Engl 481: Composition Theory and Practice

UIUC, Spring Semester 2007

time and place: Tues & Thurs, 2:00-3:15 / EB 303
instructor: Spencer Schaffner, Assistant Professor
office hours: English Building 300, Tuesday & Thursday, 1-2:00
email and IM handles: spencers@uiuc.edu / metaspencer
quick link to this page: metaspencer.com

Description of the Class

In exploring some of the major theories that inform the teaching of academic writing, we will pay particular attention to the roles of innovation and constraint in written communication. Can innovation be taught? Should it be? What creative force does constraint have when we write?

Topics we will explore include: the use of writing as punishment, formulaic writing, the five-paragraph essay, connections between argument and visual design, cheating and plagiarism as literate practices, YouTubed teachers, and films about composition. Students will be responsible for writing regular reading response papers and completing multiple projects. (Response papers will all have an assigned "constraint" mentioned in class the day before the paper is due.)

Readings and Policies

Readings for the course will be on electronic reserve through the library (in early January).

Course policies are online; before the second class meeting, read the policies, click the link at the bottom of the document, then "sign" your name in the email to indicate you know what's expected of you. See me if you have any questions about these policies or trouble fulfilling your obligations in this course.

Course Projects by Percentage of Final Grade

(links to assignment descriptions coming soon!)

→ participation (10% of total grade)
→ reading response papers (20%)
→ lesson or creative response to writing as punishment (10%)
→ five-paragraph essay about the five-paragraph essay (20%)
→ mid-term cheating exam (10%)
→ mid-term take-home paper (10%)
→ final genre portfolio on composition films (20%)


Course Calendar

THEMES, READINGS, DUE DATES, AND ASSIGNMENTS

WEEK 1: Writing as Punishment & Writing About Literature

Jan 16: introductions to the class; discussion about "good writing"; handout (with links) and readings distributed in class

Jan 18: discussion of writing as punishment (forms and purposes)
read for today: handout and links on the use of writing as punishment

WEEK 2: writing as punishment continued

Jan 23: discussion of writing as punishment (forms and purposes)
read for today: chapter from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
turn in: reading response paper
assigned: lesson on lit about writing as punishment (creative writing option)

Jan 25: discussion of writing as punishment cont.; Craft of Research chapters distributed read for today: Kafka's "In the Penal Colony"
turn in: one-page reading response paper

WEEK 3: Written Argument

Jan 30: aspects of argument
read for today: selections from The Craft of Research (first half)
turn in: lesson or creative writing option

Feb 1: identifying claims, sub-claims, and warrants (in-class activity); Prior chapter distributed in class
read for today: selections from The Craft of Research (second half)

WEEK 4: the Writing Process & the Principle of Distributed Activity
(possible cancellation of classes this week—to be announced)

Feb 6: discussion of process
read for today: Paul Prior chapter
turn in: response paper

Feb 8: three concepts relating to process: 1. the principle of distributed activity; 2. minimal response; 3. response at the point of need

WEEK 5: Error and Correctness

Feb 13: discussion of Williams
read for today (on e reserves): Joseph M. Williams "The Phenomenology of Error" College Composition and Communication, Vol. 32, No. 2, Language Studies and Composing. (May, 1981), pp. 152-168.
turn in: response paper (written on a typewriter; typewriters in the undergrad library)

Feb 15: discussion of error continued

WEEK 6: the Five-Paragraph Essay, Form, and Formulaity

Feb 20: discussion of "the" five-paragraph essay
read for today (on e reserves): Mark Wiley "The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (And Why We Need to Resist)" The English Journal, Vol. 90, No. 1, Teaching Writing in the Twenty-First Century. (Sep., 2000), pp. 61-67.
read for today (on e reserves): Kimberly Wesley "The Ill Effects of the Five Paragraph Theme" The English Journal, Vol. 90, No. 1, Teaching Writing in the Twenty-First Century. (Sep., 2000), pp. 57-60.
assigned: five-paragraph essay on the five-paragraph essay

Feb 22
read for today (on e reserves): Gabriele Lusser Rico "Against Formulaic Writing" The English Journal, Vol. 77, No. 6. (Oct., 1988), pp. 57-58.
read for today (on e reserves): Thomas E. Nunnally "Breaking the Five-Paragraph-Theme Barrier" The English Journal, Vol. 80, No. 1. (Jan., 1991), pp. 67-71.
turn in: response paper on this week's readings

WEEK 7: continued

Feb 27
read for today: Tracy A. Novick "Praise for the Five Paragraph Essay" The English Journal, Vol. 90, No. 3, The Lure of Young Adult Literature. (Jan., 2001), p. 12.
read for today: Glenda Moss “The Five-Paragraph Theme: Does It Prepare Students for College?” Summer 2002 issue of The Quarterly of the National Writing Project 24 (3): 23-25, 38
turn in: short response

March 1
read for today: Deborah M. Dean "Muddying Boundaries: Mixing Genres with Five Paragraphs" The English Journal, Vol. 90, No. 1, Teaching Writing in the Twenty-First Century. (Sep., 2000), pp. 53-56.
turn in: draft: five-paragraph essay on the five-paragraph essay (bring two copies)

WEEK 8: Formulaic Writing

March 6
in-class discussion on standards and testing

March 8
standards discussion continued: the SAT, ACT, and MCAT writing exams
turn in: five-paragraph essay on the five-paragraph essay (include prior draft)

WEEK 9: Cheating and Plagiarism as Literate Activity

March 13: discussion of cheat sheets and other literate forms of cheating
read for today: section on cheating belts in Yrjo Engestrom "Development, Movement and Agency: Breaking away into Mycorrhizae Activities," CHAT Technical Reports, No. 01, Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research, U of Helsink, Finland turn in: personal response on cheating connected with article
assigned: mid-term exam

March 15: discussion of cheating and cheat sheets continued in-class midterm review session

spring break spring break spring break spring break spring break spring break spring break spring break spring break spring break spring break spring break spring break

WEEK 10: cheating and plagiarism continued

March 27: in-class activity on plagiarism and remix culture

March 29: In-Class Cheating Midterm Exam & Take-Home Essay

WEEK 11: cheating and plagiarism continued

April 3: workshop on plagiarism and remix
turn in: take-home essay on cheating as literate activity and learning strategy

April 5: in-class plagiarism activity

WEEK 12: Personal Writing and Voice

April 10
read for today: Richard E. Miller "Fault Lines in the Contact Zone" College English, Vol. 56, No. 4. (Apr., 1994), pp. 389-408. turn in: response paper

April 12: discussion continued
readings distributed in class (Lupton and Drucker)

WEEK 13: the Visual Design of Argument

April 17
read for today: Lupton and Drucker
turn in: designed response

April 19: discussion continued
links to YouTube videos distributed in class

WEEK 14: YouTubed Teachers and Radical Composition

April 24
view: videos of teachers on YouTube; come prepared to discuss key issues

April 26
YouTube and writing continued
assigned: final project—collaborative genre portfolio
reading distributed in class (on collaboration)

WEEK 15: Collaborative Writing

May 1
read for today: article on collaborative writing
turn in: proposal for your genre portfolio

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