On this page, I discuss the syllabi I use, and the classes in which I use them.
Central Piedmont Community College Classes and Syllabi
I’m teaching on Central campus this semester – one class for a short semester, running until mid-July, and another class which doesn’t start until mid-June. We are well into our first paper, and are going to be workshopping after this Memorial Day break.
I’ve struggled quite a bit recently with the workshopping aspect of our time together. I can’t get rid of the workshops, because they are so incredibly important. I should not be the only audience students have for their papers – that’s a limiting and short-sighted approach, and will not serve them well in the future. Consideration of audience can’t be overstated, and I see it as key that they grasp that as well as the import of sharing their work before submitting it for a grade, or a job application, or whatever. I try to make connections with “the real world” wherever I can, and this is one of those opportunities.
I realized after a bit of reflection after the Spring 2019 semester that I wasn’t making the purpose of the workshop clear enough. I had stopped providing them with examples of writing pre- and post-workshopping, and had only been giving them examples of work that received a high grade. I see now that this went a long way towards short circuiting my intentions with workshopping – if students can’t imagine how their writing can be improved, they can’t begin to work towards that improvement. So I’ve reintroduced a couple of pieces I’ve used in the past, and we’ve workshopped them as a class, leading up to this first in-class workshop. We went through them together, paragraph by paragraph, and in places, at a sentence level as well. I’ve stressed to them the importance of making the writing messier before it can become neater, as well as the need to begin with the higher-level concerns relating to big ideas and structure.
I’m also incorporating an approach I swore I would never do again – for one essay, I’m providing the students with a topic. I’ve only done this once in my teaching life, and with such spectacularly terrible results I believe that I was scarred for life (to be fair, though, it was early on in my learning process, and I did basically everything wrong that semester that I could – it was not a successful or pleasant class. We all have them, but when we are stuck inside them, they can be excruciating). This semester, I’m bringing in a movie, and letting the students use that as the basis for their cause and effect writing. They can, of course, opt out of that and choose a topic of their own, but I want to reinforce for them the day-to-day significance of what writing can do, so I’m trying to bring in more current examples and information. The movie we will be using is Spike Lee’s “See You Yesterday,” which has some really obvious application in a cause and effect essay, but it’s my hope that we can move past the obvious and into the more difficult to spot implications of the film. It also provides opportunity for discussion of other aspects of writing – context, for instance – and aspects of our culture that demand attention, like the Black Lives Matter movement, or the concept that the best opportunity for a young black woman to get into a prestigious university is to invent time travel. I cannot wait to use this in class!
Being excited about our subject and how we approach it is so important – I’m really hopeful for this summer.
I have now taught both the first and second level writing classes at CPCC, and even though the classes are the same level and content as other ENG 111 and ENG 112 classes, I still find each semester to be a new and fun experience. I have been fortunate enough to have some of my past ENG 111 students pick up my ENG 112 class this semester, and since I have not been in the same spot long enough for this to happen with much regularity until now, this is something new I need to think about.
For instance, I have a “first day” activity I do for all my classes, in which I ask students to answer some questions about their expectations and concerns for the class, but I have them do so anonymously – with paper and pen. They ball the paper up and throw it across the room (at me, once, in a very memorable teaching moment), after which another student picks it up and reads it. We then discuss their concerns and their expectations, and move into the syllabus discussion, returning frequently to their worries and expectations, allowing them to see how we will and will not do those things they fear or look forward to.
I realized I should probably shake up my approach, though, this semester. I entered the classroom and greeted those students I recognized from the previous semester, and jumped right in to the first day activity. As I described the steps the students should take, I heard a ripping sound, followed by the sound of paper being wadded up: my past students were ahead of me and preparing to hurl their papers across the room before anyone else.
(As an aside…I am revising this activity, now, to incorporate a great tool called Padlet. I learned about Padlet from a colleague at UNCC named Justin Cary, and I think it will allow the students the anonymity I intend for them.)
These students at CPCC are sharp, and they really want to be in school. There are always a few each semester that surprise you with their diligence, their mindfulness, and their willingness to work, but my current ENG 112 class is simply full of students like that. They are engaging with all the assignments with inquiring minds and intention, and I do love to see that. They make me remember why teaching is so important to me.
