Composition I


English 111L

Section L (HOPW 15)

Linked with POLI 111

Fall, 2007


L: 9-9:50



Dr. Chidsey Dickson

Office: Carnegie 222


Office Hours: M&W 10-10:45am (in library foyer) and 2-3pm (Carnegie 222).



Required Materials


Brief Thomson Handbook David Blakesley and Jeffrey Hoogeveen

Stolen Sharpie Revolution: A DIY Zine Resource Alex Wrekk

Sentence Composing Don Killgallon

Bound By Law Jennifer Jenkins

Notebook or loose leaf binder to do your freewrites and record notes in class. Bring this notebook/binder to every class (see “Participation” Grade).


Course Description


Writing is less a “skill” (like riding a bike) than a practice (like getting along with others, playing soccer, etc) consisting of many skills and strategies, as well as some accrued judgment about which skills and strategies best apply to a particular situation. To communicate well, regardless of medium or purpose, you have to develop and hone a writing process that is flexible enough to handle a variety of rhetorical situations. Editing at the sentence level (for clarity and correctness) is an essential, but relatively small part of the whole process. For the most part, writing is about generating a lot of ideas, sorting and sifting for the best ones, and developing and framing those for a particular audience/purpose/medium. In a nutshell, that’s what we’ll be doing for 15 weeks. 


We’ll spend most of our time in class together doing informal writing, sharing it, and in general talking about whatever comes up. Typically, we talk often and complexly about invention (how does a writer find something to say?) and about the rhetorical situation (what are the particular constraints that guide a writer’s choices?).


This course is “linked” with Dr. Meinke’s POLI 111, “Quest For Justice.” The linkage between the two courses consists of a:

  • shared interest in higher education as training for an active citizenry (so, one question is: what constitutes “participation” in a democratic society?)
  • concerted effort to foreground (and contrast) the two disciplines’ methods of inquiry (so, one question is: how does a political scientist approach an event or debate vs. a rhetorician/writer?)
  • joint exploration of the “rhetoric of memorials” in a Field Trip (Oct 10.)


As for learning mechanics and grammar, I do assign several mini-lessons/quizzes from an on-line grammar. You will also have opportunities to improve your grammar when you respond to my feedback to your work (Note: be alert for recurrent problems). In general, know this: the burden for improving the “correctness” of your writing lies with you. If you want to master Standard Edited English, you definitely will. If you’re ho-hum about it and not already gifted in that area, then you’ll probably continue making the same kinds of error you’ve made in the past.  This doesn’t mean you won’t be a good writer in the sense of using writing to discover and develop ideas, but it does mean that the writing you do on the job (reports, emails) or in public contexts (blogs, correspondence) might contain embarrassing gaffes (like misplacing commas or using “affect’ when the word really should be “effect”). There are some tricks I can share with you about editing your work, about learning to spell better, and so on, but this kind of polishing work hardly ever happens when writers are not interested in what they are writing. Writing really is like playing a sport—a coach can’t make you a good player.




Participation (Attendance, Peer Feedback, Sentence Composing*, etc)


1-1 Conference Preparation (1 required @ %5)


Writing Center Visits (two 30-min visits required @ 2.5%)


Ecology of a Cracker Childhood Essay


Writing Projects (3 @ 15%)





* On dates when there is sentence composing homework, you will turn in your HW to me in hard copy. I’ll have an accordion file folder and it will be up to you to put your HW in the slot with your name on it. If you’d like (and this would make sense for some assignments), you can make a Xerox copy of the book and work directly on the copy page. Typically, we will not go over this homework in class unless you have a specific question. This is a workbook, so the idea is that you do the exercises and it builds up certain kinds of prose-making “muscles.” Whether this works or not you depends on how much you put into it. If you miss a day, you can still turn in your homework outside my office door the same day by 5pm. You will receive half-credit but it’s better than nothing. At the end of the semester, I will add up the completed Sentence Composing Homeworks, which will factor into about half of your Participation Grade.  



