Throughout the term we have worked on a variety of writing assignments, each designed to develop skills needed for critical analysis and argumentation. On day one of the class we went over our course goals and every assignment or in-class exercise—no matter how mundane or seemingly non-academic the task—was designed specifically in order to meet the course outcomes.
Your job in this portfolio of your work is:
1. To demonstrate to your audience (myself as well as the English Department at Edmonds Community College) that you understand the goals you set out to accomplish.
2. To show me through your writing (point to specific examples) that you successfully achieved these writing goals.
With these goals in mind, you should think of your portfolio as yet another argument—this time you are trying to persuade your audience to agree that you deserve a passing grade in this course because you have met the course outcomes. Hmmm… that sounds a lot like a claim!
Your final portfolio will consist of the following items:
“Left side” of portfolio
3-4 page (single-spaced) reflective cover letter
Final draft of major paper
2 revised short assignments (non-major paper)
“Right side” of portfolio
All remaining unrevised work
Here is a list of writing exercises and analytical activities that you have completed so far:
HW1: Whitman Annotation
HW2: Claim writing: The Onion
HW3: Foucault Summary—draft 1
HW4: Althusser Summary—draft 1
HW5: Revised Foucault/Althusser summaries w/ quote integration HW6: MP#1 Intro w/ claim, and brief organization plan
HW7: Major Paper—draft 1
HW8: TV Commercials (close reading)
HW9: Major Paper Revision Plan
HW10: Major Paper—draft 2
HW11: Major Paper—Reverse outline
Due: Tuesday, June 17th, 11:30am (Drop off in my mailbox—Copy Center—MLT, 1st floor) Step 1: The Cover Letter
You should treat the cover letter with the same seriousness that you would treat either of the major paper assignments. Don’t be fooled just because the formatting is different—it’s still an argumentative piece of writing that needs a clear organizational structure, and that needs to be defended with evidence.
This is, in fact, the highest-stakes piece of writing that you will generate in this course since you are essentially making an argument for your grade. As with all good arguments, you must be able to back up your claims with evidence…which means that you must quote your own work. For example, if you are trying to convince me that you learned how to read rhetorically, show me through one of your assignments where you did this. If you want to prove that you learned to write a claim and there just happens to be a paper comment from your instructor that compliments you on your well-developed claim, use that comment as evidence.
The point is to tell your reader how to interpret your work. The work never explains itself. It’s up to you to tell your reader what to do with this folder full of evidence. As a warning, if you claim to have achieved a particular goal, as your reader, I will go through your work to make sure that what you claim is there is actually there. If you say that you did something, I’m going to look for the proof in your work—and the only pieces I’m going to look through are the revised pieces that you included on the left side of the portfolio.
With that said, select your pieces to revise strategically. Select revision pieces on the basis of what they allow you to argue in the cover letter. If you need to make a case for your ability to make significant content revisions, would it behoove you to pick a piece that doesn’t need a lot of work, or would you be able to make a stronger case by selecting a piece that needs to be overhauled? Those are the types of questions to ask as you select items for revision.
Step 2: The Folder
For this portfolio, I will constantly refer to the “left side” and to the “right side” of the portfolio. By this, I am literally referring to the side of a folder on which you will place particular items.
The left side of the portfolio is where you will place all new/revised pieces of writing that I have not yet read. These are the only pieces that I will read, and on which your final portfolio grade (70% of your total course grade) will be based. Remember, none of your earlier drafts received letter grades, so your portfolio grade is based only on your most polished work.
The right side of the portfolio is where you should place all older drafts of assignments (including in-class writing activities or any papers that did not get revised). I will go through the right side of the portfolio to make sure that all assignments are accounted for—this is an all-or-nothing course, after all—so I will go through and make sure that everything is there.
ENGL 100 Course Outcomes
Expository Writing Goals
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
1. Integrate critical thinking, reading, and writing to analyze college-level texts and to develop college-level analytic/argumentative essays. [REASON]— analyze 2. Adapt writing to audience, context, and purpose by using rhetorical principles at an introductory level. [REASON]—rhetorical awareness 3. Apply the basics of composition principles at an introductory level in order to connect ideas coherently, explain them thoroughly, and arrange them logically. [COMMUNICATE]—organization 4. Demonstrate writing processes by applying various strategies for idea generating, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading. [COMMUNICATE]—revision 5. Use academic sentence-level conventions and style; apply MLA style documentation at an introductory level for college writing. [COMMUNICATE]—presentation
March 18, 2014
Department of English
Edmonds Community College
20000 68th Ave. W.