Queens University of Charlotte Syllabi
This semester, I taught a class in a learning community, which is something I had never done before. It was entitled “Rhetoric & Argument – Available Means: Understanding Persuasion in Writing as a Rhetorical Choice.” I was extremely excited to get to teach this class, for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it had so many new opportunities in it. QEN 102 had sister classes in the sciences (math and physics) and that was extremely intimidating in that math has never been my strong suit. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem. The point of the class was to explore with students how numbers, statistics, and science can be used persuasively and how we can best deal with the concept of a “post-truth” world (a world in which numbers, statistics, and science frequently are dismissed as illegitimate). I went into the class a bit unsure of myself, and was fortunate to have Jenn Daniel to help me out (most of the contents of the Queens Materials folder come directly from her, with minor revisions and tweaks from me).
Having now completed the semester, I can say it was a huge learning experience for me and also for the students, I believe. There are so many things I had such a great time planning and doing, but as always, there are some things I would have done differently as well. For instance, the timing of the sister classes prevented me from being able to sit in on them in any regular way. If I could do this over again, I would want to be able to attend the other classes more – not every single class, obviously, but certainly a few times throughout the semester.
I felt somewhat disjointed from the other classes, and the students’ work may have been more difficult for them. If I’m fortunate enough to teach in an LC again, I’m going to know that this is something I need to attend to, regularly and in an ongoing nature, if I want my lessons to be as helpful to the students as they can be. I also intend to obtain a copy of the texts used in the sister classes, as well.
Ultimately, though, working through the concept of “post-truth” with the students, as well as the various ways we engage with persuasion was extremely fulfilling and gratifying. We discussed whether or not Tina Fey’s poem for her daughter was a persuasive argument (some students were quite vociferous in their views) and I was surprised this poem provoked as much discussion as it did. We talked about the concept of umwelt (another instance of midterms being of help to my understanding of what the students were getting from the other class) and we explored persuasion in as many forms as I could come up with (Matthew McConaughey and Will Ferrell introducing the Rose Bowl helped us with understanding ethos, pathos and logos, for instance, and John Oliver helped us understand just why televised debates about climate change are flawed at the outset). In yet another incidence of the midterm reflections providing me with suggestions, I took the opportunity to revise my (pretty outdated) visual rhetoric lesson plan so that it incorporated the series “Stranger Things,” the theme of the class.
I enjoyed this semester enormously, especially as it offered me the opportunity to model for the students consideration of ideas and arguments, application of my own beliefs to my understanding of the new ideas, and then the slow coming to a change in belief (and this was, truly, a substantive change in a firmly held belief). At the end of the class, as things were winding down, I was able to bring that to a rather satisfying conclusion, I think, and convey to the students what had changed for me, how our discussions/readings/their writings had had a part in it, and what I thought that meant. In reviewing my students’ final reflections, I see that at least one student is picking up where I left off. He wrote that the “learning community has been meaningful to me because of what I did wrong.” This tells me that his reflections over the course of the semester have been helpful to him (although he did say he disliked those writings the most, due to his feeling that he wasn’t doing them correctly) and that he continues to do the meaningful work we want our students to do: think critically, and always find ways to be better (and I did reassure him in a comment on his paper that he’s not, actually, doing this wrong).
Fortunately, though, while I might have struggled and worried that I wasn’t getting the message across to students that they needed to hear, I was reassured through my reading of the final reflections that they actually did “get it.” One student wrote this:
I was able to relate my QEN course to my QLC course in a very clear way….I understood how companies and people manipulate an audience to only hear the things they want to be heard and to hide certain aspects that could hinder the audience’s reactions. In my QLC course I understood how and what to consider when looking at a product or advertisement. It was explained how statistics and numbers could be perceived incorrectly if not careful. We were taught many ways to check credibility and sample spaces in both my QLC and QEN course.
In my QEN course I mainly learned how the world has changed to a post-truth world and what exactly that means. I have definitely been second guessing information I have been given when investing in a product, idea or fact. Now knowing what I should believe and shouldn’t has been helpful to me because I have a greater motivation to find out information for myself rather than rely on another source.
