Day 1 - Monday, August 25th

Tuesday, August 24:  Activity Ideas

Introducing Yourself and the Course                         

Write to Learn

Discussing Your Policy Statement

Interview Activity

Introducing the Writing Situation Model

Introducing Portfolio 1


Assigning Homework

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Before you Begin, a Note about Transitions

You should use transitions as opportunities to connect activities for your students; your students will benefit from knowing how the activities build on each other. Most teachers write down a few notes on their lesson plans to remind themselves of what they want to say between activities and then weave the transitions into the natural flow of conversation during the class session. You should NOT, however, feel that we are asking you to read the suggested transitions here like a script in your classes.  You should use the transitions in this syllabus to the extent that works best for you and then ultimately construct your own transitions either before class or in an impromptu fashion.

You will become more comfortable with writing your own transitions when you fully understand the course and its sequencing. We have provided sample introductions, transitions, and conclusions as examples of what a teacher might say during class. Again, we encourage you to start composing your own transitions as early in the semester as possible, but by week three you will be responsible for making these transitions on your own. The best way to prepare for your independence is to fully understand the course goals and syllabus.

Also realize that transitioning from logistics to content can sometimes be tricky so use those moments as opportunities to refer to your marker board agenda (see Heads Up below). One strategy is to put a check mark next to the item you just completed and to then introduce the next item.

Introducing Yourself and the Course (10 minutes total)

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Heads Up:  For each class you teach, you should write an Introduction. It is important to establish in students’ minds what the goals for each class meeting are. You can provide an overview or forecast of the day’s activities and connect these activities to the class, week, portfolio and course goals. If you do so, students will know what to expect, can begin to connect past and future classes, and can see plainly what you have in mind for the day.

There are any number of ways to do this. To start with, you might provide a title or theme and then list the activities you have planned for the day on one of the sides of your marker board, leaving room for other purposes you might have for the board including use of the overhead projector. You can put a check by each item as you accomplish it, or you can just proceed through the list. Doing a forecast can help both you and your students stay on track. Another advantage of this technique, especially in the first few days of class is that your writing on the board provides something purposeful for you to do as students arrive at class. Your materials will already be organized and ready on the table. Writing on the board, you will appear to your students to be in charge and to have a plan! Then be sure to stop your board writing at the correct start time of class. Doing this will establish right up front that you start class right on time and expect them to be there at the beginning, too.


Introduce the course and yourself (2 minutes)

Make sure everyone is in the right course and section by putting your name, the course number, title, and section number on the board.  This helps students who have wandered into the wrong room and gives you a point of reference for the day's first activity.  Expect students to arrive late on the first day—many are getting used to a new campus.

When you introduce yourself, clarify what you would like your students to call you.  Recall our discussion of professionalism/formality from training:  how formal you are regarding your name plays a role in the tone you set for your classroom from this day on. Be prepared, though, for students to make mistakes and call you the incorrect name or default to calling you "Professor" or "Mr./Mrs." out of habit or lack of comfortableness.

Hand out the orange Add/Drop sheet given to you in your mailbox.

Take roll (5-7 minutes)

Call out names and record attendance on your roll sheet. Also write on the roll sheet any nicknames as well as phonetic pronunciations of difficult names. While you'll probably use some other attendance-taking measure in the future (such as collecting homework), taking the time to call roll in the first few days will help you learn students' names. Once you've gotten through your roll, ask if there is anyone you missed.

  • Ask unlisted students who say they're positive they're registered and in the right place to stay after class. Because students may have added or dropped since the time your roll sheet was generated, you will most likely have students who have registered for your class whose names do not appear on the roll. Ask them to stay after class and give you their names and ID numbers. Others will think they are enrolled in your section, but that must be confirmed through the registrar. (We have a laptop computer in the main office—Eddy 359—that will be set to give you current rosters for your sections.)
  • Do not promise any extra students that they will be able to enroll or "override."  Firstly, the English department works hard to keep our writing courses capped at low numbers. Overriding extra students into sections jeopardizes this and also creates extra work for you.  Secondly, even if someone is on your roll but isn't in the class the first day, the add/drop policy requires only students who don't attend the first TWO classes to be automatically dropped (you will receive a note from the department administrative assistants regarding automatically dropping "no shows" by the end of the week). Thus, you might have students who don't come the first day but show up for the second class.  Suggest that students who wish to get into your section that they are welcome to stay for class but dialing in through RamWeb (the online student enrollment process) provides the best chance to enroll.
  • Also emphasize that students cannot drop the course after the date on the orange add/drop sheet you handed out--no if's, and's or but's. They also cannot withdraw from CO150 as they might from other courses. If they want out, they must do it by the drop date, which is generally the end of the first week of classes.

