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Syllabus for College Writing
Englwrit 112

University of Massachusetts Amherst
Spring Semester 2014

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Welcome to College Writing! This course satisfies the university’s first-year college writing (CW) requirement.  As a core part of your General Education at UMass Amherst, this course challenges students to write effectively, to communicate with diverse readers, and to think critically.


In this course, you’ll be asked to treat writing as a communicative act that always occurs within a particular context, and during the term, we’ll analyze the choices available to writers in those contexts. Our goal is to help you grow as a writer—not only for academic assignments, but also for the writing demands in your personal, professional, and civic lives. We’ll work together to improve your ability

Required Texts

Please also bring a notebook (whether paper or laptop) to class for generative writing and other in-class and at-home exercises.


Our assignments are based on the assumptions that writing is an activity, that people learn to write by writing and by giving and listening to feedback on their writing, that writers can gain more control over their writing by becoming aware of their own processes, and that texts written by the students in this class are therefore central to this course.

  1. Essay Assignments. Students in this course write five essays, each 1,000-1,250 words in length. Each will go through an extensive writing process, and each will introduce new challenges. Unit I: Inquiring into Self asks you to analyze an aspect of your personal context and to write about this to a familiar audience. For Unit II: Interacting with Texts, you will write a critical response to one or more published texts and tailor the response to an academic audience. Unit III: Adding to a Conversation asks you to pursue a question that interests you, engage in research purposefully, and effectively communicate what you learn to a more public audience. Unit IV: TBA differs from section to section and will be explained later in the semester. Lastly, our course will conclude with Unit V: Final Reflection, a reflection essay that analyzes what you’ve written in this course and reflects on where you are headed as a writer.

  2. Process Writing & Portfolios. College Writing is based on the belief that writing is a process. In order to grow as writers, we need to write, write, and then write some more. For each essay, you will engage in a rigorous writing process: 1) generative reading and writing to explore ideas and writing options; 2) an initial draft; 3) a substantially revised draft, based on feedback from self, peers, instructor, and others; 4) a further revised and copy-edited final draft; and 5) reflective writing about your writing processes and products. These steps are meant to help you focus on specific aspects of your writing and get relevant feedback at different points in the writing process. With certain assignments, we may devote more time to certain stages of the process, and at other times, we may move more quickly. And at least once, we’ll experiment with publishing your text.

    Be sure to save every piece of writing! For each unit, you’ll create a portfolio that includes the final essay as well as generative writing, initial and revised drafts, and written feedback from classmates. At the end of the semester, your comprehensive portfolio—including all writing from the course—will serve as the basis for your Final Reflection.

  3. Reading & Reflection. Our course will also help you explore the choices available to you as a writer. Reading texts by other writers, including classmates, will help you generate ideas, dialogue with others, and become aware of the options you have for developing, organizing, and presenting your own ideas; in other words, we will read to write. Reflection on your own writing will also help you identify writing options. Throughout the writing process, you’ll write short reflections about the choices you made and why you made them. The course will end with a more extensive Unit V: Final Reflection essay on all of you’ve written in the course.

  4. Peer Response. Learning to write means learning to be read by many others. Our class will become a writing community in which you’ll regularly give and get critical peer response—in addition to response from your instructor. By giving constructive feedback and by listening carefully to others, you’ll learn to make effective revisions—e.g., to further develop ideas and to move readers in intended ways.

  5. Writing Community Membership. Participation includes being prepared for and attentive in class (cell phones off, please). It may also include contributing to class discussion, group activities, and more. One of the best ways to learn to write is to share ideas about writing with others. As a result, all students are expected to participate actively and respectfully.

    Creating a community that enables us to grow and develop as writers depends on each person fulfilling our responsibilities, offering mutual respect to one another, and being receptive readers of one another’s writing. Students are expected to adhere to the university’s “Guidelines for Classroom Civility and Respect” discussed in the Code of Student Conduct (

    In addition to our regularly scheduled class meetings, you will meet individually with me for at least one required student-teacher conference. This is a time for you to discuss more fully your writing and your progress in the course.