Lynnwood, WA 98036
I am writing this letter to discuss my strengths and weaknesses as a writer as they apply to the papers I have written for English 131. As I have made clear many times before both in my journals and during conferences, writing has always been a struggle for me. I have always found the whole process of writing a paper to be a subtle form of torture, from establishing a persuasive and viable claim to clearly organizing my thoughts in paragraph form. I would often sit at my computer for hours without writing a single word. I admit that ten weeks is not nearly enough time to develop dramatically as a writer. However, I do believe I have made certain improvements.
Adjusting to college-level writing and expectations has been an interesting process. While some aspects of the class came fairly easily to me, others left me confused and frustrated. More than once, I have gotten a strong urge to write to my high school English teachers to both thank them and scream at them. I wanted to thank them for making me practice writing over and over until I thought I would die, and also for never giving me an A on an essay. At the time, this left me very bitter, but it gave me some idea of what would be expected of me in a college-level English course. On the other hand, I want to ask why in the name of the English god would they continue to teach me to always write my papers in such a strict structure that I would essentially cease to use after high school? While I definitely had to adjust to this new, less strict style of writing, I found that it was both easier, and more effective. My development as a college-level writer can be seen through three short papers ("The Pros and Cons of Bilingual Education," "La CASA Latina Provides a Haven for Immigrant Workers," and "For What It's Worth: An Anthem of Protest"), and my second major paper ("The Bonds of Language: The Role of English in the Lives of Hispanic Immigrants"). These assignments demonstrate my successes (and failures) as a persuasive writer.
Before I took this English 131, I had never heard the term "intertextuaI." At first, it was difficult for me to understand, hut while I worked on writing "The Pros and Cons of Bilingual Education," I began to understand the concept of a "conversation between texts." In "The Pros and Cons of Bilingual Education," we were given the assignment of contrasting two articles with opposing views which related to our research topic. This essay required me to have a thorough understanding of the two texts I chose, and to contrast them effectively. I claimed that "while Charles Krauthammer and Domenico Maceri both believe language is the key to successful integration, they present opposing arguments on bilingual education." In terms of formatting, I chose to devote separate paragraphs to each article to describe and summarize them, rather than jumping back and forth between the two texts describing how each of them argues about specific points. In this way, I accomplished the concept of an intertextual essay. I proved how the two articles related to each other. The most difficult aspect of this class for me was adapting my writing style to make it the most effective for my audience. I had always been asked to write papers that were appropriate for an "academic" or "intellectual" audience, like we were asked to do in Major Paper 2. However, I believe that "La CASA Latina Provides a Haven for Immigrant Workers" was my greatest success in writing for a specific audience that was not" academic." In "CASA Latina," I modified my writing style to make it more appealing to a reader of a newspaper like the Seattle Times. A newspaper reader does not want to spend a lot of time reading an article, so I had to make certain adjustments: During revision, I added paragraph breaks to create shorter sections. This helps the reader move quickly through the paper, like they would through a newspaper article. I had to deviate from my usual sentence structure to make it easy to understand. Instead of long, complex sentences, I used short statements that were more "to the point": "Since 1999, the center has provided over 2000 workers with temporary and long term jobs. Wage Claim Project is a program encouraging immigrants to seek compensation for wages that employers may have kept from them. English as a Second Language Classes are held free of charge for adults at CASA Latina's Worker Center six days a week." This excerpt is also a good example of a summary that is brief while also successfully communicating information. Additionally, the introduction had to be significantly shorter than I would usually choose to make. it, because this specific audience would want to get straight to the important information. The new title that I added, also catches the reader's attention more than the "La CASA Latina Provides a Voice to Immigrant Workers," and makes them interested enough to begin reading the article. While I did not make many dramatic revisions to "CASA Latina," it clearly demonstrates my ability to change my writing style to appeal to a specific audience.
Another difficult concept for me to grasp was breaking free of the equation-like structure when creating a claim and supporting it with relevant evidence. A claim does not necessarily have to be a thesis statement made of the last two sentences in the perfectly funneled introduction. A claim does not have to be explicitly stated as long as there is sufficient evidence provided to get the message across. In "For What It's Worth: An Anthem of Protest," I was given the task of proving that the song of my choice, "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield, was inherently American. I also had to demonstrate how the song used language that deviated from Standard English. In "For What It's Worth," I did state my claim in the introduction, arguing that "both the genre and subject matter make this song inherently American." This became a viable argument because of all of the evidence from the song that I supplied. The evidence made me a more credible writer, so my audience was more likely to understand my argument and be persuaded.