Knowing that I have helped a student get to a place where she has the confidence to question information given to her, confirm what’s true and what’s not while also teaching her how to improve her written work is the reason I keep teaching, even when things are scary, or hard, or uncomfortable. This has been such a great semester at Queens – I have learned so much, and the students have as well.
I have taught COMM 202 (Queens Materials) a number of semesters at Queens, and I have enjoyed each semester. This semester is notable for its shorter, but more frequent class meetings, which has caused me to readjust my teaching approach – I’m more used to the lengthier time frame. Last semester I had a larger class than I had had previously, but we still had a blast with the end of the semester assignment, which involved a great deal of group work. I was impressed at how well the students worked together, and how professional and put together their final projects were. I modified an assignment I got from Dr. Goddu which involves a lot of democratically choosing topics, arguing for placement in particular groups, and a great deal of opportunity for the students to utilize their own decision making with regard to the group work they choose to do.
The bigger, less pleasant task of the class is the literature review. I was much less than confident in my ability to successfully navigate the teaching of this process, since it wasn’t something I regularly taught, and to be honest, had never actually been taught how to do one myself (I have, however, had to write them!). I rectified that immediately and read everything I could find about how to teach students to write a lit review, and I feel that this semester I’m going to get some really great papers. I have a much firmer grip on what to do and say and expect from the process, and I’m hopeful that this is much less painful for this group of students than it appeared to be for my first group.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte Syllabi
This fall I’m teaching a UWRT 1104 class, which is an entirely new animal to me. The class is now a 4 semester-hour class, rather than 3, and the extra hour is added through the concept of a “studio,” or a set of assignments our discussions might center around, or which might reinforce a particularly thorny idea we are wrestling with in the class. When I first looked at the individual assignments, and thought about it in terms of the big, semester-long picture, I was sort of overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure how it all tied together, and I wasn’t sure of the purpose of the whole thing, and I just…well, I just wasn’t sure. Because of a conflict in scheduling (the down side of teaching at 3 schools is the tendency of orientation meetings to overlap with each other or, even worse, first days of class), I couldn’t attend the meeting in which all was made clear regarding UWRT 1104. I was fortunate, though, that the always helpful Cat Mahaffey and Jan Rieman took time to speak with me about the inner workings and intentions of the studio component of 1104.
I’m making a point to lift/purloin/borrow/liberate as many of the studio assignments as I can, because they are just that cool. I plan next semester to use them in as many other classes as I can fit them in to. One uses a video teaching beatboxing to help students understand the concepts of literacy, and another sends them on an exploration of the library. Yep, I’m putting all these in my pocket.
The students I have this semester are a marvel, as well. They are engaged, thoughtful, and funny. When one of the students gave a great answer to a question, rather than clapping or otherwise applauding the student’s brilliance (applause is not normal in my classroom), they began to snap. They pass around large boxes of cereal (Honey Nut Cheerios is a real favorite, although it’s how I suspect I caught my last virulent cold), and they are truly quite there. I will miss UNCC very much next semester.
This fall I was so incredibly lucky with my class allocation and opportunities. I was again given the opportunity to work with the accelerated students in UWRT 1103, and this classroom of folks is a doozy! They come to class prepared, they want to work, the discussions they have over our readings are stellar – they are everything about why I wanted to teach in the first place. Everyone should have a class like this – student or instructor – to remind themselves of why human interaction in the pursuit of knowledge is so important. These kids care what the other people in class think, they listen, they respond – I know this sounds pretty lame, that I’m going on and on about how incredible it is that students actually do those things that…well, that we expect them to do, but if you have spent time in a classroom (again, as student or teacher) you know how awful it can be when the group doesn’t gel, or when all the teacher’s goadings and encouragement to spur discussions are met with crickets.
I was really glad to have this group this semester, because I took the plunge this go-round and chose to teach without a book. Sounds like working without a net, and I guess it sort of is, because if you have a text that they all (ostensibly) have before them, when something falls flat, or things go awry technically, you can always pull from the book and cobble something together for the remaining time. It’s all about Plan B, after all, isn’t it? So I spent an inordinate amount of time this semester working on my calendar, syllabus, lesson plans, and readings. I will admit that I blatantly stole the title of the class from another instructor at UNCC when I decided to title it “Culture and Society: Literacy, Inquiry, Myth.”