Beyond our course, we in the Writing Program encourage you to think about how your writing for this course can reach readers beyond this class. Submit your essays to the Writing Program’s annual Best Text Contest; instructors can also nominate student essays to be considered for selection in the annual Student Writing Anthology.

Class Policies 

Attendance. Regular attendance in Englwrit 112 is required. The course will give you frequent opportunities for college-level writing, reading, speaking, and listening—activities that are complex and require time and feedback to do well. Regular attendance means that you are writing regularly and that your classmates and instructor can give your writing the attention it deserves; you are also responsible for contributing to our community. For these reasons, you need to be in class on time and prepared for every meeting.

If you need to be absent for a required athletic event, field trip, military obligation, or court appearance; if there is a death or serious illness in your family; if you experience an accident or serious illness; if you are absent because of religious observance; or if there is some other legitimate extenuating circumstance preventing you from attending, you will most likely be excused from class. But note that, in such cases, you are responsible for prior notification and/or subsequent documentation and for making up all missed work. For the University’s policies on absences, see Please see me promptly, and I will offer reasonable assistance to help you make up missed work. Note that too many absences regardless of reason may make it impossible for you to meet course requirements.

For “unexcused” absences, in which you miss class for some ordinary reason—e.g., a cold or headache, a pressing deadline in another course, a missed flight or bus back to campus—the Writing Program allows one week of absences without penalty (3 absences for MWF classes, 2 for TTh classes); you are responsible for making up all work. If you miss more than that, your final grade may be lowered: for MWF classes, up to one-third of a letter grade each for the 4th through 6th unexcused absences and up to one-half a letter grade for each absence after that; for TTh classes, up to one-half a letter grade each for the 3rd and 4th unexcused absences and up to three-quarters of a letter grade for each absence after that. Note that missing a scheduled conference may also count as an absence. Turning in papers late and coming to class excessively or frequently late may result in grade penalties as well. Finally, students who miss more than 25% of total class meetings (10 absences for MWF classes, 7 for TTh classes) cannot, in most cases, pass this course.

Plagiarism. When using ideas, words, and short passages from other people’s writing in your own writing, you are required to acknowledge the source. Failure to acknowledge the contribution of others is considered plagiarism, a serious academic offense. Please read the Writing Program’s statement about plagiarism in the opening pages of The Little Penguin Handbook. We will discuss plagiarism more in class, but note that suspect papers (e.g., those without drafts or works cited pages, papers which make large departures in style from your other work) can be submitted to the electronic plagiarism detection service as part of the grading process. For the University’s Academic Honesty Policy, see

Final Grade.  Your final grade for the semester will be based on the following breakdown:

Unit Portfolios, I-IV (units might not all be weighted exactly the same)


Unit V: Final Reflection essay & class meeting


Writing Community Membership




 Final grades will be based on the following numerical equivalents and general definitions:


grade pt


















*Note: Grades of B and above are considered honors grades.  The grade of A indicates excellence.










































Office Hours. Office hours are available for you to come discuss questions, concerns, and your writing in general. If you have a time conflict with scheduled office hours and would like to meet, please schedule an appointment.

The Writing Center. As a UMass Amherst student, you have access to free one-on-one writing support from our campus Writing Center, located in the Learning Commons of the W. E. B. Du Bois Library. Trained tutors can work with you in 45-minute sessions to brainstorm, structure a piece of writing, learn strategies for copyediting, and more. All student writers—whether you love writing, struggle with writing, are mystified by writing, or all of the above—are welcome. And remember that you can keep using the Writing Center even after you’ve taken College Writing. Make an appointment (strongly encouraged) through the Center's website or simply walk in and see if a tutor is available. Make sure that you bring your assignment, notes, and/or draft—either paper or electronic copies are fine.

The Writing Program. Englwrit 111 and 112 are offered through the university’s Writing Program.  Questions or concerns? Please stop by the Program’s office in Bartlett 305, call 413.545.0610, or email

Office of Disability Services. We are committed to making all courses accessible to all students.  Students with disabilities are encouraged to seek support from the Office of Disability Services and also to talk with instructors about tailoring accommodations identified by Disability Services to your work in a given course course.

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