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Instructing ENGL 109

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Instructing English 109 is a weird beast. It's weird and beastly because, well, once you look over the different kinds of syllabi, you'll realize that everyone does the course rather differently. It becomes hard to decide which textbooks to use, what kind of content you'll include, and how you'll organize your class because there isn't really a consistency across the samples given. Then there's different sections, usually split into Math and Arts. So it can be a bit overwhelming when deciding how to create your syllabus, and when you have decided there can be a lack of confidence in the syllabus that you have created because it can be a bit unclear as to what this class is.

But what this is class is is an introduction to academic writing, the subtitle of ENGL 109. This can be frustratingly vague because every first year course and all disciplines should contain (or is) an introduction to academic writing. So what is special about ENGL 109? how is it any different from any other first year course? and why does this course deserve the title "intro to academic writing"?

Rather than thinking of ENGL 109 as just an intro to academic writing, it is better to think of the course as thus: a composition course and a course that coerces students to incorporate writing practices that are pretty crucial for surviving academia, from learning the importance editing their work and sharing it with others to getting into the habit of creating drafts early on. So, on one hand, the course teaches effective writing strategies and composition (aka, taming the first-year love of the semi-colon and teaching them the oxford comma), and the on the other hand, it gives the plenty of opportunity for students to work on drafts, to edit, to share their writing with peers, and to get comfortable with their writing, lessening the stress and anxiety of the one deadline for that one paper.

If there is one consistency among the ENGL 109 samples, there is this structure: 3 units: Personal Narrative Unit, Rhetoric Unit, and Argument Unit. Besides the rhetoric unit, which usually relies on rhetorical analysis, this here wiki author believes that the personal narrative unit and the argument narrative is too broad and open, making it difficult for you, the instructor to grade. The personal narrative essay is tricky to mark because the openness of this essay can produce some rather personal narratives that will make marking them uncomfortable. So if you choose to abide by this structure, this here wiki author suggests you give them a prompt, something that can control what is written in their assignments. The same sort of applies with the argument essay. An "argument" is too vague, and you usually have students to go to rather controversial topics that are quite simply boring. So give them a few prompts for them to argue a position on.

But if you are like this here wiki author, you can work with a two unit structure, leaving out the personal narrative unit and making the argument unit a literary analysis unit! Don't worry, this doesn't mean personal writing is gone; rather, it is up to you in what ways personal writing your students can do (for example, having the students write a weekly blog on something throughout a unit, or get them to write creatively). And rhetorical analysis doesn't just have to be ads, so keep that in mind! This structure allows there to be only two units, making there to be more "breathing room" for you and your students.

The only other thing is to ask around, to ask your peers, someone who has recently taught 109. And that's it!

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