Kathy Kerr’s 1105 Syllabus

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

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, and 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 one 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 photographs, 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.

Additionally, my goal for this course is to encourage you to challenge your assumptions about what texts are, how they influence us and inform our perceptions, and how we can use texts to facilitate and encourage public discourse and civic engagement. To that end, you will select an issue to advocate (subject to my approval) at the beginning of the semester, and you will use that issue to explore composition’s rhetorical dimensions. We will examine a variety of public texts – newspapers, magazines, online articles, advertisements and commercials, movies, photographs, etc. – in the context of the rhetorical situation to analyze how purpose, audience, occasion, and genre impact both the creation and the reception of these texts.

Required Texts:

  • Virginia Tech Dept of English, Composition at Virginia Tech (2011-2012) ISBN: 9781256096207
  • Supplemental readings will be posted on Scholar.

In addition to the assignments noted below, students are expected to participate in class activities and discussions. Participation includes having read all the assigned materials for each class and completing all assignments by their due dates. I will provide detailed instructions for each assignment as the semester progresses.

  • Blog Posts — You are expected to write weekly blog posts based on class discussions/activities and assigned readings. I will provide instructions for blog post assignments at least one week in advance of their due date. Blog posts must contain at least 250 words and will be graded according the criteria below.
  • Memoir — You will apply what you have learned about the rhetorical situation to write a memoir (at least 5 pages long) about an important person, event, influence, time, etc., in your life and use visual media (photograph, drawing, clipart, hyperlink to video clip, etc.) to support and enhance your narrative.
  • Evaluation/Summary — In this group project, you will evaluate text against a specific set of criteria and share your findings with the class in an oral presentation (5-7 minutes). Groups will summarize in a short paper (2-3 pages) the process used to select the text and develop the evaluation and presentation as well as any other relevant observations relating to this project.
  • Rhetorical Analysis — You will write a rhetorical analysis (at least 5 pages long) of a text of your choice (contingent on my approval). We will use this assignment to look at the writing process, elements of critical/analytical writing, etc.
  • Position Paper — In this paper, you will take a position on an issue that relates to your advocacy topic. Keeping audience, purpose, context, etc., in mind, you will write a paper (at least 6-8 pages long) that contextualizes and analyzes the problem/issue, supports your position, and responds to possible objections to your argument.
  • Presentation Project — You will develop a presentation (7-10 minutes) relating to your advocacy topic. You may base your presentation on the argument you make in your position paper, on a specific event, issue, or experience, or on a text – either written or visual.


  • Blog Posts – 10%
  • Memoir – 20%
  • Evaluation/Summary – 10%
  • Rhetorical Analysis – 20%
  • Position Paper – 25%
  • Presentation – 15%

Grading/ Evaluation
All graded assignments are evaluated according to the following criteria: content (70% of point total), grammar/style/mechanics (20% of point total), and format (10% of point total). When evaluating content, I consider whether/how effectively a student as achieved the assignment objective(s) and how appropriate the language/content is to the audience/assignment objective(s). When evaluating style/mechanics, I consider how the student has structured the composition and whether errors in grammar or syntax interfere with my reading and understanding of the composition. Finally, when evaluating format, I consider whether a student has complied with all the assignment’s requirements and how well an assignment conforms to the prescribed format (spacing, font, etc.).

Grading Scale:
100-point scale
A (100-93) A- (92-90) B+ (89-88) B (87-83) B- (82-80)
C+ (79-78) C (77-73) C- (72-70) D+ (69-68) D (67-60)
If you have questions about a grade, please make an appointment with me to discuss how your response to the assignment could have better fulfilled the objectives of the assignment and of the course.

Course Policies:

  • Attendance — Attendance is expected; no in-class work may be completed for credit at a later time.
  • Due Dates — All assignments must be turned in on time and submitted according to specific assignment instructions. I will accept late papers only in the event of serious emergencies (illness/death in the family/unavoidable circumstances) and will make these exceptions at my discretion.
  • Paper Revisions – The only way to improve your writing is to write more; hence, I will accept one revised paper for every major assignment listed above except blog posts. The grade you earn on your revised paper will replace your original grade. I will accept one revised paper per student at a time, and students may submit revised papers until 11/18.
  • Virginia Tech Honor Code — The honor code, which deals with academic integrity and honesty – including cases of cheating, falsification, and plagiarism — will be strictly enforced in this course. All assignments submitted shall be considered graded work, unless otherwise noted. All aspects of your coursework are covered in the Honor System. Any suspected violations of the Honor Code will be promptly reported to the Honor System. For a complete authoritative list of all code violations, visit http://www.honorsystem.vt.edu.
  • Principles of Community — This class is a learning community, and for it to function effectively we must engage one another in a respectful manner. Please follow the Virginia Tech Principles of Community; you may find them on the inside cover of Composition at Virginia Tech, or at http://www.vt.edu/diversity/principles-of-community.html.
  • Students with Disabilities – If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (learning disability, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.), if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. For more information, please visit the Services for Students with Disabilities website: http://www.ssd.vt.edu.
  • Classroom Etiquette — Be punctual and prepared for every class. If you have a question, ask it. Turn off cell phones and pagers when you come into the classroom. Respond respectfully to others’ ideas, whether in discussion, workshop, or editing. I expect each student to show respect for the diversity of opinions expressed during discussions and in draft workshops.
  • Email Communication — I communicate with students via vt.edu. I will not use alternative email addresses. Check your email frequently, especially the day before class, and print any necessary documents for use in class.

