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English 108 A, Early Fall Start 2011

Assignments and Updates


See also: Blackboard

This page has the most up-to-date information available on this website. Please check this page frequently throughout the quarter!!

(Information on this page will be listed in reverse chronological order--beware!)

For help with grammar and mechanics for ELL/ESL students, try:

or our own OWRC's page:


For Thursday, September 15:

Reading: none

Writing: Two things. First, your Conference Narrative and Reflection Paper, and second your portfolio--your collection of writing you have over the course of this term. (The portfolio assignment is on the Blackboard)

Conference Narrative and Reflection Paper

(See Blackboard for the whole Group Project assignment)

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 the UW library system, read various sources to find something you could use for your presentation, and found a way to organize your thoughts into a 2 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.  

So assess yourself as learner here.  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 concludes by assessing your performance as learner (e.g., What turned out to be your strengths as a learner?  What were your weaknesses?  What surprised you about what you found yourself doing?)   

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


For Wednesday, September 14:

No Reading and No Writing! Happy day off!

For Tuesday, September 13:

Reading: Your conference presentation!!!!!.

Writing: Group Power Point presentations. Bring your presentation on a USB drive for presentation on the overhead in the classroom. You should also email it to me (at as a precaution should something go wrong with the USB drive. Watch for the proper room number for our conference presentations....

For Monday, September 12:

Reading: Your research articles.

Writing: Group Power Point presentations. Bring your presentation on a USB drive for presentation on the overhead in the classroom. You should also email it to me (at as a precaution should something go wrong with the USB drive.

For Thursday, September 8:

Reading: Your research articles.

Writing: Your job for Thursday is to go from the preliminary steps of looking for material on your research topic to a plan of action. Not a full campaign, but a proposal. Because audiences usually find themselves more engaged by an interesting question and answer 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? 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 preliminary list of sources to be consulted

This is a group assignment—you’ll need just one proposal per group—to be turned in Thursday am.


For Wednesday, September 7:

No assignments beyond looking for possible sources for your upcoming conference presentations.

For Tuesday, September 6:

Reading: Ramirez and Beilock, "Writing About Testing Worries Boosts Exam Performance in the Classroom," Science (331), January 14, 2011. (Handout in class. You can also find this through the library website.)

Writing: Two Things:

1. One page on Ramirez and Beilock beginning with a 2-4 sentence summary of its content, and then going on to tell me the story of your reading THIS piece in comparison to your reading of Meyer and Land last weekend. Harder? Easier? How? Why? Tell me what you think.

2. My Learning Profile (Slightly adjusted from the version I handed out in class)

Writing this paper will be a revisiting of the reflective processes you brought to My Writing Life in Week 1, but, obviously (since you will be using concepts we’ve been discussing and reading about in this class), now with not just an experiential but also with an academic base.   With this paper 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. 

The point of the project is for you to create a Learning Profile of yourself in which you give me  a picture of who you are as a learner, demonstrated by details drawn from your learning life. We'll be spending Monday and Tuesday recapitulating and deepening the learning concepts we've been using over the past weeks in order that you have a strong conceptual basis for thinking about, and describing yourself as, a learner.

Prompt: This assignment asks you to give me an insider’s look at what you know about yourself as a learner.   What are the three or four most important things you know about yourself as a learner?  How do you know what you say you know?  Think of how Kohl tells you about his not-learning—the ten pages we read could be seen as Kohl offering at least part of a profile of himself as a learner as a child—or at least one big part of himself. 

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? 

Summary: In other words, 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.

  • Grading Rubric: SEE Blackboard!!!
  • Due Tuesday, Sept 6, 9:30am
  • Length: 3-4 pp.

For Thursday, September 1:

Reading: none.

Writing: Final draft of your "My Writing Life" paper. Bring TWO copies, without your name typed on them; put your student number on both, and write your name on ONE of them.

