ENGL 11000: Freshman Composition

(EC4, #14834

Fall 2023, 3 credits, 4 hours 

Instructor:​ Tim Dalton (he/him/his)

Instructor’s Email:​

Instructor’s Office: NAC 6/332-D

Instructor’s Zoom Link (as needed):

Instructor’s Office Hours for Students:​ T/H 12:30pm-1:30pm

Course number: ENG 11000 EC4 (#14834) 

Class Dates & Times​:​ T/H, 2:00pm-3:15pm 

Classroom:​ NAC 6/304

Course Site (on CUNY Academic Commons):

Daily Schedule, Activities, & Homework: 

Course Site (for today’s class) & “Chalkboard”

Course Description

Welcome to your first-year composition (writing) course! This semester we’ll explore the connections between writing, reading, rhetoric, and critical thinking. You’ll practice writing for different purposes and audiences, and you’ll both give and receive substantial feedback on your and others’ writing. As learning from each other will be a large part of what we do, you are expected to be an active participant in the classroom community.  

Section Description

For the purposes of building our critical reading and thinking practices, we will engage several readings on a shared course topic of inquiry: “The Politics of Language.” We can understand this course as drawing on the topic of language and literacy as a vehicle for critically analyzing and developing our own languages and literacies. We will explore questions such as these: What is the relationship between language, race, and power? How do attitudes about language standards empower and oppress language users? What are the historical and political implications behind how “Standard English” is valued and traditionally approached? How are we—the readers and writers participating in this class—affected by the ways that language and literacy function in the U.S.? That is, how do our language backgrounds affect our lived experiences and how we are perceived and treated by others? 

Course Texts and Materials

This is a “ZERO Textbook Cost” course. As such, all materials will be accessible on Blackboard and CUNY Academic Commons. We will also read a collection of student writing (yours, your peers’, and others’). Please either print or have digital access to all course documents and materials for class.


You will need regular access to:

  1. Blackboard (CCNY’s online teaching support system where you’ll access and submit materials)
  2. CUNY Academic Commons (where you’ll create a digital portfolio)
  3. Word-processing software of your choice: Microsoft Office, Office365 (available for free to CCNY students), Google Docs, etc. No matter what you use, please save all documents as .doc or docx files and please no links, PDFs, or Pages files.

Course​ ​Learning​ ​Outcomes 

First-Year Composition Mission Statement: “First-year composition (FYC) courses at CCNY teach writing as a recursive and frequently collaborative process of invention, drafting, and revising. Writing is both personal and social, and students should learn how to write for different purposes and audiences. Since writing is a process of making meaning and communicating, FYC teachers respond mainly to the content of students’ writing as well as to recurring surface errors. Students should expect frequent written and oral responses on the content of their writing from their teachers and peers. Classes rely heavily on a workshop format. Instruction emphasizes the connection between writing, reading, and critical thinking; students should give thoughtful, reasoned responses to the readings. Both reading and writing are the subjects of class discussions and workshops, and students are expected to be active participants in the classroom community. Learning from each other will be a large part of the classroom experience.” 

Students successfully completing a composition course will demonstrate ability to:

  • Examine how attitudes towards linguistic standards and differences empower and oppress language users.
  • Explore and analyze, in writing and reading, a variety of genres and rhetorical situations.
  • Develop strategies for reading, drafting, collaborating, revising, and editing.
  • Recognize and practice key rhetorical terms and strategies when engaged in writing situations.
  • Engage in the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes.
  • Develop and engage in the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes.
  • Understand and use print and digital technologies to address a range of audiences
  • Locate research sources (including academic journal articles, magazine and newspaper articles) in the library’s databases or archives and on the Internet and evaluate them for credibility, accuracy, timeliness, and bias.
  • Compose texts that integrate your stance with appropriate sources using strategies such as summary, critical analysis, interpretation, synthesis, and argumentation.
  • Practice systematic application of citation conventions.

Grading Contracts

For this course, we will use a version of a grading contract, which composition scholar Melissa Watson has defined as “a system of grades that are based primarily on your labors and efforts.” That means that your final course letter grade will be based on your participation, attendance, and successful completion of assignments and revisions. Like Prof. Watson, whose model of grading contracts I adapt here, I will “continue to hold high standards for completing assignments fully and effectively,” but hope that contract grading will “invite you to feel more comfortable taking risks, making mistakes, and being transparent about your questions and stances.” 