However, it is not enough to just supply quotations. To make reading as easy as possible for the reader, quotations must be integrated smoothly into the writing. My best example of successful quote integration is in "The Bonds of Language: The Role of English in the Lives of Hispanic Immigrants." In the fourth paragraph, I discuss the acquisition of English by Spanish-speaking immigrants and how it affects their lives. To support my claim, I include quotations from articles about Hispanic immigrants. To make sure that the paragraph flowed properly and the audience would not have trouble reading it, I had to take special care when incorporating my quotes. I made sure they fit in my sentences so they could be read without pausing: Linguists claim that acquisition of a second language "is governed by maturational constraints that may be biologically based." The interaction of both aspects affects immigrants' ability to learn English (Lynn, par. 4). Typically, immigrants who enter the United States as adults are not exposed to English very often. A 2007 study by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington found that 28 percent of Hispanic immigrants speak only Spanish in the workplace (Gorman, par. 26) This excerpt from "The Bonds of Language: The Role of English in the Lives of Hispanic Immigrants" is a good demonstration of my ability to smoothly incorporate quotations into my writing to strengthen my argument.
While I am by no means a perfect writer, I have demonstrated some of my writing strengths in the four papers that I discussed in this letter. I feel that I fully understand how to support my argument using evidence, both by choosing relevant and useful quotations, and by successfully and seamlessly integrating them into my writing. With this evidence, I can validate the claim of my paper. I have also learned how to change my writing style for different situations, as demonstrated in "La Casa Latina Provides a Haven for Hispanic Immigrants." I am no longer limited to writing to an academic audience. Over the course of this class, I have further developed and strengthened my writing abilities, as clearly demonstrated in the examples in this letter. However, there are a few areas that I feel I still need to work on. For just one example, I must avoid leaving my audience "hanging." I cannot make the assumption that my reader knows what I am talking about and agrees with me. I must take care to fully develop the thoughts I choose to discuss in my writing. English 131 has definitely helped solidify my foundation knowledge as a writer. This course has given me much more confidence in my writing abilities. I am secure about my own skills as a writer to effectively communicate my argument to a specific audience. Perhaps writing a paper will come more easily and will no longer seem like an impossible, painful task
[Type full name]
18 March 2014
Department of English
Edmonds Community College
20000 68th Ave. W.
Lynnwood, WA 98036
I am writing this letter to you in order to thank you for teaching me to walk the paths of college writing with the ability to bend words to my will in order to produce eloquent papers. Yeah right. The above sentence was an example of something I might have written fresh out of high school, where writing is simple. It is a place where introductions encompass the universe, and then, through a miraculously short transition, comes the thesis. Writing was as easy as ABC. Upon arriving at the University of Washington I was introduced to the full alphabet; forced to say goodbye to this oversimplified robotic writing style. It was replaced with a more abstract approach; where the claim was introduced. Unlike the high school thesis, the college claim sometimes shows up in the introduction, and sometimes it is not fully revealed until the conclusion. To arrive at this claim one must use appropriate style, tone, employ tools of rhetoric, carefully analyze evidence, and use texts in a purposeful manner. All the while one must remember who one is writing for, in order to effectively argue a claim. By no means have I perfected the art of writing. However, throughout the course of English 131 I have produced several papers which encompass many aspects of this writing strategy.