For Wednesday, August 31:

Reading: No reading, just watching! Two short videos of two lectures about learning issues. The first is Dan Pink on the science of motivation | Video on

The second is Kathryn Schulz on being Wrong. Video on

Writing: for each of the two videos, first give a short, one paragraph summary of each talk, and then go on to give me an account of a time when you were wrong--is Schulz right? And then tell me about an experience you have had with extrinsic and/or intrinsic motivation. Did what Pink claims turn out to be true for you? .

For Tuesday, August 30:

Reading: The Two Essays for take home evaluation today. Remember, I think both of these are good drafts--the question will be: how can we help them be stronger drafts?

Writing: For each essay, after reading, think about each of the six criteria, and using those criteria, give your sense of the strengths of each on a five-point scale. Then write a brief rationale for each of your scores. Come to class ready to discuss!

For Monday, August 29:

Reading: Meyer and Land, "Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Learning..." (on line at: . This is not long, and as an academic article it is not especially difficult. But it is a "classic" article in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and it is very useful in thinking about how people learn, and especially how people go from novices to experts as they move through a given curriculum.

Writing: I would like you to do three things. First, after reading this article I want you to decide what the three most important key words are in this piece of writing, and list each of them along with an explanation of what the word means, and what in particular makes you think it a particularly important term.

Second, think back through the first week of the course and make a list of every key concept you can remember that we have introduced. These would include "not-learning," of course, and "writing as process," but there are also more you should be able to name (especially if you had a photographic memory!).

Then circle the three terms in this list you might like to know more about.

And third, write me a short essay describing your experience reading this. What did you do? How was it hard? Where was it easy? how long did it take? So: Tell me the story of your reading of M&L. 1-2 pp.

For Thursday, August 25:

Reading: nothing new

Writing: Full Draft of Assignment 1 is due.


For Wednesday, August 24:

Reading: Kohl, "I Won't Learn from You " pp. 1-10.

(Kohl's entire essay is available for download as a PDF at: )

Writing: Kohl's subject is Not-learning. For many readers this is a surprising, counter-intuitive notion: why in the world would anyone decide to not-learn?! As you think about this question, use his story as an opportunity to search your own memory banks. Have you ever done something like Not-learning? If so, tell me what happened. What was it that you not-learned, and why, as best you understand, did you do so?

For Wednesday, write out answers to the 8 questions I gave you in class on Tuesday. Then in class we'll extend the kinds of questions I ask there about paragraph 1 to other paragraphs in the essay.


Assignment 1

My Writing Life: Who I am as a writer, and how I got this way

Prompt: This assignment asks you to tell me the story of how you came to be the writer you are. This is something you know a lot about—even if you haven’t thought much about it—but about which I know exactly nothing. Yet as your teacher for the next four weeks, it would really help me to know you better—to know what kind of writing you’ve done, and especially what problems you have had. In writing terms you are here an insider to a knowledge (your own experience), and I am an outsider to that same knowledge. Your job is to give me an insider’s look at what you know about yourself as a writer and how you came to be that way.

Pre-writing: In thinking about what to write, think about distinct moments in your writing life—a time a particular assignment was due, say, and you were stuck. What were you writing, and why were you unable to make progress? Or a time when you found writing easy—when was that? What were you writing?

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? If not, did you ever? What happened that made you like it less? What is it about your writing that has brought you to this class? If you’re in this class pretty much just because you are here, then think about your affective relation to writing.

Summary: In other words, tell me the story of yourself as a writer by recounting three or four different events in your writing life that exemplify who you are as a writer, how you have come to feel about writing, and what you see your challenges to be. 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.

  • Grading Rubric: SEE Blackboard!!!
  • Full Proposal Due Thursday, August 25, 9:30am
  • Final Version Due Thursday, September 1, 9:30am
  • Length: 3-4 pages


Tuesday August 23:

Reading: First, READ THE FULL SYLLABUS! Come to class with questions and ready for a "Syllabus Quiz."

Writing: Write the essay described in the "First Day Snapshot" prompt.