To get an A in the class you:

  • Prepare fully for every class—do the grammar homework, the reading, the writing, and be ready to discuss your current project. Being “prepared” for class also means being ready and able to help the whole class or your small group engage with the material for the day. Slouching down in your seat, hood-or-iPod-earpiece-wearing, sleeping or head-on-desk: all indicate a lack of engagement. Basically, one slough per semester is acceptable. Beyond that, it’s a liability for the class and so you’ll be docked points for your Participation Grade.
  • Responding in class—this means listening attentively to what others are saying (not just the instructor) and RESPOND. Don’t hog the stage but don’t sit back and let others keep the ball rolling. Be thinking, comparing what two people said for similarities and differences. Make connections to previous discussions and to the current project. Be intellectually awake!
  •  Turn in all assignments on time (exceptions can be negotiated as they arise, but must involve good reasoning and be discussed in a timely fashion).
  • Revise work until it is not only insightful and briskly written but also polished (proofread)
  • Miss no more than three classes (extreme exceptions can be dealt with on an individual basis).

To get a B, you will generally need to meet the criteria of an A, but with some inconsistencies—or, you do all the work but the writing does not meet the departmental standards. The “inconsistency” could happen in any area, but generally it shows up as not being prepared for every class (not having the reading done, not handing in assignments on time), writing projects that don't meet all the assignment criteria, sporadic participation in class, or attendance or tardiness problems. The key here is that you are generally meeting the criteria for an A, but occasionally or in a particular area you are not.

To get a C, one or two inconsistencies become a norm rather than an exception. So, you could be working hard and learning  a lot—improving your writing abilities—but your writing that continually misses the mark (doesn’t respond fully to the assignment description), or you show little to no participation in class discussions, your is routinely late, so on.

Consistently failing to meet the criteria to receive any of these grades will result in a D or a failing grade.

Attendance/Class Behavior


  • More than three unexcused absences from class indicates that, regardless of your writing ability or performance, you are not really invested in the course. After three absences, I might ask to speak to you about what’s hindering your full engagement (problems with workload, difficulty of assignments, etc.). Students who have six or more absences automatically fail the class. Since the class is only 50 minutes long (5 minutes of which is taken up with roll-taking and announcements), being on time is absolutely necessary. If you are chronically late, I will have to begin to count each lateness as one half an absence.


  • No food is allowed in class but you can bring a drink if there is a top.


  • Use the restroom before you come to class, but if you need to go, you don’t need to ask permission—just be quiet as you leave and return. Also, sometimes during the middle of class you just need to stretch your legs and take a deep breath—if you can do this quietly I have no problem with it.


Behavioral Standards for Learning Environments

(excerpted from the Hornet)

The values and attitudes that should guide student behavior consistent with maintaining an environment conducive to learning are set forth in the Lynchburg College catalogue and The Hornet. Responsibility and authority for maintaining order in the learning environment are assigned to faculty in Section 3.12.3 of the Faculty Handbook.

The following standards and procedures apply to all learning environments. However, each School and each instructor may have codes to specify additional standards suitable for learning environments or activities.

No student in Lynchburg College classes, laboratories, performances, lectures, and/or organizations shall behave in any way that obstructs or disrupts the normal functioning of the environment. Such behavior includes, but is not limited to, behaviors that persistently or grossly (1) inhibit the ability of other students to learn; (2) interfere with the meaningful participation of other students; or (3) inhibit the ability of an instructor or presenter to do his/her job. Specifically, students should foster an optimal learning environment by doing the following:

  • Arriving on time.
  • Being seated when it is time to begin and being attentive throughout.
  • Refraining from engaging in conversations with others unless participating in group activities.
  • Using a courteous tone when speaking.
  • Using appropriate language.
  • Refraining from leaving the event while it is in progress (except for illness or with prior approval).
  • Treating others with respect.
  • Refraining from eating.
  • Respecting the process of discussion and group activities.
  • Leaving the facility in a neat and clean condition.


