Lorin Milotta’s 1105 Syllabus

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

Welcome to English 1105, an introduction to college level writing. With an emphasis on rhetorical analysis, critical reading, and critical thinking, this course introduces the student writer to the ways that purpose, audience, occasion, and genre are crucial aspects to any writing situation. Students explore these aspects of writing through a variety of written, spoken, and visual assignments. In addition to producing a variety of texts, students will explore the various processes of writing. This course is a writing workshop focused on writing as a kind of inquiry (the act of seeking knowledge) and the critical thinking that occurs while we write—not before we write. We’ll engage in various stages of invention, critical reading, drafting, revision, and editing as we complete a range of writing activities—from personal narratives to argument essays—that include primary and secondary research.  As we write, we will discuss everything from getting a first sentence on the page to revising a final draft. Together as a class we will learn about ourselves as writers, readers, and thinkers and about how this course can help us continue to write as we move through college and beyond.

This course, like all courses at VT, has outcomes explaining what students should achieve in the course.  The outcomes listed here are the goals we are working toward, and the course was created to best help you meet those goals:

Learning Outcomes How We’ll Meet Them
Gain knowledge of composition’s rhetorical dimensions
  • Write for different rhetorical situations (audience, purpose, genre)
  • Produce texts with a controlling idea (one main idea that focuses the text; a thesis statement), appropriate support for claims, and appropriate conventions of format and structure
Use writing as a tool for critical thinking and reflection
  • Critically read texts for main ideas and claims, for use of genre conventions, for rhetorical strategy, and for the position of the author
  • Summarize, respond to, and critique texts
Practice writing as a process via using multiple brainstorming, invention,
revision, and editing strategies 





  • Receive feedback on your writing from peers and the instructor
  • Write multiple revisions that might include substantive changes in ideas, structure, and supporting evidence
  • Edit texts according to the conventions of Edited American English
Write in several genres that utilize analysis, reflection, narrative, critique,
and argument skills 


  • Write multiple assignments in several genres (types)
  • Find, evaluate, analyze, synthesize, and cite appropriate sources to inform and situate your own claims
Practice using the conventions of written, spoken, and visual composition
  • Provide information to peers and instructor via written, spoken, and visual presentation
Practice writing and creating in digital environments
  • Incorporate multi-modalities to create text-based and visual compositions

Required Texts and Materials

  • Composition at Virginia Tech (CAVT), Pearson, 2011.
  • Excerpts from The Curious Writer (TCW), 3rd Ed. Pearson, 2010. (available on Scholar)
  • Supplemental Readings (on Scholar)
  • Regular access to Scholar via Mozilla Firefox
  • VT email account (and you should check this often, as this will be my primary way of getting in touch with you)



[Note:  Except for in-class writings, everything you turn in should be typed, and should be submitted to the appropriate Scholar Dropbox, as a MS Word document (.doc ONLY) unless otherwise instructed.]

1) Major Assignments

We’ll be producing three major assignments in the course.  Each piece will go through subsequent drafts and revisions, and can be revised throughout the semester.

Portfolio 1:          Personal Narrative

Portfolio 2:          Group Ethnography with Visuals and Presentation

Portfolio 3:          Argument Essay

Before each assignment is due, you’ll receive detailed instructions explaining each portfolio.


2) Daily Work and Participation

Daily work and participation includes reading assignments, in-class writings, informal out-of-class writings (such as the Writing History Letter), pop quizzes, whole-class or group discussions, written feedback to peers, etc.  This work, while informal, will be some of the most important work we do for the course, and while each piece is ungraded, they are a part of your final portfolio grade (see below) and not doing them adequately (or not doing them at all) can hamper your grade. The goal of this daily work is to generate ideas and thinking on the page, not about having a finished product.


3) Drafts/Workshops
For each major writing assignment, you will be asked to submit preliminary drafts to be workshopped in small groups, by the whole class, and/or by me.  Each draft should include an author’s note explaining to readers: 1) the state of your draft (first draft, final, etc.) and what you were trying to accomplish in this draft; 2) what you think is going well; and 3) what you are having trouble with or would like advice on.  Failure to submit full drafts when due can affect your portfolio grade for each assignment.  Prior to workshops, you are expected to read your peers’ drafts carefully and provide a thoughtful, substantive response.  During the semester, you will be asked to evaluate the performance of your peers as responders, and the evaluations you receive from others will contribute to my final evaluation of your work.

4) Conference
Early in the semester, we’ll meet one-on-one to discuss your goals and work for the course.  When we meet, please come prepared—you will plan the agenda for our time together.  Attendance is required for these conferences—if you need to reschedule, contact me ahead of time.  Conferences will not be rescheduled due to lateness or an unexcused absence.


5) Rhetorical Analyses
You will produce a total of 4 rhetorical analyses, one for each essay portfolio and one for your final project. These are due at the beginning of class.  The purpose of rhetorical analyses is threefold:  1) to prepare you for class discussion; 2) to generate ideas for your own essays through analyzing readings and becoming acquainted with each genre; and 3) to practice writing brief analysis papers common in academic writing you’ll do in college. Late rhetorical analyses will not be accepted. Rhetorical analyses should be 700-1000 words (2-3 pages).


6) Final Project and Presentation
During our scheduled final exam time you will give a brief presentation, and part of your presentation grade will be based on asking questions of others’ presentations.  The presentation is meant to demonstrate the learning and thinking you’ve done in the course, and you’ll receive more details as we move into the semester.

You must complete all major assignments and requirements in order to pass this course.

