kohl describes? 

Length:  3-4 pages

Format: 12-pt Times New Roman font, double-spaced, 1-inch margins

Full Proposal Draft Due Friday, September 2 at 9:30am

(A full proposal draft focuses more on the first four of our criteria than does a full draft. It is still as close to a complete paper as it can be.)

7. Getting to the Inside

Inquiring and Reading Your Way to a Starting Point for Writing

The work of weeks three and four introduce you to what makes a university a different place from just about all other schools, and that’s that the faculty here are not just teachers but 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.  You have been introduced to a series of writing and learning issues, and your job, working in four groups of four, will be first to identify, locate and read a set of resources for further study of one topic, and then to make a presentation based on your work to other students in English 108.

Your presentation will identify and explain 3 to 4 key ideas that will enable your audience to understand how this concept, rightly understood, can be useful to them as learners or writers over the years of their college education. 

In short:  the aim of this project is learn to use library resources as a way to become insiders to a topic in a way none of your peers can be, since they will not have consulted the same sources you will have consulted.  Having done some research, 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. 


6. Inquiry Project Proposal and Presentation

The central project of Sequence Two is a group research project that publishes (“makes public”) the results of your week-long inquiry and presents them to your peers. Your presentation will use a PowerPoint show, but will also require your physical and vocal presence. You’ll be giving your presentation during a day of conferences: on Wednesday, September 14th, 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 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 tasks along the way to help you generate your ideas, interests, questions, and practices. You’ll receive training and orientation in library tools—and if you need PowerPoint help, let me know and I'm there.

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 assignment goals listed below. Use this opportunity to present yourself and your ideas in a professional manner, but remember that you will know more than your audience, so you can't do too much! You will have become the insiders, and your audience, not having done the same work you have done, will be the outsiders—and this is just what you want! You will likely have to do other 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 be sure that you complete all parts.


  • Presentations must be 10-12 minutes in length (no shorter, no longer!)
  • Each of the members of the group must speak during the presentation, ideally in equal amounts of time
  • 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 (check out the Purdue University site: )
  • Be Creative! This is your chance to show off your own creativity so I’m looking for you to bring 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 advantage.

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

  • Main Ideas – What is your topic, the question you have asked about that topic,
  • 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.
  • A description of what you have developed as an answer to that question—or of any particular problems you may have had in trying to answer that question. 

Tips on Presenting:

  • Introduce yourselves—say your names so everyone can ask you specific questions later. It's a good idea to give your names on the title slide, too.
  • During your speech, make sure to make eye contact, speak clearly, loudly and slowly (you may be nervous, and that will tend to make you speak FAST!), avoid reading from the handouts or visual aids, and smile!
  • Remember that you will be giving a presentation, and so you want to be "presentable" – so aim to be professional during your talk.
  • 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. (We'll have a run through of everyone's presentation in class on Tuesday, September 13!) Some students write it out and memorize; others practice from a flashcard.
  • Make sure in your practicing that you are within the time limits! It is VERY easy to lose track of time. Two minutes is not nearly as long as you think.

For Next Friday:  Your Group Proposal--

Your job for Friday is to go from the preliminary steps of looking for material to a plan of action. Not a full campaign, but a proposal based on what you have learned to that point in your research.

Because audiences usually find themselves more engaged by an interesting question and answer than by a report, I want you to focus what you are learning around a research question.

So how can you get this research question focus? It's not too hard. Suppose you are researching resistance to learning. Your question could be: How can knowing about different kinds of resistances to learning make you a better student? Or more narrowly (supposing you select just one kind of resistance): How can knowing about passive resistance to learning make you a better student?

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. A list of sources you have consulted and will consult.

This is a group assignment—you’ll need just one proposal per group—to be turned in Friday am. I will then discuss the proposals with each group in class.

For Tuesday, September 13:  Rehearsal Day!  Come to class with a “draft” of your PP presentation and be ready to give your report to the class.  This is VERY IMPORTANT!  It’s when you can be sure you will be successful on Tuesday, when we can give you useful feedback about time and presentation. 

Conference Reflection

A few days from now, you will have gone through a complex process to participate in our academic conference, most of which had to be new to you.  You worked as a member of a research team, navigated a UW Libraries database, read various sources to find something you could use for your presentation, and found a way to organize your thoughts into a two-minute chunk, and then you actually performed it as well.  That is a lot of steps, few of which, if any, were familiar or easy.  

After the conference, we would like you to write a 3-4 page paper that, first, tells the story of your conference experience (what happened as you began the project, how did you and your group function, what was hard to do, and what turned out to be less challenging than you thought?), and then second, concludes by writing up your own part of the presentation. Begin with a SHORT paragraph describing the topic your group took up and your role, and then give me a write up of what you said.

Due: Friday, September 16th (with your portfolio)

Format: 3-4 pages, Double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman Font

7. Core Concepts for the Study of Learning

Entry Points for Learning How Your Mind Works as a Learner

Metacognition (Learning to recognize Classroom Learning Situations: Additive, Revisionary, Active, Passive)

Prior Knowledge (The Velcro rule)

Novice to Expert (The Three [or Four] Things Rule)

Resistances to Learning, or ways to Not-Learn (Positive, Negative, Active, Passive)

Motivation (Goals, Value, and Expectancies; Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic; the three Key Internal Needs: Autonomy, Competency, and Connectedness)

Difficulty and Resilience (Core and Threshold Concepts)

Transfer and Self-efficacy (Becoming your own teacher/ critic/learning coach)

(For a more extensive glossary of Key Learning Terms, click here.)


Two Passages for Editing

1. During my high school study, it was my first time to learn about

essay. At the beginning, I was wondered what is essay, how

many words I should write, where I can research resource for

my writing. There are so many questions about essay in my

mind. In most time when my English teacher asked us to write

essay, I just looked at my computer screen and my mind was

blank. Until 30 minutes passed, it was still blank on my Word

document. In the past, I always say that I am not a native

speaker, so certainly, if I am not good at English writing, it is

quite normal that happened among Chinese students.


2. As a student,  there is no difference between the nationality,

we all need to write. Since it is a basic skill of learning,

everyone must try it, learn it and control it and master it.  Well.

It sounded easy, but actually, it definitely not. For example,  I

can’t do well in writing for a long period, and even worse,

I can’t find the reason why failures always around

me and never go away. As a result, my writing skill is terrible

before I entered high school.


1. The other students studied with me had all improved their listening and speaking but I could only felt anxious. 

2. I am an active learner clarify, question, apply and consolidate new knowledge which are interesting and authentic.

3. [Having learned to study better,] undoubtedly, my scores were increased soon.

4. I can uncover the mask of nature there, I used to dig out worms, I threw Frisbee and fed sea owls with my toast. 

5. I became calmer and believed in if I am willing to learn or willing to pay my time on, there is nothing I cannot overcome with. 




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