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English 108 J, Early Fall Start 2012

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 13:

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.

Conference Narrative and Reflection Paper

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 go about choosing a topic and preparing for your presentation? What was hard to do, and what turned out to be less challenging than you thought?), and then concludes by analyzing and evaluating your own experience using 2-3 ideas from “Learning About Learning Common Terms and Concepts in the Field of Learning.” Think about which concepts best help you think about your experience and reflect on it thoughtfully.

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

(Please Turn in TWO copies.  I will return one to you with comments with your Portfolios; the other will be my file copy)

That's your first assignment for Wednesday. The second is your English 108 Course Portfolio. This will have three parts to it, two of which you will bring to class on Wednesday. The third part, the Short Self-reflective Essay, you will write in class. Here is the whole Portfolio assignment:

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 your Self-reflective Essay 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 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)

For Wednesday, September 12:

NO Reading or Writing Due for today!!!!!

For Tuesday, September 11: Conference Day! (for the full conference assignment click here

For Monday, September 10:

Reading: Your research reading for the conference.

Writing: A. Your presentation rewrite for My Writing Life. This is optional. For it, you will work to perfect the presentation dimensions of ONE PAGE of your final draft for the My Writing Life assignment. You can earn up to .2 points of extra credit. NO SUBSTANTIVE CHANGES! Just editing, spelling, grammar!

B. Today is your conference presentation rehearsal. You need to have prepared your presentation, divided up your roles, practiced your own part of the presentation, and prepared your PowerPoint. We'll have a run through of each presentation, with questions. We'll talk about how well prepared your rehearsal shows you to be.

For Thursday, September 6:

Reading: Your research reading for the conference.

Writing: Your Learning Profile final draft due. (See assignment below for Tuesday, September 4.)

For Wednesday, September 5:

Reading: Your research reading for the conference.

Writing: Group Research Proposal due. As a group, your job for next Wednesday is to go from the preliminary steps of looking for material to a plan of action. This means, as a group you will write a project 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 see to be the main points of what you want to present (this may change!)
  3. Why other 108 students would find your inquiry interesting/relevant (“stakes”)
  4. A preliminary list of sources that you have found through your research and how they will help provide material for your presentation (try to be specific!)

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

For Tuesday, September 4:

Reading: Various abstracts and articles as you explore learning topics you might like to learn more about. We will come back to learning topics on Tuesday, and make your final selection of a topic for the Writing and Learning Conference, but I want you to have spent at least 2 hours on line searching for articles you MIGHT research, just to see what is out there and whether you will be able to have choice enought to come up with 4-8 strong articles for each group.

Writing: 2-page pre-writing first draft of "My Learning Profile."

The full My Learning Profile assignment I distributed to you early this week, but here it is again:

My Learning Profile

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. 

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?  How do you know what you say you know?  Think of the way Kohl tells you about his not-learning—the pages we read could be seen as Kohl offering at least part of a profile of himself as a learner when he was a child.

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.

Due: September 5, 9:30am

Length: 3-4 pages. PLEASE turn in 2 copies of your paper, and staple to one of these copies the draft you wrote for Tuesday.

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


For Thursday, August 30:

Reading: None

Writing: Revised Draft of the "My Writing Life" assignment

For Wednesday, August 29:

Reading: Two things. First I'd like you to read a short article on writing and math anxiety. You can download Ramirez and Beilock, "Writing about Testing Worries..." HERE. And second, please read through the material on my Learning About Learning page (click here).

Writing: Two things: first, please write for me a 100 word summary of the Beilock. The trick here is to be as complete as you can be, but NOT go over 100 words. Please include a word count at the bottom of the entry.

Second, in the Glossary of Learning Terms, pick the three that you can see applying to you most. Then write a brief paragraph for each explaining how.

See you tomorrow!

For Tuesday, August 28:

Reading: the two papers to be criteria normed for tomorrow.

Writing: 1. after reading each paper, use the criteria to rate its success. Then for each criterion write a short explanation of why you gave the number you did.

2. For your own paper and in preparation for your conference with me on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, review your own paper, the criteria scores I gave it, and my comments, and think about how you might revise it. Write up a plan for revising your writing. Be as specific as you can in explaining the changes you think you might make. (No more than two pages)

For Monday, August 27 :

Reading: Meyer and Land, "Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge." (To download this article, click here)

This is a very famous article in the world of learning studies. It is important for its explanation of threshold concepts—those discipline-defining concepts that are both necessary entry points to work in many research areas, and rarely understandable without a certain amount of rethinking and relearning of one’s common sense notions of how things work.

One such concept would be the concept of natural selection, a biological theory about how species evolve which flies in the face of what seems a universal human will to understand change in terms of purpose and meaning. Force, in physics, would be another such threshold concept, as would reading in literary studies, which upon arriving in their classes students think they understand perfectly, but which the fields of literary and cultural analysis see as a complex act of interpretive response and construction.

Meyer and Land go on to point out that threshold concepts like these are often also examples of “troublesome” knowledge, by which they mean those kinds of knowledge that seem to have something about them that, again, flies in the face of what prior understanding or common sense would expect and are therefore often quite difficult to learn.

Writing: First: After you first print out the article, and then read it carefully, I want you to locate three key concepts OTHER THAN "threshold concept" and "troublesome knowledge." I want you to define each of them in your own words, and then in a paragraph for each, explain why each of the three is an important concept.

Second: a two page response paper telling me the story of your reading of M&L, including a description of difficulties you had as readers/learners and how you solved them (or what you tried to do, but which DIDN'T solve them!) 

For Thursday, August 25:

Writing: Full Draft of Assignment 1 is due. The full assignment reads:

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

For Wednesday, August 22:

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. When have you done something like Not-learning? Was it Active Non-learning? Passive Non-learning? Both?

Tell me what happened. What was it that you not-learned, and why, as best you understand, did you do so? (one page)

Tuesday August 21:

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

Then read the first ten pages of the Herb Kohl essay, and write out responses to part B below. (Type and print!)

Writing: A. Get started on Assignment 1! Be ready for a classroom conversation about your pre-writing.

B. Yesterday we talked about 5 basic learning concepts. Find an example of each in the pages you read, then write for each a short paragraph in which you summarize what Kohl says and explain how your example illustrates the concept.