The grading contract includes all the major assignments that make up your grade for the term. These assignments, as you’ll see on Blackboard, are scaffolded (or staged) into discrete parts. Generally speaking, work that is complete and on time receives all these points. With exceptions for true emergencies, even if you are absent, you are still responsible for submitting work that’s due on time. If you do that, you’ll earn the points allotted to that assignment. Work can be revised with a reasonable time frame (usually around a week — I’ll specify it in my comments to you if that’s needed). 

You agree to strive to follow academic integrity policies and expectations, to complete all readings, all writing activities, and to turn in all assignments on time and complete. The only way a student could not earn those points is through some violation of academic integrity, such as plagiarism.

Grading Breakdown

The major assignments and their stages make up 90 percent of your grade. See below for details on these assignments, their stages, and their deadlines. This 90 percent figure can be tracked on Blackboard throughout the semester and is numerical. Percentages convert to letter grades as follows: 93-100 (A); 90-93 (A-); 87-89 (B+); 83-86 (B); 80-83 (B-); 77-79 (C+); 73-77 (C); 70-72 (C-); D (60-69); F (0-59). 

The remaining ten percent of your grade is based on my observations of your work in class. Educators call this formative assessment. (Major essays are summative assessments. Now you know!) 

Obviously, success in this formative assessment starts with attending class. I take attendance and monitor participation (see below for those policies). I also take into account what I interpret as your work to do what grading contracts are supposed to encourage: risk-taking, mistake-making, transparency as you learn, and meaningful progress around what constitutes ‘effort,’ how to ‘manage’ time, and what “high quality” work looks like in college. If you ever have any stress or anxiety about this ten percent of your grade, please see me in student hours or drop me an email. This aspect of the course is also something we address during several conference hours over the course of the semester.


The 90 percent of your grade made up of completion of the major writing assignments—the summative assessments—is composed of five staged writing exercises: a literacy narrative, a rhetorical analysis, a researched essay, a digital portfolio, and a self-assessment. To build up to these, you’ll do a lot of (formatively-assessed) informal work—reading, freewriting, listing, sketching, imagining, translating, and more. In-class writing and discussions are essential preparations for each of these four exercises. Similarly, peer feedback is an essential part of the grade for these more challenging pieces of writing. Work in these smaller-scale tasks prepares you for the ‘stages’ of each major assignment. I may comment on or refer to informal work while assessing a stage of a ‘major’ assignment you’ve turned in to Blackboard for part of the 90 percent of your summative grade. Long story short: reading, research, and informal presentation of your ideas are part of the way you’ll be graded. Generally, if you follow the instructions, participate in a meaningful way in the preparatory work in class, complete the attempt on time, and conduct yourself with academic integrity, you’ll earn all the available points. 

  • Language & Literacy Narrative | Assignment Prompt
    • Stage 1: Peer Editing (Mindmap / Web / Sketch): Due H, Sept 7 (bring a copy to class) 
    • Stage 2: Conference Draft: Due M, Sept 11 by 11:59pm / W, Sept 13 by 11:59pm to Bb 
    • Stage 3: Spoken Draft: Due M, Sept 18 by 11:59pm 
    • Stage 4: Take-Home Peer Review of Spoken Drafts: Due T, Sept 26, to Bb 
    • Stage 5: Revision: Due H, Sept 28 by 2:00pm to Bb (hard copy) 
    • Stage 6: Graded, Proofread Revision: Due F, Sept 29 by 11:59pm to Bb
    • Stage 7: Portfolio Version: Due T, Oct 31 by 11:59pm to your digital portfolio
  • Rhetorical Analysis & Peer Profile | Assignment Prompt 
    • Stage 1: Part 1 (10 on 1): Due H, Oct 5 by 2:00pm to Bb (bring digital copy to class)
    • Stage 2: Peer Interviews: Due T, Oct 17 by 2:00pm to Bb (bring digital copy to class)
    • Stage 3: Part 2 (Peer Profile, Peer Edit): Due W, Oct 19 by 11:59pm to Bb + Google Docs
    • Stage 4: Graded Revision: Due H, Oct 26 by 11:00am to Bb
    • Stage 5: Portfolio Version: Due H, Nov 16 by 11:59pm to your digital portfolio 
  • The Researched Essay | Assignment Prompt
    • Stage 1: Proposal: Due H, Nov 2, by 11:59pm to Bb (bring 2+ copies to class) 
    • Stage 2: Peer Editing Draft: Due M, Nov 13 by 11:59pm to Bb AND Google Docs 
    • Stage 3: Graded Revision: Due T, Nov 21 by 11:00am to Bb
    • Stage 4: Portfolio Version: Due H, Dec 7 by 11:59pm to your digital portfolio
  • Self-Assessment and Portfolio | Assignment Prompt

See individual paper assignments for deadlines related to the portfolio versions of these essays. 