Missed Classes


Due to sickness, athletic events, family problems, etc., you will probably miss one or two classes during the semester. There’s no need to notify me if that’s all you miss. It is your responsibility, though, to have contact information for another person in the class (email and phone number) so that if you do miss a class you can find out what you missed, possible changes to the syllabus, etc.. More than three unexcused absences results in a drop in your semester grade by ½ letter grade.


Picking Up Work After an Absence


Most of my response to your writing will occur online, but you will occasionally turn in hard copies. If you are absent on the day I return a hardcopy of your work, you can pick it up later outside my office door in a cardboard box marked “ENGLISH 111 Dr. Dickson.” If you leave your work there for weeks and weeks, it will indicate to me a lack of interest in improving your work (see “Participation Grade”).


Class Preparedness and Late Assignments


Late assignments are penalized a half a letter grade for every day they are late. My feedback to your work will be prompt if it is turned in on time, but if you turn something in late, I cannot promise that I will have time to turn your work around as quickly. It may be 4-7 days before I have time to respond.




Plagiarism is a serious act of intellectual theft and will not be tolerated. All language and ideas you deploy in formal projects that you derive from sources must be credited. We will discuss the MLA guidelines for incorporating and documenting sources. As far as CW posts go, you are on your honor not to read your peers’ posts and merely paraphrase what they say. If I see that this is a problem, I will speak to you individually. If the problem is not addressed, I may choose to turn off your ability to see your peers’ posts, which disrupts part of the point of the electronic forum: seeing what others have to say.


What to Bring to Class (this is part of your “Participation Grade”)


  • Notebook and pen
  • Any text from which there is a reading assignment for that particular day
  • Any work (drafts, notes, etc.) from the major writing project you’re working on


Writing Center (Hopwood 04)


All writers can benefit from discussing their work with another interested writer; hence, the individual attention provided by the Writing Center tutors is a helpful resource for all students in ENGL 111-112.  You should decide at what point in your writing process discussion with a tutor would be most helpful: 

-          invention and focusing your document in the early stages

-          developing and organizing ideas in the rough draft

-          integrating and documenting sources (when applicable)

-          editing and proofreading before a final draft

You may like to visit the Writing Center more than once per assignment as your purpose changes at various points in the writing process, but a requirement of this course is that you make at least two visits to the Writing Center.  To avoid being blocked out of the Writing Center, make the appointments well in advance.  Afterwards, the tutor will send me an email form, which outlines the main points of your discussion.  This is how I know you have gone. This is worth 5% of your semester grade.


Teacher Licensure


This course is designed to assist students preparing to meet Virginia Department of Education, Teacher Licensure Competencies in English as follows: 


Competency 1: Understanding of the knowledge, skills, and process of English as defined in the Virginia Standards of Learning. (SOLS are 9.6-9.7; 10.7-10.9; 11.7-11.8 for ENGL 111; and all of these plus 9.8-9.9; 10.10-10.11; 11.9-11.10; 12.7-12.8 for ENGL 112).


Competency 3: Knowledge of grammar, usage, and mechanics and their integration in writing



Writing Projects: Overview


WP#1 Zine

One of the big complaints that college writers make is that no one really reads their writing—no one really cares what they write. It’s all just “make-work” B.S. for a grade. That’s a rather cynical view on what might be better classified as “writing-to-learn” or “writing-to-demonstrate-comprehension”—two kinds of writing that really only have the teacher as an audience. In this assignment, you’ll have to work out your own purpose and audience by first doing some research on “zines”—self-published magazines that cover a variety of topics for a variety of reasons, not all of them persuasive in the traditional sense of the word of trying to convince someone of the truth of your position. Some zines draw on others sources in a rigorous way (being careful to summarize the logic of an argument) and some zines use sources to “riff” (improvise) new content. We’ll  discuss a different heuristics for generating  insight into topics and we’ll go over the basics of zine construction. We may even have a guest artist in to discuss book-binding. Though this is an “arty” project, there will be very clear grading criteria to steer by. And there will be non-negotiable due dates for different stages of the project. The three stages will be:


·         Research zines and brainstorm topics of interest

·         Production Workshops (how to format and produce)

·         Drafts to Share

·         Revision

WP#2 Letter

This is a scenario-based assignment, meaning that I will describe a predicament and you will figure out how writing can ameliorate the situation (but maybe not “solve” the problem).


