Writing You! | ENG 1A, Spring 2016

[Syllabus–1A–Spring 2016]

You write something every single day. Some of it is significant, like a graded term paper or a birthday card to your Grandmother.; however, most of it gets thrown in the trash—grocery lists, sticky notes, to-do lists—or forgotten online—social media posts, blog posts, comments. Regardless of whether or not something is important, each sentence tells a little something about who you are and what your life is like. Each word is a puzzle piece that connects to reveal a picture of your life. When put together, this output forms the archive of you, from your likes and dislikes and your struggles and triumphs, to your faith and personal history.

For the next ten weeks we are going to focus on answering one question: How do we write about ourselves?

In order to do this, we will deal with the philosophical rationale behind the need to write about ourselves, explore many different ways people express themselves through creative production, and experiment with writing about ourselves in a multitude of styles, genres, and forms. The only way to get better at writing is to read anything you can get your hands on and write everyday. As a result, this class will focus on experimenting, experiencing, and exploring through writing.

English 1A, as an introduction to writing composition, will develop your writing competency through basic writing skills and focus on the essay format, which will be standard in all of your college courses. In addition, we will practice reading texts critically, effective interview and research techniques, and both self and peer editing methods.  Because almost all forms of writing have some sort of reader, we will spend a lot of time becoming familiar with different genres of writing and how to effectively identify your audience. By the end of this class, you have a better understanding of the process of writing—from conception and brainstorming, through research, rough drafts, and editing, to a final polished and interesting essay. Throughout this process we will work on how to best utilize source material (direct quotes, paraphrase, summarize) and how to cite the sources you use.

Overall, my goal is to make sure that in your everyday life you approach writing with skill and composition with ease.

Our Contract

Your Obligations to Me:

  • Timeliness: There is much material to cover, so we need every minute we have together. Being on time for class means we can start promptly.
  • Preparedness: Be ready for in-class discussions. Have note-taking materials with you as well as the readings, either physically or electronically.
  • Respectfulness: Treat me and your classmates with respect. Do not pack up and leave before class is over. Do not use derogatory language or disparage any of your classmates. Silence and put away your cell phones.

My Obligations to You:

  • Timeliness: I will be on time to class every day. I promise to give you as much notice as possible if class has to be cancelled.
  • Preparedness: I will be prepared for discussion every day. Though I do not promise to entertain you, I will work hard to make the material interesting and thought-provoking.
  • Respectfulness: I will treat you with respect. My office hours will be kept; I will not waste your time.

Course Materials

In order to be prepared for class, each day bring the following materials:

  1. Assigned Readings: some days you will be reading from Glass Castle, and some days you will be reading items posted on iLearn. Either way, make sure that you can access the readings (either printed out or on your computer) in class.
  2. Paper and writing tools: Any form of paper is fine, ditto the writing tool. If you prefer writing on loose paper with a pencil, that is fine. If you prefer a class notebook and a pen, that is equally fine.
  3. Access to a computer with Microsoft Word (or a word processing system that saves as either a .docx or .pdf): You will be uploading all of your final essays on SafeAssign, and the system only accepts .docx or .pdf formats. Also you are encouraged to bring your computer to class. Although you will be doing a lot of rough work on paper, I welcome you to take notes on your computer.

Make sure that you do the following daily, even on days we do not have class:

  1. Check R’mail: All of the personal communications I make with you will be via R’mail. Make sure that you check it regularly, so that you know if you need to talk to me. You are responsible for any information I send via R’mail.
  2. Check Course Website: This is where the bulk of the class content will occur, including homework schedules, announcements, helpful hints and links, and weekly check ins. This is also where you will find the answers to most of your questions and ways of contacting me. Please subscribe to the website’s RSS feed so that you can stay in the loop. You are responsible for any information posted on the course website.
  3. Check iLearn: This is where you will submit all of your final papers, receive comments and grades, and find links or .pdfs . I also post important class documents and announcements there. You are responsible for the information posted on iLearn, so you need to check-in frequently.

Course Policies


I don’t know what I would do if separated from my laptop (her name is Alice, btw), so, please, feel free to bring your laptops to class. They are not required for any in class work, and you need to make sure that you also have paper and pen with you. That being said, do not let your computer distract you from me or the class activities. If I notice that you are on an unrelated website or working on something else, then I will call attention to it. If it continues to be a problem, then your technology privileges will be revoked for the remainder of the class.

The same policy does NOT apply to phones: turn them off.


