Julia Tillinghast’s 1105 Syllabus

English 1105: Introduction to College Composition: Critical Reading, Writing, and Thinking

Instructor: Julia Clare Tillinghast-Akalin
Email: juliatil@vt.edu, juliactil@gmail.com
Office: Shanks 246
Office Hours: Monday 10am-1pm or by appointment.

Course Description:

English 1105 is an introduction to college-level composition. In this course you will be introduced to composition’s rhetorical dimensions. That is to say, you will be asked to consider the purpose, audience, occasion, and genre that are called for in a variety of writing, speaking, or visual assignments.

You will be asked to brainstorm topics, to write drafts, and to revise your writing based on reflection and peer feedback. As you read and respond to each others’ papers, you will learn an important step in addressing readers concerns. Your writing will be taken seriously and you will be asked to engage seriously with your peers writing as well.

You will also be asked to read challenging articles, essays, and prose, and to consider paintings, films, and other visuals. College composition begins from the assumption that written, visual, and spoken texts can be in conversation with each other. Thus, the readings serve as beginning places for your own arguments and analyses, as well as models of effective communication.

In addition to these stated goals as well as the learning outcomes and assignments found in Composition at Virginia Tech, page 7, my goal as an instructor in this class is to disrupt and challenge your notions of reading/consuming media, your assumptions about what is and what isn’t “academic” subject matter, to help you to be able to argue, persuade, express and share in a more nuanced and skillful manner, and to facilitate an attitude toward your own writing that it can be fun and powerful.

Required Materials:

Writing Without Formulas. William H. Thelin. Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008.

Composition at Virginia Tech: Written, Spoken, and Visual Composition. Diana George, Ed. Boston, Ma: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2010.

Please bring a laptop computer with you to each class meeting.

Grading Breakdown:

Blog: 15 %

You must write an at-least 500-word Tumblr blog entry every week, including during Thanksgiving break. Blog grades are pass/fail, with an automatic fail given to anything that is plagiarized, borrowed from some other assignment, or obviously written without effort, or to a blogger who does not read or comment upon his/her groupmates’ blogs. Optional blogging topics/questions will be given at times throughout the semester but there is always the option to chose one’s own topic. One “freebie” week is given to all students – in other words, you are allowed to miss a week of your choice without penalty.

Attendance, Homework, and Daily Writing: 15 %

There is a reading assignment, from either textbook, the internet, or a supplementary article, or, occasionally, a listening/watching assignment or a forum posting assignment, to be completed prior to nearly every class. Homework and attendance are essential parts of this class, which, you will notice, does not have a final exam – the learning outcomes of the class depend on discussion, collaboration, and process as much as they do on accomplishing specific goals. Both homework and attendance will be enforced by a digital “daily writing” assignment that takes place during class (with a question revealed only during the class time), with a prompt that refers to the previous class’s homework. ½ points are given to the student who obviously or admittedly has not done the homework but attends class anyway and attempts to answer the writing prompt without the benefit of having done the homework. Besides that 50% option, daily writing is pass/fail, with the instructor also using daily writing to gauge interest in and understanding of topics. During individual conferences, class will not meet formally, and attendance grades for that week will be assessed by students’ attendance of conferences and via a digital assignment which will be evaluated pass/fail and counted as an attendance grade. There will also be an experimental “digital class” in which students will have a normal class section, including daily writing and class discussion, entirely online (date TBA).

Major Assignments: 70%

Pecha-Kucha Oral Presentation Assignment: 15%

Meditation on a Single Word/Phrase: 20%

Rogerian Op-Ed/Letter to the Editor: 20%

This I Believe: 15%

Besides the oral presentation, all major assignments will be handed-in via the course management site Scholar. Scholar will be set to accept assignments up to a certain due date/time, and late work will not be accepted, except with prior arrangement or in extreme extenuating circumstances. All major assignments can be rewritten if the grade received is a B or below (87 % or below – note: a B+ paper can’t be rewritten for a higher grade). In case of rewrites, which are strongly encouraged, the new/higher grade will completely supplant the original grade. Rewrites are due exactly a week after the graded assignment has been returned to the student.

All major assignments will be graded using a grading rubric that will be available beforehand. In order to receive a high grade, it is very important that you read and understand the expectations, point, and spirit of the assignment. In addition, rather than grammatical correctness or adherence to certain formulas, as an instructor and a reader I value rich context, specificity, detail, particularity, honesty, effort, style, voice, skillfully executed structure/organization, and originality.

Honor Code:

The Virginia Tech Honor Code, which deals with academic integrity and honesty, including cases of cheating, falsification, and plagiarism, will be strictly adhered to in this class. Students in our community hand in all work with the tacit agreement that “I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance on this project.” In any way representing work that is not your own as if it were yours – or helping others to do so — will not be tolerated in this or any other course at VT. You should realize that these issues are taken very seriously and that any infraction will be dealt with by the Honor System Office and the Honor System Review Board. Please see http://www.honorsystem.vt.edu/ or talk to me for more information.