Schedule of Classes/Assignments:
This schedule is subject to change. A current version of the schedule will be posted on Scholar throughout the semester, and I will notify you regarding any updates.
**Note** All homework must be completed before the next class session. For example, the readings and quiz assigned on August 29 must be completed before you come to class on August 31.

M 8/22 In Class: Introduction, review syllabus, discuss plagiarism

Homework: Read Composition at Virginia Tech, Chapter 1 and Chapter 7 (pages 159-160)

W 8/24 In Class: What is a text? Public literacy, group exercise
Homework: Read Composition at Virginia Tech, Chapter 2, Blog Post #1

F 8/26 Blog post #1 due
In Class: Genres and the rhetorical situation
Homework: Read Composition at Virginia Tech, Chapter 3, Blog Post #2

M 8/29 Blog post #2 due
In Class: Critical thinking and argument
Homework: Read Composition at Virginia Tech, Chapter 4

W 8/31 In Class: The writing process, group exercise
Homework: Read Composition at Virginia Tech, Chapter 8 and “Finding the Strength to Fight Our Fears” and “I Will Take My Voice Back” in This I Believe II.

F 9/2 In Class: Visual literacy, in-class exercise
Homework: Read “The Braindead Megaphone,” Memoir

M 9/5 Memoir assignment due
In Class: Rhetorical patterns and analysis
Homework: Read excerpt from “The Road to Business Success: A Talk to Young Men” by Andrew Carnegie (posted on Scholar)

W 9/7 In Class: Film: Skid Row (Part 1)
Homework: Listen to Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society Speech” at the following link:

F 9/9 In Class: Film: Skid Row (Part 2)
Homework: Blog Post #3

M 9/12 Blog post #3 due
In Class: Rhetorical Patterns and analysis – group exercise
Homework: Read Composition at Virginia Tech, Chapter 7

W 9/14 In Class: Text and technology, collaboration
Homework: Group analysis exercise

F 9/16 In Class: Writing conventions and structures
Homework: Blog Post #4

M 9/19 Blog post #4 due
In Class: Brainstorming, prewriting, writing process revisited
Homework: Evaluation project
W 9/21
In Class: Evaluation project –group work day
Homework: Evaluation project — group presentation

F 9/23 In Class: Evaluation project — group presentations
Homework: Summary of evaluation project and group presentation

M 9/26 In Class: Evaluation project — group presentations
Homework: Summary of evaluation project and group presentation

W 9/28 Summary of evaluation project and group presentation due
In Class: Finding and analyzing sources
Homework: Read Chapter 1, Essentials of Argument (posted on Scholar), Blog #5

F 9/30 Blog post #5 due
In Class: In-class essay
Homework: Rhetorical analysis

M 10/3 First draft of rhetorical analysis assignment due
In Class: Peer evaluation of rhetorical analysis draft 1
Homework Blog #6

W 10/5 Blog post #6 due
In Class: Public literacy and activism, class exercise
Homework: Rhetorical analysis

F 10/7 Fall Break: No Class

M 10/10 Final draft of rhetorical analysis due
In Class: “Minimum Wage”
Homework: Read the New York Times article found at the following link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/opinion/the-new-resentment-of-the-poor.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha211, Blog #7

W 10/12 Blog post #7 due
In Class: Group exercise relating to “Minimum Wage”
Homework: Group exercise

F 10/14 Bring group exercise to class
In Class: Workshop group exercises
Homework: Read Composition at Virginia Tech, Chapter 5, revise group exercises

M 10/17 Turn in revised group exercise
In Class: Grammar and mechanics – the “top 20”
Homework: Blog #8

W 10/19 Blog post #8 due
In Class: Writing structures and organization
Homework: Select topic for position paper

F 10/21 In Class: Discuss proposed topics for position paper, constructing an argument
Homework: Synopsis of research results, blog #9

M 10/24 Blog post #9 due
In Class: Writing process: planning, prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading
Homework: Position paper – position statement and outline

W 10/26 Bring position paper statement and outline to class
In Class: Style, tone, and usage
Homework: Read “The Home Side of Global Feminism” by Victoria Pruin DeFrancisco, Margaret R. LaWare, and Catherine Helen Palczewski (posted on Scholar), blog #10

F 10/28 Blog post #10 due
In Class: More on argument and analysis
Homework: Draft position paper

M 10/31 First draft position paper due
In Class: Peer review of position paper
Homework: Draft position paper

W 11/2 In Class: Presentation workshop
Homework: Read Composition at Virginia Tech, Chapter 11, Blog #11

F 11/4 Blog post #11 due
In Class: Presentation workshop continued
Homework: Prepare 2-minute speech

M 11/7 In Class: Presentation workshop
Homework: None

W 11/9 In Class: Presentation workshop
Homework: Read Composition at Virginia Tech, Chapter 9, Blog #12

F 11/11 Blog post #12 due
In Class: Writing with visuals
Homework: Blog #13

M 11/14 Blog post #13 due
In Class: Writing with visuals — group exercise
Homework: Draft #2 of position paper

W 11/16 Draft #2 of position paper due
In Class: Writing workshop
Homework: Blog # 14

F 11/18 Blog post #14 due
In Class: Consultations
Homework: Presentation

11/19—11/27: Thanksgiving Break

M 11/28 In Class: Presentations
Homework: Peer evaluations

W 11/30 In Class: Presentations
Homework: Peer evaluations

F 12/2 In Class: Presentations
Homework: Peer evaluations

M 12/5 In Class: Presentations
Homework: Peer evaluations, position paper – final draft

W 12/7 Final draft of position paper due
In Class: Presentations/wrap-up