    A good way to get to know students and to take attendance in subsequent classes is to have them fill out a note card on the first day of class that provides you with their full name/nickname, year in school, major, email address, local phone number (for emergency contact), any previous composition or English classes taken, and any special needs they might have.

    Also, the English Department provides yellow grade books in which you can keep track of student work and attendance (see Sue Russell in the English office).  We suggest waiting until the end of the first week before you put your roster in a difficult-to-change medium, however, since you may have students adding/dropping until then.  Be extra careful not to lose track of whatever method you use to take attendance during the first week, though.
Sample transition to next activity

Explain that before you present the class with your expectations for the course, that you'd like to find out what the students expect. You might say: Before I present you with my expectations for the course, I'd like to see what you expect from it.  Please take out a sheet of paper and write freely for the next 5 minutes about what you expect from CO150.

Write to Learn (10 minutes total)

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Heads Up:  A "Write-to-Learn" (WTL) is a pedagogical tool strongly believed in here at CSU. You might think of the WTL as your first tool in the Activity Bank, an idea that can be use in any number of ways, and can be performed in a low-tech pen and paper method or online, if you are teaching in a computer classroom. Tell students they can expect to frequently do some in-class writing like this to help them collect their thoughts, to jump-start a discussion, to reflect on a text they read for homework, or to generate ideas for their papers. Let students know that you'll discuss their answers today if there is time or next time if there’s not time today. Then make sure that you do address that work at some time! They will quickly catch on if you don’t collect or discuss their WTLs; they will cease to participate or will work on other "homework" during the WTL time. Also, let them know whether you will always collect their WTLs on a daily basis or if you will collect it at some later point (at the end of each week or with their portfolios, for instance). (See the "Collecting Homework" section in the introduction to the syllabus.)

Assign and have students do a Write to Learn (WTL) (5 minutes)

Have students take out a piece of paper and write for five minutes or so about their expectations for CO150 and also what they hope to contribute. You can put this prompt on the board or on an overhead. However, whenever possible, use the marker board or blackboard to cut down on unnecessary duplicating. Be sure to review these short writing samples later, noting any especially worrisome problems that you see. Also, be sure to give feedback on any and all work that they do in class—if only a sentence or two at the next class meeting as you return items to students.

Briefly discuss WTLs (3-5 minutes)

Collect WTLs when you are finished discussing them.

Sample Transition to Next Activity

Consider using a transition such as the following: The course syllabus and policy statement will help you understand the expectations for this course. Hopefully, these will address some of the concerns you brought up in your writing about your expectations for the course.

Discussing Your Policy Statement (10 minutes total; break down as you see fit)

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Distribute and explain policy statement and course nuts and bolts

Present the course policy statement, emphasizing the policies that you consider most important. Be sure to explain at least the following policies:

  • Attendance
  • Grading (for major assignments and overall class)
  • Grading for homework assignments
  • Late papers
  • Special Needs (make it clear from the beginning of class that you are more than willing to accommodate students with special needs such as learning disabilities, physical impairments, etc. but that it is the students' responsibility to let you know of these before problems occur.  Taking an "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" approach to special needs is most effective for both you and your students.)

One good strategy is to have a copy of your policy statement on an overhead with essential ideas highlighted or annotated. If not on the overhead, just having your own highlighted copy can help quell those first-day jitters and prevent you from forgetting anything critical you want to convey. Or, delegate some of the responsibility by having students read sections aloud.

Specify the goals of the course

Take a few moments to explain what CO150 is about, the course theme (Participating in the Discourse that Shapes Public Issues), and what students should expect/learn from it (this should be on your policy statement in a couple of sentences).  This is also a good opportunity to hand out a syllabus for at least the first unit* and/or an assignment overview (see Appendix) so that students can make note of major due dates throughout the semester. 