Disability Statement:

If you have a disability (learning disability, physical disability, mental health issue, etc.) that may in some way affect the way you learn, perform, participate, and/or are assessed in this class, I am happy to make adjustments or accommodations to ensure that you are treated fairly and can get everything you need out of this course. Please let me know within the first week of class if you have an issue or concern. In order to qualify for accommodations, you need to get documented with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, located at 150 Henderson Hall – you can also contact them at 231-3788 or spangle@vt.edu.

Virginia Tech Principles of Community:

The “Virginia Tech Principles of Community” were affirmed by the board of visitors March 14, 2005, and signed by eight university organizations.

Virginia Tech is a public land-grant university, committed to teaching and learning, research, and outreach to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. Learning from the experiences that shape Virginia Tech as an institution, we acknowledge those aspects of our legacy that reflected bias and exclusion. Therefore, we adopt and practice the following principles as fundamental to our on-going efforts to increase access and inclusion and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members:

  • We affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding.
  • We affirm the right of each person to express thoughts and opinions freely. We encourage open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity, and mutual respect.
  • We affirm the value of human diversity because it enriches our lives and the University. We acknowledge and respect our differences while affirming our common humanity.
  • We reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including those based on age, color, disability, gender, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminate bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.
  • We pledge our collective commitment to these principles in the spirit of the Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Course Calendar: Important Dates
August 23rd – 27th: Unit 0: Community Building and Digital Literacy

August 23rd: first day of class

[August 29th – September 24th: Unit 1: Rhetoric, Oral Presentations, and Visual Literacy]

September 20th: Assignment One: Pecha-Kucha Presentation – draft due

September 22nd & 24th: Assignment One: Pecha-Kucha – final draft with paper due on

day of presentation

[September 27th – October 18th: Unit 2: Audience, Language, and Voice.]

October 8th: Fall Break; no class

October 11th-15th: individual conferences in Shanks 246; Assignment Two:

Meditation on a Single Word/Phrase rough draft due on day of conference;

no class meeting – digital assignment to read and comment on other class

section’s blogs

October 18th: Assignment Two: Meditation on a Single Word/Phrase final draft due

[October 18th – November 15th: Unit 3: Purpose and Argument]

November 8th-12th: Individual Conferences; Assignment Three: Op-Ed/Letter to the

Editor rough draft due day of conference; digital assignment: browse in

everyone in classes’ blogs and comment at least once on everyone’s.

November 15th Assignment Three: Rogerian Op-Ed/Letter to the Editor final draft


[November 15th – December 3rd: Unit Four: Genre, Process, and Conventions]

November 22nd – 26th: Thanksgiving Break

November 24th: Virtual “Class” meeting on scholar chat room (normal class time)

December 1st: Assignment Four: “This I Believe” rough draft due for peer editing

(with partner from day one of class)

December 3rd: Assignment Four: This I Believe: Final Draft due

December 8th: last day of class

Detailed Course Schedule: Units 0 and 1

(Detailed Course Schedule for Units 2-5 forthcoming on Scholar Site)

Week 1 (August 23rd – 27th)


Objectives: to get to know each other and what this class is all about

Assignments: belief free write, set up and begin Tumblr blog, try out a Twitter account, read Composition at Virginia Tech (CVT), Part I (pp. 3-13), and CVT, “Composing in Blog “ (p. 132), read syllabus and get to know scholar.

Week 2 (August 30th – September 23rd)


Begin Unit One: Introduction to Rhetoric, Visual Literacy, and Collaboration

Objectives: to be able to discuss cultural artifacts in terms of rhetoric and the rhetorical situation

Assignments: Google-search “rhetoric” and “rhetorical analysis,” read page 15-20 in CVT, on “Rhetorical Knowledge,” Lloyd Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation,” Begin Chapter 2 in “Writing Without Formulas” (WWF), on “Critical Analysis for Writing”

Week 3 (September 6th-10th)

Rhetorical  & Critical Analysis, Collaboration

Objectives: to be able to perform a rhetorical or critical analysis of a cultural artifact, to increase awareness of why we might collaborate as writers, intellectuals, citizens, and students.

Assignments: continue to read WWF chapter 2, and read WWF Chapter 7, “Uses of Collaboration.”

Week 4 (September 13th-17th)

Visual Literacy and Oral Presentations

Assignments: Google-search “visual literacy,”  read CVT chapters 8, 9, and 11, on “Visual Literacy,”  and “Oral Presentation”

Week 5 (September 20th-24th)

Presentation Week

Objectives: to deserve and get a good grade on the 1st assignment, or to get a lower grade and understand why, to observe and learn from the experience of giving a presentation, to listen critically and supportively to others’ presentations.

Presentations: Draft of Pecha-Kucha Presentation Due Monday, September 20th, , for workshop with your group and final Pecha-Kucha Presentation, with accompanying paper, due on day of presentation (either September 22nd or September 24th)

Because class schedule responds to the progress and interests of the group, a more detailed class schedule for the remainder of the semester and an even more detailed schedule of homework assignments will be generated and communicated on the Scholar site for the course as the semester unfolds. Please email the instructor (juliatil@vt.edu) with any questions about the schedule.

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