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Academics

First Year Writing

Program Overview

What can I Expect in a First-Year Writing Class?

Our courses develop strong critical reading skills and use a process based writing model. This means that students can expect to spend 3 hours outside of class reading as well as 3-6 hours outside of class writing a week. These are general estimates but most students will need to plan for these additional working hours. Reading is an integral part of successful argumentation. Students will read, talk about, and address in writing hundreds of pages, including the course rhetoric, and other academic texts. Students demonstrate reading comprehension through exercises that ask for paraphrasing, summarizing, written response, and class discussion. Writing constitutes a part of almost every class period and / or homework assignment. Students hand in for grading a minimum of 25 typewritten pages of academic prose. These assignments include at least three well-developed five-page essays addressed to an academic audience, as well as shorter papers that may include summaries, summary/response essays, and in-class essays. Students are expected to write at all stages of their processesinvention, exploration, drafting, revision, and editing.We teach revision as an important means for improving both the writing process and the final written product, and, consequently, drafting is encouraged. Instructors require drafts of all major essays in order to aid in this revision process. Additionally, students participate in peer review of at least one draft of each essay that is written outside of class. Some of this peer review occurs in written form, as well as during workshop environments in class.

How do I know which course is right for me?

Some Final Words on Reading and Writing Rhetorically

Some of the advantages of reading and writing rhetorically should be clear to you by now. Here are some further reasons why you should ALWAYS consider the rhetorical situation of the texts you read and write:

1. Rhetorical thinking accords with what we know about how language works. We all know that even when an entire class reads the same text, not everyone comprehends, interprets, or recalls that text in exactly the same way. The rhetorical situation accounts for this variation because it changes every time the reader/listener changes.

2. Rhetorical thinking increases reading comprehension. Studies show that we comprehend texts more deeply when we know something about the person writing, know something about the topic of the text, and read with the expectation of responding in writing.

3. Expert readers and writers think rhetorically. Studies show that experts read as if they are in conversation with a friend: they activate everything they know about the topic, they activate everything they know about the writer, and, rather than trying to memorize the text, they think critically about it and respond to it by marking the text, writing notes in the margins, and speaking aloud to the text. When experts write, they do so because they feel the need tosay something. They also investigate, and think long and hard about, the topic on which they’re writing. Finally, expert writers give a lot of thought to the audience for whom they’re writing.

4. Rhetorical thinking is empowering. If you’ve been taught to think that meaning exists in the words on the page, or that there’s only one way to write effectively, then you might think that your struggles with reading and writing are a reflection of your intelligence. They’re not. Your struggles may simply be an effect of being a newcomer to academic conversations. Rhetorical thinking can show you what is needed: to sit in and listen for a while until what you hear begins to make sense and you discover something to contribute.