Because so much of this class is built upon in class activities and not on lecturing, I have to enforce a very strict attendance policy. Skipping class will make it impossible for you to do well on your essays. In addition, copying someone else’s notes cannot replace the group work you missed. Although there are no points removed for missing class, your grade will be negatively and irrevocably affected in the following ways:

  • Forfeit all participation points for the day
  • Cannot turn in any assignments due that day (see late policy)

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism will not be tolerated in any form. You must do your own work. Uncited quotations, paraphrasing other scholars’ ideas, using papers submitted for other courses, and borrowing from your classmates counts as dishonesty. Collaboration is not allowed for any of the papers for this course, so please do your own work. If plagiarism is suspected, you will receive a zero for the assignment and the course. In addition, your case will be referred directly to Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, no exception.

For a full explanation of UCR’s policies, please consult the senate bylaws ( and the information from Student Conduct (

Understand that I pursue EVERY case of academic dishonesty to the letter of the UCR policy, big or small.

Digital Etiquette

All policies that have to do with academic honesty apply equally to any digital material you write, use, or cite. In addition, treat all digital communication (i.e., emails, forum posts, and peer reviews) as if you were talking to the person directly.

Over the course of the quarter you may find it necessary to communicate with me via email. When you do so, please remember that, even though all you see is the computer screen, I am still your instructor. To treat me with respect, please make sure you address me properly, ask kindly, and mind your p’s and q’s. In return I promise to do the same to you.

Although I am pretty wed to my smart phone, I only respond to student emails during “business hours”: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

Late Work

Late work is NOT accepted under any circumstances, excepting profound physical injury and/or the loss of a close relative or friend. In both of these cases I will need some sort of official proof, which is dependent on the situation. If approved, you will need to follow the letter of my instructions to make up missed work, including a new due date, any additional work, and method of submission.

Beyond life and limb, if you are planning on being absent from class, then talk to me as soon as possible. You will not be able to make up any quizzes or participation points (you forfeit those by being absent); however, you may be able to negotiate for an EARLIER due date for any assignments. This ONLY applies if you make arrangements in advance. No grace will be given after an absence, planned or spontaneous.

Grading and Assignments

Your grade will be assessed based upon your performance on the UCR-mandated essays (4), the final Blog Project, and the regularity and quality of your in class participation. You will not be able to pass if you fail to turn in any of the final essays or blog project.

All of your final work must be submitted online, via the assignment’s designated Dropbox. Each will then be graded online, with comments, questions, and ideas offered there. I grade according to the rubric provided by UCR’s University Writing Program. Please find a copy of the rubric on either the course  website or the iLearn site.


You will have to write four essays, all of which are mandated by the University Writing Program and based upon prompts found in The St Martin’s Guide. Attendance and participation in rough draft workshops is mandatory. Failure to do so will result in a 10% drop in your paper grade.

  • Remembered Event | 10% total grade | 1,000 words
  • UCR Profile Paper | 15% total grade | 1,250 words
  • Glass Castle Concept Paper | 15% total grade | 1,250 words
  • Making Common Ground Paper | 20% total grade | 1,500 words

Blog Project

Instead of a final exam, you will complete a blog project.  Each of you will create a private Tumblr and a few times a week you will be asked to post some different types of self-writing. At the end of the quarter, you will write a 1,250-word reflective essay about your blog, writing about yourself, and material we covered in class. This will be worth 25% of your final grade, which will be assessed by the quality of blog posts, the timeliness of posting your blog posts, and your final reflective essay.

The goal here is to create a space where you feel comfortable experimenting with different modes of self-writing, one which is largely free of judgement and completely meant to be creative.


Your participation will be assessed daily, and your grade will be based upon attendance, preparedness (Did you do the assignment? Do you have the readings with you?), willingness to share in class-wide and group discussion, and the quality of your in-class group work.

Extra Credit — Autobiographical Song Presentation

There is the opportunity to earn up to 5 extra credit points for this class. Every day at the beginning of class, I am going to play an autobiographical song and we are going to talk about how the song writer wrote about themselves. You have the opportunity to take over the speakers once this quarter and present any autobiographical song of your choice. Then you need to describe why you wanted to share this song, how the author writes about themselves, and why it was an effective autobiography. To volunteer, go to the iLearn site, select the “Song Database” GoogleDoc to sign-up for a particular day, and come to class with the song (online is fine) ready to present. Only one presentation can happen a day, so sign up early