How to use this Syllabus

The syllabus contains a lot of detail, designed to help those who may not have been in charge of their own classrooms before. While you are not bound to follow the syllabus step-by-step, we do suggest that you at least begin by following it as closely as you can. Once you're comfortable in the classroom and with the course goals and assignments, you may find that you have ideas for activities that will work better or, as is frequently the case, your students need something different on a particular day. Feel free to respond to your students' needs and/or to create your own activities if you feel comfortable doing so. In fact, as you get into Unit Three, we will stop providing so much detail so that you will have more freedom with your own lesson-planning. Our only requirement is that you stick to the goals of particular classes, the overall philosophy of the syllabus, and the four paper assignments.

You will most definitely find, however, that there will be days when there is much more in the syllabus than you can potentially do. Some classes of students move more slowly than others, some activities will go very well and others won't take as much time as we thought. Be prepared almost from the beginning to decide before a given class what you might cut if you run out of time. If you run out of time and think everything is necessary, then re-arrange the following day. In short, this syllabus, while based in the considerable teaching experience of our composition faculty, is neither perfect nor carved in stone. Be prepared to make changes with our blessing.

The Structure of the Syllabus

The lesson plans in this syllabus have a consistent structure which, hopefully, will aid you in your teaching. Here are the sections that will appear daily, and some tips on how you should use them:

Collecting Homework

There are a few different options for collecting homework assignments.

Commenting on Homework

Homework assignments typically have a pretty defined purpose. In your comments, try to do the following:

How to Plan Using the Syllabus

While the syllabus contains in-depth descriptions and explanations of the activities for each class, here are some tips to make sure you're thoroughly prepared to effectively teach a lesson plan:

    1. DO NOT teach straight off the lesson plans as listed in the syllabus. Without questions, you'll be a more effective teacher if you create your own lesson plan based off of the one provided in the syllabus. This allows you to make notes about specifics you want to remember, and to personalize a lesson plan to your own style.
    2. NEVER arrive in class intending to just follow the lesson plan from the syllabus without having reviewed it before class. Preparation is key. You have to understand what the class should be doing and learning before the students can effectively do the same.
    3. As mentioned above, try as much as possible to plan for time contingencies. Have in mind what activity can be cut if you're running short on time, or what activity you can add if you have extra time. Also, be sure to hierarchize activities. While some activities may not be crucial to student's learning, others are. If you do need to cut an activity, make sure it's an activity that students don't absolutely need.
    4. ASK if you have any questions about a lesson plan, the course goals, the readings, etc. All of us on the Composition Staff are more than willing to offer assistance, and your fellow TA's will be another great resource.

Abbreviations: The syllabus includes many acronyms for the sake of page-length. The most common are:

PHG: Prentice-Hall Guide
RC: Reading Culture
CSOW: Connection to students' own writing
WTL: Write-to-Learn exercises
OH: Overhead

Some helpful definitions to keep in mind:

Rhetorical Context (or Writing Context): The context in which a writer produces a text. The context will include an audience (with certain expectations of the text to be produced), the writer and his/her goals and knowledge, larger cultural influences, etc. For example, when you sit to write an essay for a graduate literature course, you're working within the context of higher education, English Literature, and a specific class. Higher education and an English department hold certain expectations for a written essay - it should make an argument, it should use textual support. Etc. A specific class will create even more expectations - you'll have to write about a certain time period, genre, or author, or perhaps from a specific theoretical perspective. You'll have to meet specific guidelines set by the professor. You'll also be bringing your own context to bear on the text - you couldn't write a Feminist analysis if you're not familiar with Feminist theory. Or perhaps you are most interested in the creation of identity in literature so that's where you choose to focus your text. In short, there will always be a context that influences the creation of a text by setting forth expectations to be met. However, there is also room to make choices within a context. You'll still likely be able to choose which specific text you'll focus on, what your thesis will be, etc. You could also still choose to work against some of the expectations of the context. It's important, for our purposes, to emphasize both the need to know and meet expectations, as well as the ability to still make choices of your own.

Audience: By audience we're referring to the group or people a writer has in mind when producing a text. This does not mean other people can't read a text! But any text will have some audience to whom it is directed.

Purpose: Purpose refers to what a writer is trying to accomplish in writing a text. Are they trying to persuade the audience to act? To convince the audience to think a certain way? Evaluate a text for the audience?

Focus: Focus refers to what a text is about. Typically a text should have a narrow focus that is maintained through the entire piece. For example, if you're writing to evaluate a text (as they do in Essay 2), you don't really want to argue against the author's points, because that isn't what the text should focus on in evaluating. This essay would need to be further based on question such as "which part of the essay do I want to evaluate?" A writer certainly couldn't effectively evaluate every aspect of a given article in 3 pages, so they must make choices to narrow their focus.

Critical Reading: Here's a tough one to really define. But for our purposes, we want to emphasize to students the fact that you make meaning by actively engaging a text. As a reader, you are not a passive participant, but an active constructor of meaning. Exhibiting an inquisitive, "critical" attitude towards

what you read will make anything you read richer and more useful to you in your classes and your life. For example, while reading you might consider questions about the author, the purpose of the text, or the validity of the logic or evidence in the text. Critical reading also requires some attention to your purpose as a reader and what influences you bring to a text that affect how you create meaning. Also, annotation can be a crucial part of critical reading. Making various marginal markings and comments encourages a more thorough interaction with a text.

Revision: Revision never really means just sentence-level editing. Nor is revision solely a process that happens after you've completed a full draft, or after you've received instructor feedback on your essay. Instead, revision is a process that occurs throughout the production of text. For example, you might start a research essay thinking you want to argue for school vouchers. However, after completing your research you decide that you are against this system of school selection. What you've done, of course, is a revision. Not a revision of actual text, but a revision of ideas. When revision applies to a text, it should always involved larger questions rather than just moving words around or fixing what the teacher marked. Revision takes place at many levels, but should involve ideas and questions of audience, purpose, and focus before approaching any sentence level concerns. If, for example, a person had problems with the overall focus of an essay, correcting comma errors or examining word choice is probably not going to do anything to remedy the focus problems. Instead, revisions needs to return to larger questions of focus: How can I narrow my focus? What parts of my essay seem less relevant to what I really want to say? Where might the audience be confused? To be sure, grammar and mechanical concerns are important. But revision is an ongoing process that occurs at many different levels. Effective revision means understanding what choices are available and making decisions based on larger contextual and conceptual concerns.