The focus of the readings are a series of myths that we as a culture create and depend on to help us figure out who we are (both individually and as citizens of the U.S. and the world). I split the semester into weeks, and designated one myth for each week. This worked out well, because I try to also split the semester into two larger sections when I teach the UNCC classes, as they are required to do a portfolio – we work almost exclusively during the first half of the semester discussing, writing, and creating the work the students can choose from to include in their portfolios. I call this their shoveling work, because they are shoveling sand into a sand box. The sand is their raw material, and they will use that sand to sculpt a sandcastle (their portfolio). The final weeks of class, we work on revision and creation of the portfolio.
So this semester, I have engaged a classroom of predominantly white, male engineering students in discussions about race, gender, class, visual literacy, cultural literacy, and all manners of issues in between. The assignments I have used for the class, as well as the readings, are posted in my “Examples of Teaching” page.
This semester has truly been an unexpected blast for me. I am really proud of the work I put into this class, in terms of preparation, and I am so proud of the students for engaging with the (albeit difficult) material so fully.
My first semester at UNCC I was hired very late in the summer – so late, in fact, that I ran from the Human Resources Department after submitting my final new hire paperwork directly in to my first class. I had to have someone waiting in the wings, just in case I wasn’t able to get things submitted in time to allow me to teach (Dr. Mahaffey was my wing-woman in this case). To say things were off to a whirlwind start would be an understatement.
Fortunately, I was assigned a really great group of students in my UWRT 1103 class, and they took my initial stumbling in the classroom in stride. Thankfully, I had had the opportunity to familiarize myself a bit with the UWRT program and curriculum as I created my syllabus for the semester, but I was faced with teaching in a way I was not accustomed. In the writing classes at UNCC, students create large, semester-long projects, culminating in an e-Portfolio through which they reflect on and discuss the learning experiences they have had, and the knowledge they have generated.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, teaching is indeed a presentation and performance, and I was indeed performing during the first weeks of class: I was playing the part of the instructor who knew what she was doing. Eventually, though, I found my footing.
This semester challenged me in new and (honestly) scary ways – I had some familiarity with portfolio work, as Dr. Hogg had us make use of them in the first year writing classes at TCU; however, I had never had students create a semester long project out of them, nor had I ever graded them at such a high percentage of the total score. I knew that the students would be feeling great pressure and angst relating to this assignment; I shared those feelings.
Ultimately, we had a great time, and managed to find our way through the semester together, with me discovering a myriad of ways not to do things, and the students figuring out great approaches to the assignments. We discussed challenging readings, investigated forms of technology we were not accustomed to, and we reflected at great length…until the students may have felt a true kinship with the mirrors in their dorms, cars, and any other shiny surfaces they encountered, for that matter. I learned great lessons from the Fall 2014 semester and I believe that my students did, too.
Rowan-Cabarrus County Classes and Syllabi
Fall 2014 was the first semester I taught a developmental writing class (DRE-098) with an online component. Previously, I had only taught via face-to-face classes, on the Columbia campus. This class was face-to-face, but it had the added aspect of the text and associated materials being online.
I wish I had had enough time to become familiar with Aplia prior to the class beginning; however, this was a short-notice hiring, and while I didn’t *quite* do the Kramer-esque slide into the classroom that I felt I did with UNCC, it was indeed close.
The students and I struggled together to find our footing with Aplia, and I think my honest struggles with the learning curve helped my students in their work as well. The work we did together was in a class small enough that I could work one-on-one with students if they needed/desired it during our lab time, and I found that to be exceptionally helpful for both me and the students.
I have always enjoyed working with the developmental writing students – I find that I learn as much as they do, either about my own grammar and writing foibles or about how to better meet the needs of this particular group of students.
Columbia College Classes and Syllabi
Columbia College in Fort Worth is located on a Naval Air Station, and thus has a large contingent of students with some attachment to the military. Some were retired, some were active duty, some were injured vets, but all the students I encountered were extremely motivated to get all that they could from the classes they took at Columbia. Class met at night, once a week, for five hours. Much of my experience at Columbia was new for me: I had never taught a class that ran for five hours, nor had I taught a class during which “Retreat” was played over a loudspeaker every night.