*If you are using the Writing Studio Calendar as your day-to-day syllabus, you can explain to students how they can access this today or during the next session (to ensure that all the correct students are present).   Regardless, we suggest using an overhead at the end of each class session to assign homework for the first 2-3 days of class.

Briefly discuss how to read the timeline aspect of your syllabus (especially if you are using a grid)

For instance, students will want to know if the assignment is DUE on the date provided in the syllabus or if it is ASSIGNED that day. Generally speaking it is more workable to list the DUE DATE. You may then wish to explain the types of assignments in general terms—but by all means save specifics for later and if a student wants more detailed information, ask him or her to meet with you after class and after reading the syllabus. Otherwise your first day of class could get derailed by a series of unexpected questions.

Show/introduce the texts used for the course

We will use the PHG and the New York Times

Enroll students in the delivery of the New York Times to their homes/dorm rooms

Hand out the subscription forms supplied by our New York Times representative.  You might have a sample form filled out on an overhead to demonstrate how students should fill out their forms.  Be sure they put down your correct name in the "professor's name" section, their full names, how they want to pay for delivery, and particularly that they have their correct and complete address filled out in the "delivery address" section.*  Students should complete the form in blue or black ink (to ensure the fax machine transmits the information clearly). Students may choose to add the Sunday edition to their delivery, but they must have the Monday - Friday editions delivered for class use.

You should also point out the toll-free number students should call regarding delivery concerns, updates, holds and cancellations.  Finally, instruct your students that they are responsible for canceling their subscriptions at the end of the semester!

Sue Russell (in the English office) will be faxing the completed forms to the New York Times regional office in Denver on Thursday and Friday of the first week of school, so you will need to turn your forms in as soon as possible.

*Be prepared for some students to fail to have their address memorized by the first day of class.  If that is the case, tell students they may take their form home, complete it, and bring it by your office the next day or next class period. 

Discuss your class page and the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio

You'll also want to discuss access to thematic readings. If you choose, this is a good opportunity to hand out directions for accessing and logging into the class page (you may also do this on an overhead, but particularly for students who are new to CSU, a hand out can eliminate missed steps and failure to access homework--there are guidelines posted to the Appendix).  You may also wait to do this during the next class session when attendance is more settled.

Sample Transition to Next Activity

You might say something like: Community is important in a writing classroom (where we hold discussions, work in groups and use peer review with the writing process), so let's take some time to get to know each other.

Interview Activity (15 minutes total)

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Interview Activity (5 minutes)

Have students pair up and ask each other questions about one another and record their answers.

Give students a 1 minute warning before you'd like to them to stop.  

Heads Up :  If need be, you can extend the actual minute after your warning to 2 minutes.  Giving students a "heads up" that is shorter than the actual amount of time you actually allow them to complete a task can be an effective technique for productivity.

Discuss What Students Found Out About Each Other (5 minutes)

Ask students to consider what kinds of things people were willing to ask.  Simultaneously or after a brief sharing session, generate a list of corresponding question categories on the board.

Discuss the interview activity (5 minutes)

Your goal in this discussion is to highlight how context and rhetorical situations define what we can say and how we say it. Our context and rhetorical situation here is a college composition classroom and that affects how we asked questions and what questions we asked.

You can use these questions or write your own:

  • What wasn't asked and why do you think that is?
  • Why are there some things that people will ask (and will respond to) while there are other things that people don’t feel comfortable asking or telling?
  • What does this analysis say about our expectations of social interaction? Of a composition classroom and what can be said there?
  • How would our questions have differed if you were interviewing your instructor? Or if you were interviewing a classmate’s grandparents? Why?
  • How would your questions and answers have differed if you were talking to someone you met at a fraternity or dorm party? Why?
  • How would your questions and answers have differed if you were just meeting your host family for a semester in a foreign country? Why?
Sample transition to next activity

In the same vein that we have discussed our interviews, we can discuss writing because both our interviews and writing are shaped by context.  There is a visual that can help us understand this concept even more.


Introduce the Writing Situation Model  (10-15 minutes)

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The goal for this discussion is to illustrate how context shapes the interactions between writers and readers. Writers make choices based on their physical, social and cultural contexts as well as their purposes for writing. In the same sense, readers come to a text by way of their own needs and interests. Thinking about interactions between writers and readers helps to ensure that meaning is clearly communicated.

