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Syllabus for College Writing
Englwrit 112

University of Massachusetts Amherst
Spring Semester 2015

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Welcome to College Writing! Englwrit 112 is the only course that satisfies the university’s CW requirement; a fundamental part of your general education at UMass Amherst, this course emphasizes critical thinking and communication, consideration of plural perspectives, and self-reflection on one’s learning.

More specifically, the purpose of College Writing is to help you grow and stretch yourself as a college writer—for academic assignments and also for the writing demands in your personal, professional, and civic lives. In this course, you’ll examine how writing is a communicative act that always occurs within a particular context, and you’ll gain practice writing for different purposes in multiple contexts.

Course objectives

By writing, reading, and engaging in discussion in this course, you’ll improve your ability to

Required texts

Faigley, Lester. The Little Penguin Handbook. 4th ed. 2nd custom edition for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2014.

Fleming, David, & the UMass Amherst Writing Program Collective, eds. Other Words: A Writer’s Reader. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 2009.

The Student Writing Anthology, 2013-2014. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2013. Note: This is packaged with new editions of The Little Penguin Handbook at the Textbook Annex; it can also be purchased separately.

Class publication. At least once during the semester, everyone’s essays will be published in booklet or digital form for the class to read. Note: You do not need to buy this.

Please also bring a notebook to class for generative writing and other in-class and at-home exercises.

Course Requirements

College Writing has been designed based on the belief that writing is a process and a social activity, that people learn to write by writing and giving/getting feedback, that writers can gain more control over their writing by cultivating an awareness of their own processes and strategies, and that texts written by students in this class community are therefore central to the course.

Students in all sections of College Writing are required to write five essays (each 1,000-1,250 words); each will go through an extensive writing process, and each will introduce new challenges.

Units 1-4 Portfolios. Each of the five unit assignments requires that you engage in a rigorous writing process. For each unit, you’ll develop and submit a portfolio that includes the following:

Each activity, including peer review, is meant to help you focus on specific aspects of your writing; you’ll get teacher feedback once during the drafting stage of Units 1-4. With certain assignments, we may devote more time to certain stages of the process, and at other times, we may move more quickly. At least once, we’ll experiment with publishing your text.

To grow as writers, we need to write, reflect, and write some more—thus, each part of the process is required, and unit grades will be based on the entire portfolio, not only the final version of essays. Be sure to save every piece of writing! For each unit, you’ll be given instructions on what to submit, how, and when.

Unit 5 Portfolio. Unit 5 is a critical reflection on who you are as a writer and how your writing has developed in the course; portfolios for Units 1-4 will serve as the as the basis for this essay
Writing Community Membership. One of the best ways to learn to write is to share ideas about writing with others. 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—cell phones off, please. All students are expected to adhere to the university’s “Guidelines for Classroom Civility and Respect”:

As a result, essential learning in this course will happen as you engage in writing-related activities with peers. Performing well in writing community membership means actively and respectfully contributing to and seeking to learn from our class community. Note that participation can take a variety of forms: e.g., asking questions and giving comments during class discussion, taking notes on behalf of a small group, sharing perspectives in writing with peers.

Writing community responsibilities include the following:

Class Policies, incl. Grades

Attendance Policy. Class activities are a major part of this course; as a result, you are expected to attend and be prepared for every class, including scheduled one-on-one conferences with the instructor. The university recognizes that some absences may be unavoidable, e.g., due to religious observances, required participation in athletic events, disability-related accommodations. For more information, see However, if you cannot attend at least 80% (10 weeks) of class meetings—even if your absences are university-sanctioned—you should take College Writing in a different term, not this semester.

Students who miss more than 20% or 3 weeks of class meetings (6 absences for TTh/MW classes, 9 absences for MWF classes)—regardless of reason—cannot pass the course. If you have extenuating circumstances that might affect your class attendance, do talk to me as soon as possible—ideally, during the first week of classes.

You are responsible for the following if you miss a class: (1) notify me in advance, (2) find out from me how to make up the equivalent of missed work, and (3) complete the make-up work by the original deadline.  If you cannot give advance notice, talk to me as early as possible in order to find out about make-up work and deadlines.

For non-university sanctioned absences that add up to fewer than 3 weeks, absences can impact your writing community membership grade in the ways listed below.  (Note: university-sanctioned, excused absences will not affect your writing community membership grade.)

Academic Honesty Policy.  Please read carefully the Writing Program’s statement about plagiarism in The Little Penguin Handbook as well as the university’s Academic Honesty Policy 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; fabrication of sources is another form of academic dishonesty. We’ll discuss academic honesty 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) may be submitted to as part of the grading process.

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

Unit Portfolios, 1-4 (units may or may not be weighted equally—see assignment sheets)


Unit 5: Final Reflection essay


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. You’re welcome to come to office hours any time you’d like to discuss questions or concerns related to this course. If you have a time conflict with my office hours, please schedule an appointment.

The Writing Center. As a UMass Amherst student, you have access to free one-on-one writing support from our Writing Center, located in 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, or both—are welcome. And remember that you can keep using the Writing Center throughout your studies at UMass. Make an appointment at, and bring your assignment, notes, and draft.

The Writing Program. Englwrit 111 and 112 are offered by the university’s Writing Program. Let us know if you have questions: drop by Bartlett 305, call 413.545.0610, or email

Best Text Contest & Student Writing Anthology. We 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. More details at

Office of Disability Services. The Writing Program is committed to making our courses accessible to all students. Students with disabilities are encouraged to register with the Office of Disability Services (, and, at the start of the semester, do meet with me about tailoring accommodations identified by ODS to your work in this course.

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