I have taught Columbia’s first and second year writing classes more often than the developmental writing classes, and during my most recent semester at Columbia, I utilized a new syllabus (the one I have posted here). I found this syllabus a good approach to the sort of writing we did in this class because it focused more on small pieces of writing, with some drills and low-stakes exercises. I had the students doing homework for each class, which we then reviewed together when we met.
I find that with most beginning composition students (whether they are in the first year composition or developmental or further on) my focus initially needs to be allowing them to appreciate “bad” writing. Students wrestle with the concept that writing is messy and subject to constant change and re-seeing. I found that for the students in this particular class, the idea of writing a short paper in parts, and revising each of those parts as we moved through it, helped them to become comfortable with the idea of writing badly to reach the good. They worked hard, moving their drafts from one phase to another, and while some were resistant to this idea, most managed to create something that looked much different, and much better, by the end of the semester.
The first year writing classes I taught at Columbia focused more on the larger picture of writing than the developmental class did. Where in the developmental class we discussed sentence level clarity more, in ENGL 111, I wanted students to think more about the types of arguments they were making, the rhetorical context(s) in which they were being made, and the writing process itself. Students wrote a series of papers in this class, each with a peer review component, and moved through various modes and styles of writing.
The second year, literature based class (ENGL 112) focused on students’ ability to work within the parameters of the literary genre. Where in the earlier classes, the essays and projects were based on concepts easily adapted from their lives (a position essay, for example), ENGL 112 required students to consume, understand, and discuss the readings assigned. We read and discussed relatively lengthy plays, like Hamlet as well as short stories such as Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”
Students will always make grumbling noises about having to read the texts assigned; however, it was a very rare ENGL 112 class that failed to be engaged with at least some aspect of the readings. A benefit of the Columbia College system was that the classes were frequently small, allowing for an experience that felt quite a bit like a book group, albeit one with grades associated.
Dallas County Community College Classes and Syllabi
My time at DCCCD was unfortunately limited to one semester, and I spent my time at the North Lake campus. While my classes were indeed diverse, they did not include as many military or non-traditional students as did Columbia. I taught two sections of first year writing (ENGL 1301) at DCCCD, and that syllabus can be found here. These classes were larger than those at Columbia or Texas Christian University, and the students generally were younger than those at Columbia.
The syllabi I used for ENGL 1301 was largely governed by the administration; however, I was given a great deal of liberty in how I approached teaching the material. Students wrote similar essays to those I taught at Columbia: compare/contrast, definitional, etc. Again, my intention was to help students re-see their writing process and approach, and help them gain a broader understanding of what writing can do.
While the class was not specifically literature based, as was ENGL 112 at Columbia, I did make use of an assortment of readings to help students better understand the various modes and approaches they were being expected to make use of. While I wanted students to enjoy an exposure to varying authors, my focus remained on their own writing processes, and how they could better understand them and thus improve them.
Texas Christian University Classes and Syllabi
The classes I taught at TCU were populated by students who were younger than the contingent I found at Columbia. The focus in both classes I taught at TCU was on writing and revision, rather than literature. I did assign the students readings, but those readings usually functioned more to help them understand the approaches and rhetorical moves I was trying to teach them, rather than a larger literary concept.
First year composition (ENGL 10803) is similar to the other first year english classes I referenced above. We work on the larger concepts associated with writing (college writing and otherwise), and I do what I can to help settle the fears of the typical first semester of the first year college student. The larger focus of the class is on revision – a concept that many students struggle with. While they have no trouble seeing their writing as “bad,” they do have trouble seeing ways that that writing can be made better. The students open up the semester with a relatively low-stakes writing assignment (an introductory letter) and close the semester with an argumentative essay and presentation in which they translate their essay into another media form.
Second year composition (ENGL 20803) focuses on argument and rhetoric, and this particular class I structured around pop culture. The students wrote an analysis of a public space as well as worked with visual media. I found that while most students had at least some understanding of rhetoric, few of them could conceive of argument outside the narrow parameters of conflict and anger. Much as I have to help my first year writing students re-see their understanding of writing (“my writing is bad and will always be bad”) into an understanding of writing as a messy, discursive method of learning, I find that second year students have to reach a deeper, more complicated understanding of argument.
Please visit the Example Assignments page to learn more about some of the specific assignments I utilize in these classes.