For this activity, use the model from "Understanding Writing Situations: Writing as a Social Act" to show students how readers and writers interact. This model is available on Writing@CSU ( can either draw a diagram on the board or make an overhead (we recommend making an overhead). Explain to students that you will first review the model in general terms, and then they will discuss it with more detail in relation to their homework.

Be sure to cover the following points (in whatever order feels right for you):

· Writers have purposes for writing

· Usually these purposes emerge from the writer's cultural or social context (something happens outside the writer that creates a need to write - something to respond to)

· Writers make choices based on the context they are writing for (writing a letter home to your parents asking for money is a different than writing a letter to an organization to ask for contributions for a good cause). Therefore, different contexts will pose different requirements, limitations, and opportunities for a writer.

· In addition to context, writers also need to think about readers.

· Readers have various needs and interests which are likewise determined by their contexts (their background, environment and experience).

· In order to communicate effectively, a writer must anticipate what their readers' needs and interests are.

Sample transition to next activity

Your first major writing assignment asks you incorporate what we just talked about--to think about your context for writing and to make choices accordingly.  Let's take a look at the specific expectations that Portfolio 1 encompasses. 


Introduce Portfolio 1 (7-10 minutes)

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Pass out the Essay 1 assignment sheet. Let students read it over or have a student or two read the most important parts out loud.

  • To check for understanding of the general terms, and the essay in particular, ask students to restate the purpose, context, and audience as a class: What is the purpose of this essay assignment? Who is your audience for this essay? What will you have to do to meet the assignment goals?
  • Then, move on to discuss how these responses will affect their choices when writing Essay 1. Since the students are part of the general academic audience, include them by asking what type of response they would like to read. You might ask the following: Given your audience, what will readers want to know? What type of reaction would you want to read?
  • style="margin-top:0; margin-bottom: 0;">Students should be able to generate such concerns as: a reaction that isn't a rant, a reaction that doesn't go off on tangents or try to cover too much (focus), a reaction that has an appropriate tone, a reaction I can relate to, a reaction that is well supported with evidence.

Concluding (3 minutes)

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For each class you teach, you should write a conclusion.  Today, consider closing class with something along these lines, " So just as social situations can influence what we say and do, different writing situations can influence what we 'say' and 'do' with our writing. In this class, 'good' writing can only be defined in terms of how well a text responds to a particular purpose and context. We'll continue with this idea next time and connect it more directly to culture and writing."

In the future (or today if you choose), you might refer students back to the list on the marker board as well, connecting the activities of the day to the lesson, portfolio, and course goals. It’s a good idea to establish the precedent of doing an end-of-lesson review such as this for each class.

Try something like: "Let’s review what we’ve done today. Consulting your notes, tell me…" [here you can compose your own review list…try drawing it as a concept map…or just review the list on the board. The point is that offering an on-the-board forecast at the beginning of class as well as an on-the-board review list at the end is a proven method for building what learning theorists call "hierarchical learning" of course concepts]

A sample review might cover these items from today (this list includes easy specifics about the course, essential logistical information, and a brief review of concepts):

  • how many portfolios we’ll have and the due date for the first one
  • the name and location of the national newspaper you’ll be reading all term
  • the name of the classmate you interviewed—perhaps establish this person as a "homework buddy" who can collect handouts, take notes, and be a point of contact in the event that you are absent.
  • reasons for doing the interview (course connections)
  • the goals of the course

Assigning Homework (2 minutes)

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Assign the homework due for the next class session. In addition to its obvious value as a first extended writing activity, this assignment is designed to get students up and running with the technology components of the course.

Using an overhead is effective for assigning homework before your students are logged in and familiar with the Calendar on the Writing Studio. Or, if necessary, use half sheets or slips of paper.  The less copying you can make at the start of the semester, however, the better so you don't reach your copy limits too quickly.

You can hasten your students’ use of the Writing Studio discussion forum by preparing a handout with instructions for accessing and using your class page.  You will also need to create and title the forums you use on your class page (recall our work with the Writing Studio during training).

You can learn more about using online discussion forums in three teaching guides on Writing@CSU: Conducting Online Discussions (, Integrating Technology into the Traditional CO150 Classroom (, and Using Student Peer Review (

Finally, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of making a list of the materials you will need for each class. As you type up your lesson plan, make this materials list a header for each lesson you teach. That way you’ll generally arrive at class with everything you need.