This is a “scenario-based” assignment, meaning that I will describe a predicament and you will figure out how writing can ameliorate the situation (but maybe not “solve” the problem).


Here’s the basic situation:


Your son/daughter attends a school that has just banned three t-shirts:


o        anything with guns on it (including mention of the NRA)

o        anything with mid or full body shots of women or men dressed "seductively"

o        anything with a Confederate flag


After the announcement of the ban, there was an outcry from some students and parents, though there was quite a variety of different criticisms being offered. Some thought some aspects of a dress code were appropriate, but not others. Some believed that First Amendment issues were at stake so, as a matter of principle, they rejected the bans. Some fully endorsed the bans but felt there were more pressing issues (like how to create more student input on curriculum or how to support more collaboration among different ages and between school and the community).


You will choose ONE of the following two scenarios:


Scenario One: the PTO is meeting and, as an active parent and visible community member, you've been asked to write a letter addressing the PTO on how parents should address the school board. This letter will go out to parents before the PTO meets in an open forum.


Scenario Two: you are one of the stakeholders described above (a student or a parent holding this or that position) and you are writing to the principal. You are trying to convince her/him to reconsider some aspect of the decision.


In either case, your job is to (not necessarily in this order):


·         show that you fully understand the issue(s) and the stakes

·         articulate a position on one or more of the issues and make it convincing for the particular audience you have chosen

·         create a clear statement of how to proceed next


WP#3 Audio Essay

To introduce you a bit to Lynchburg and its history, we’ll take a field trip about mid-semester. We’ll visit places where history has literally been written into the architecture of the city (“memorials”) as well places where history has in a figure sense been erased (“erasures”). We’ll read about different theories of how communities shape collective identities and how individual groups. As a follow-up to your field trip experience, you’ll write an think-piece essay on a question we develop in a group brainstorming exercise. Then, after learning about the technology of audio recording  and sound mixing, you’ll compose an 3-5 minute audio essay based loosely on your print essay. As with the first assignment, this project will have four stages:


·         Research and brainstorming on memorials and erasures

·         Print Essay on an interesting question about public writing

·         Remediation of Print Essay à Audio Essay

·         Final Reflection



You will gather together four or five examples of the writing you did this semester that illustrate different discoveries you’ve made about writing. We will discuss different strategies for commenting on your work and then drawing out generalizations about all the work you did this semester. This portfolio will be constructed as a simple webpage. The stages:

·         Simple Webpage Design Workshop

·         Group Brainstorming on the Writing Process

·         Draft of Portfolio (hard copy) to Share

·         E-Portfolio Draft then Revision


Schedule of Assignments Fall 2007



Reading and Writing Assignments





M 27

Introduction to Course*; hand-out (prompt for Cracker Essay)

*I will be present at your first POLI 111 class to discuss the Learning Community themes: justice and community


W 29

Read Course Syllabus and Chapter 2 of the Brief Thomson Handbook (BTH) à quiz on syllabus and chap 2

Using some of the BTH guidelines on reading, read one zine (in library). Take notes.

Browse 1/2 of Sharpie Revolution (SR)


F 31

Due: 3 page (typed, double-spaced) essay on Ecology of a Cracker Childhood.

In class: Matt McCormick’s short film, “The Art of Graffiti Removal” & “American Nutria”




Read rest of SR and assignment description for WP#1

Read 3 other zines (library). Take some notes.