Course Policies and VT Information/Resources

Improvement in writing is a complex process that requires lots of practice and feedback from readers. Regular attendance is necessary to your success in this course. Only official university absences are excused, and students participating in a university-mandated activity that requires missing class should provide official documentation of schedules and turn in work in advance. All unexcused absences will affect your grade adversely, and six unexcused absences constitutes grounds for failure of the course. Absences due to illness, sleeping, and long weekends are NOT excused. Students whose absences are due to circumstances beyond their control may appeal this policy by scheduling a meeting with the Dean of Students.

For each portfolio assignment of the semester, you’ll turn in a first draft, a second draft (both drafts MUST include author’s notes), and the feedback you gave others during peer response workshops.  These components will make up a “Pencil Grade” (or tentative grade) on the portfolio. You may choose to make the Pencil Grade a “Firm Grade” for the portfolio (meaning it will be the grade recorded for the semester), or you may choose to substantively revise the essay again. (Revising the essay doesn’t guarantee the grade will be improved; we’ll talk much more in-depth early on in the semester about making the decision whether or not to revise.)  You may not revise any other part of the portfolio.  If you want to resubmit an essay portfolio, you must first meet with me by the scheduled deadline (see class schedule for due dates). This will require some advance planning. If you don’t meet with me by the deadline, your Pencil Grade will automatically become a Firm Grade for the course (Note: if you meet with me and then decide not to revise, there is not a penalty—your Pencil Grade will simply convert to a Firm Grade). You’ll receive a handout that explains in more detail how the portfolios are graded as the class gets underway.  In preparation for constructing your portfolios, please keep all of the writing that you do for this class—rhetorical analyses, drafts (including those with my comments and those of your peers), in-class writing, etc., together.  SAVE ALL WRITING YOU DO FOR THIS COURSE!  Make sure you save each version on your computer as well.

It is important to remember that simply fulfilling the minimum requirements of the course warrants an average grade (as in C), not an A.  Coming to class every day and doing assignments is not something that earns “extra credit” or an automatic A; it’s expected by your being in the course.  A higher grade will be based on the distinctive quality and development of your work, on your ability to guide a piece of writing through the various stages of revision, and on a willingness to explore new subjects, genres, and techniques. Below is a thumbnail breakdown of how I view letter grades; as we move into the semester you’ll receive more detailed descriptions and we’ll talk more about how I evaluate your writing:

A—excellent overall; exceeds requirements
B—good with some excellent aspects; exceeds requirements in some areas
C—adequate; meets requirements
D—mostly adequate with some unacceptable aspects; does not meet requirements in some areas
F—unacceptable overall; does not meet requirements in most or all areas

Grade Breakdown:

Portfolio 1 (Personal Narrative):                                                      15%

-Writing History Letter

-Daily Work and Participation

-Peer Response Workshops

-First Draft

-Revised Draft

-Resubmission (if any)

Portfolio 2 (Group Ethnography):                                                 25% (total)

-Daily Work and Participation

-Peer Response Workshops

-First Draft (Collaborative)

-Revised Draft (Collaborative)

-Resubmission (if any)

-Individual Reflection                                                          -5%

-Group Presentation                                                            -10%

Portfolio 3  (Argument Essay):                                                     30% (total)

-Daily Work and Participation

-Research Report and Annotated Bibliography -10%

-Peer Response Workshops

-First Draft

-Revised Draft

-Resubmission (if any)

Rhetorical Analyses (4)                                                                20% (4 @ 5% each)

Final Project and Presentation                                                     10%


Late Work
Work will be due at the assigned deadline and will be considered late thereafter. Late papers will be penalized one letter grade for each day beyond the due date unless a) the student has an official university absence and b) the instructor has agreed to late submission in advance of the due date. Note: This course relies heavily on technology, so you will need to have reliable access to the internet, which is always available in several places (including the library) on campus.  Problems with technology (i.e.: computer crash, printer malfunction, internet connectivity issues, etc.) are NOT acceptable excuses for submitting late work. Also, please note that some assignments related to this course will be submitted online through Scholar before the next day’s class.

Classroom Atmosphere and Principles of Community:
I envision our classroom as a place where all of us can share our ideas, thoughts, and questions without fear of being made fun of or embarrassed. Our classroom interaction will be based on the VT Principles of Community, which can be found at:  http://www.vt.edu/diversity/principles-of-community.html .

Office Hours: 
During the office hours posted above, I will be in my office and available to talk with you about any questions, comments, or concerns you have about the course.  Please stop by and see me. If the hours don’t work for you, please make an appointment with me.  If you would prefer to email me, please realize that I will only respond to student emails M-F from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  I may not be able to respond to you immediately, so please plan ahead.

Policies and Procedures for Students with Disabilities:
Any student with special needs or circumstances should feel free to meet with me during office hours to discuss appropriate accommodations for your success in the course.  In addition, please refer to the Services for Students with Disabilities website:  http://www.ssd.vt.edu/ .

Academic Conduct Policy
Refer to the VT Undergraduate Honor System (quoted below): http://www.honorsystem.vt.edu/ .

“The Virginia Tech Honor Code embodies a spirit of mutual trust and intellectual honesty that is central to the very nature of the university, and represents the highest possible expression of shared values among the members of the university community. The fundamental beliefs underlying and reflected in the Honor Code are:

  • That trust in a person is a positive force in making that person worthy of trust,
  • That every student has the right to live in an academic environment that is free from the injustices caused by any form of intellectual dishonesty, and
  • That the honesty and integrity of all members of the university community contribute to its quest for Truth.

“The functions of the Honor System are: to communicate the meaning and importance of intellectual honesty to all students of the University; to articulate and support the interest of the community in maintaining the highest standards of conduct in academic affairs; and to identify, sanction, and educate those who fail to live up to the stated expectations of the university community with regard to these standards.”

Any form of academic dishonesty—including plagiarism—will not be tolerated.