My research paper, "Los Estudiantes and the Non-Nons," looks into the current state of affairs of Mexican American education. The paper's foundation lies on the fact that Mexican American students struggle in U.S. schools and the current system set up does not address these students needs. It argues that the educators of today need to come together and change the current system to take into account the significant faults that the system has. The first two paragraphs introduce the issue and provide necessary background information for the reader. The paper then delves into the changes that need to happen building upon the common hardships that these students have through a study on the College Assistance Migrant Program, conducted by Professor of Education, Reynaldo Reyes. The introductory paragraphs lead smoothly into the first point that I make in my paper, transitioning with "these students don't start out with the same learning environment, causing them to struggle. Very few programs available for students address the common hardships that these students have"(2). The smooth transitions help connect the paragraphs, resulting in a fluid paper. Even the texts analyzed in the study connect with each other by supporting the common goal of improving Mexican American education. The complexity of the task of improving Mexican American education is highlighted by the way the body paragraphs analyze the school contexts of their education as well as, the goals of current programs and the effects of personal hardships that these students have. The complexity of the task caused me to overlook certain aspects of the topic when writing the paper. In paragraph four, you pointed out in your comments that other bilingual students will be having similar situations. I changed the wording of the last sentence from "Eliminating the gaps of knowledge of bilingual teaching" (4) to "Eliminating the gaps of knowledge of Mexican American ELL teaching" (4) in order to keep my argument about a specific ethnic group. This paper been edited several times, involving changes of content, grammar and spelling. These changes helped the paper evolve into a developed five page paper from an underdeveloped two and a half page paper. The major paper encompasses most of the ideas brought up from the outcomes for expository writing. The shorter papers, written in the course were more specific and thus often only touched upon certain outcomes, lacking the length to effectively incorporate all of the English 131 course outcomes.
The most difficult of the short papers for me was what I originally titled "Drawing to Conclusions" and eventually renamed it "Fire and Ice." I liked my ideas of the original paper, but I found that it lacked structure and jumped from one point to another without fully analyzing the first point. For example in the second paragraph of "Drawing to Conclusions" I mention how Baldwin's essay is very direct and uses aggressive language and then jump to Borgman without providing any support about what I said about Baldwin's paper. After introducing Borgman I went back to Baldwin and, in short, this paper was the equivalent of a puzzle with the pieces in all of the wrong places. When I rewrote the paper I set it up with a longer introduction, not rushing in to the topic and then I have two distinct paragraphs, one on Baldwin's essay and the other on Borgman's cartoon. This final version highlights the need to assess the effects of one's writing choices and changing them when they don't fit the purpose of the claim. This alone does not mean one is writing effectively, one must also be able to write to a specific audience. For instance, if Martin Luther King Jr. gave all of his speeches in iambic pentameter I doubt he would have been such a profound leader.
One short paper I wrote that demonstrates the importance of writing to a specific audience is the paper, "One for All or All for Nothing." The target audience I had for this paper was the readers of the Seattle Times. Writing to a newspaper audience is very different than writing to an academic audience. The paragraphs of this paper are short and concise, often only three or four sentences long. Each paragraph has one specific message that it communicates, enabling the reader to be able to skim through the paper while still retaining the message. An example of this is the second paragraph. The first sentence talks about how Seattle's government website has useful information for minorities and the next two sentences emphasize this point by providing three examples of useful information and mentioning that there is much more than just those three point available. Had this been an academic paper, such a paragraph like this would need to encompass why that information is important for minorities, what minorities and how does the website provide this information. Demonstrating an awareness of the writing context is part of the writing process. Another part of the writing process is synthesizing texts and incorporating multiple kinds of evidence purposefully. This is no easy feat; it requires a full understanding of what one is using as a text and how this relates to other texts and the claim at hand.
My short paper, "Putting ELLs in Context," draws together the ideas from two studies to emphasize the importance of changing the way Mexican American students get taught in American schools. After introducing the two studies, one conducted by Callahan, Wilkinson, and Muller and the other by Kathy Escamilla, the paper ties the major ideas of each paper together in the third paragraph. It opens with, "Both of these studies address the issue of Mexican-origin students' performances in academics," (2) establishing the common ground between the two studies. After which I mention the differences in the study. I go on say, "Although these two studies differ in what aspects of Mexican origin student education, they both acknowledge that this is a problem that needs to be dealt with" (2). This sentence both acknowledges the differences between them while at the same time bringing them together under the common problem that they address.
These examples of my writing highlight specific parts of them and show how they ,exemplify the course outcomes of English 131. My work does not perfectly execute every single bullet point of the course outcomes, rather it incorporates the main ideas of each outcome and, depending on the paper, uses the specific aspects of each main idea that are useful for that paper. Having a logical organization and train of thought for supporting a claim is something that my papers each do in their context. Each paper has a different means of doing this. For example, the "Los Estudiantes and the Non-Nons" clearly has a different tone and structure from "One for All or All for Nothing." Taking into account these differences and the different contexts of each paper, my writing, to the best of its current abilities, has utilized the concepts of the English 131 course outcomes to produce papers that make a complex argument about something that relevant issue.
[Type full name]