Write 2-paragraph description/analysis of 2 zines (total =  4 paragraphs). “Description” covers what zine content and anything surprising about the stories or arguments made. “Analysis” suggests how the content might have been invented or the relevance of the layout/design features or the content given mainstream or official treatments of the topic. In other words: how does the zine offer something different—is it different in terms of bringing  out voices or views usually not heard/seen, or is it different formally, in how the form shapes the readers’ experience of the content. (Recall the McCormick short films)

Sentence Composing 1


Read Chapter One in BTH

Write two 1-page (single-spaced) freewrites on two different possible topics for your own zine (NOTE: you will share these)

Meet in Computer Lab for Workshop  [Whenever there are assignments from this online grammar source, your assignment is to read the information, note the examples, and then take the quiz. You will immediately  get the corrected answers. If you didn’t get 70% or better correct, it probably means you need to spend more time with this page and/or see  me]


Write feedback to your peer.

Research design aesthetics for zines (titles, covers, introductions, and layout): what differences do you notice? Come with 4-5 written observations to share.

Meet in Computer Lab for Workshop

F 10

WP#1 Write 2 pages (single-spaced) of text

Gather (and email to yourself and/or put on your P-drive) 3-4 images  (1 historic) pertaining to your topic.

Meet in Computer Lab  &


WP#1 Write response to your peer

Write 2 more pages of text.

Make up a “Checklist” for WP#1.

 Meet in Computer Lab

Sentence Composing 2

F 14

Due Complete Polished Draft of WP#1 Staple a “Checklist” on top of your zine draft.


(I’ll return first drafts with my comments.)

Read assignment description for WP#2

Write a 2 page (single-spaced) freewrite on the scenario you choose. Also, bring in one bit of useful research on the topic of “free speech” on school campuses/with minors to share with the group.

Read Chap 8 in BTH


Meet in computer lab to work on zines


Revision of WP#1 Due (make 5 copies to share)

Meet in Library for a “Zine Fair”



Draft of your letter (WP#2)

Read Chap 9 in BTH


Write feedback to your peer

Sentence Composing 3

F 28

Revision of Letter (hard copy) plus 1-page Reflection



Read packet on memorials and erasures

Meet in Computer Lab (workshop on audio)

Sentence Composing 4


Meet in Computer Lab (workshop on audio)

Read Chap 11 in BTH


Meet in Computer Lab (mini assignment audio)

Final Draft of Letter



Field Trip Readings Quiz*

*I will be present at your POLI 111 class

Sentence Composing 5


Field Trip (gather at 8:30 in circle outside Daura Gallery)

Sentence Composing 6


Due 2 pages of the 4-page (typed, double-spaced) essay on an interesting question related to the fieldtrip







Meet in Computer Lab (workshop on audio)

Sentence Composing 7


Due: 4 page (typed, double-spaced) essay

Meet in Computer Lab



Due: Storyboard of audio essay

Meet in Computer Lab

NOTE: Opening Reception for Dan Mills Exhibit 4-5 p.m. (extra credit if you attend)



Due: 2 assets for project

Meet in Computer Lab

Sentence Composing 8


Due: 2-3 more assets for project

Meet in Computer Lab

Sentence Composing 9


Due: Draft of Audio Essay (ready to share)

Meet in Computer Lab



Meet in Computer Lab

Sentence Composing 10


F 2

Due: Final Audio Essay (and Reflection)




Sentence Composing 11



Sentence Composing 12



Sentence Composing 13



Re-take one of the earlier quizzes from the online grammar that you did not do well in.



Re-take one of the earlier quizzes from the online grammar that you did not do well in.


Come to class with copies of your selections for the Portfolio plus two questions about writing that you find interesting (that is, not easily answered)



Due: Draft of Final Reflection










Re-take one of the earlier quizzes from the online grammar that you did not do well in.




F 30










F 7

Due: e-Portfolio (print out a text version of your Reflection and write your url at the bottom)



Next semester, in English 112, we will focus on research-based writing. And again we will explore both print and multi-media compositions. To prepare us for this work, I am asking that you read the comic book, Bound By Law. In addition to reading BBL, I’d like you to start your own blog on a subject of your choice. (There are several free services out there,  being the most popular). It could just be an online diary, as many blogs are. Or it could gloss little bits of news and commentary, as is also very common. Or, because it’s relevant to our interest in composing in various media, you can look over and begin to think through the “New Contexts for  Writing” (beginning   on page 2) in the BTH.