  • Stage 1: In-Class Reflection, L&L Essay: Due H, Sept 28 by 11:59pm to Bb
  • Stage 2: In-Class Reflection, RA & PP Essay: Due H, Oct 26 by 11:59pm to Bb
  • Stage 3: In-Class Reflection, Researched Essay: Due T, Nov 21 by 11:59pm to Bb
  • Stage 4: Reflective Activities: In-class work, throughout mid-November
  • Stage 5: In-Class Drafting, Self Assessment: T, Nov 21
  • Stage 6: Conference Draft: Due M, Nov 27 by 11:59pm / W, Nov 29 by 11:59pm to Bb  
  • Stage 7: Presentation Draft of Self Assessment: Due T, Dec 5 by 11:00am to Bb
  • Stage 8: Revision of Self-Assessment and Final Digital Portfolio: Due Dec 14 to Bb

Academic Integrity 

This is explained more fully below, but basically, I expect you to demonstrate academic integrity by:

  • having no more than 4 absences or 8 partial attendances (leaving early, coming late)
  • ignoring no essay or its stages, and completing formal writing initially noted as “incomplete”
  • demonstrating an understanding of MLA-style citation and other key academic conventions
  • progressing towards consistently producing digital writing that is accessible to a range of readers
  • effectively and regularly participating in class, especially in freewrites (writing and sharing)

Students not meeting any one of the above criteria lose 10-20% of their formative assessment grade. 

Policies Designed to Support Academic Integrity

Sometimes “academic integrity” is used as a synonym for “plagiarism.” I think of “integrity” differently. To me, academic integrity is the sum total of behaviors, language, and rituals that allow us to show respect to our peers and our predecessors in this academic endeavor. The policies below aim to reflect that. Please think of each as a potential way to express your integrity. 


Part of academic integrity is the recognition of others’ ideas as theirs, and of yours as your own. Copying and using other people’s words and original ideas without acknowledgment or citation is called plagiarism. All of your writing for this course should be your own, and if academic dishonesty is detected, serious consequences ensue—you may fail the project or entire course, and worst-case scenarios can lead to academic probation or expulsion. If you have a question about whether or not something is plagiarism, please ask. Sometimes that kind of conversation is an important first step towards taking an idea that has inspired your thinking and making it your own—something that’s at the core of what we’re trying to do in this class. Please also familiarize yourself with CCNY’s Policy on Academic Integrity

Attendance and Participation 

I expect you to attend every class, and will take attendance at the start of each period. However, life being what it is, I recognize that people get late and things come up. Attendance and timeliness won’t lower your grade until after four absences or eight partially attended classes (that is, a person who arrives after attendance has been taken). In such cases, each full absence will result in the deduction of one point from the end of term grade. If there are extenuating circumstances, like illness, that bear a conversation, let me know and we can see what can be done. 

Participation involves regular, active attendance in our class sessions and with our digital tools, effective collaboration with others, demonstrations of resilience, a sense of humor when things get tough, engagement with feedback from your readers, and a genuine curiosity about the work. Places I look for this include but aren’t limited to: helpful peer editing, bold prose, prepared conference attendance, invigorated involvement with readings and research, and otherwise unbridled curiosity and enthusiasm for the work we’re so lucky to be doing in this class. One place I look for this in particular is in your engagement with the in-class freewriting sessions. 

I expect freewriting to be a time to move the pen and work with language. That means you’ll be ready to start when we all start; that you’ll keep writing no matter what; that you won’t get distracted by a device or another person; that you’ll work through confusion in a productive, independent way; and that you share your work, in part or in its entirety, regularly. This is not to add pressure to the freewrite, but rather to build a sense of sharing among us. 


Accountability is another form of integrity, and one way to show that is to meet deadlines. I set deadlines so that we can engage with each other’s work. Deadlines also help keep writing from being an overwhelming task. Deadlines on Blackboard are typically 11:59pm; however, SOME assignments will be due at the start of class (11:00am); others will be due at 11:59pm the previous night. Pay attention! I’ll remind you about these procedures, but the best way to avoid stress is to stay on top of the work. 

If you need more time with a formal assignment, let me know before the deadline arrives. With formal assignments, I almost always grant brief extensions, usually 24-48 hours. If we adjust an aspect of the assignment, be accountable for meeting your obligations. If you get an extension, please meet it without reminders. 


Another part of academic integrity is access. This class and its instructor operate under the assumption that all of us learn in varied ways. Part of our work together will be examining some ways of “positioning” the identities of our narrating selves while/by describing our own (current, malleable) tendencies, habits, and personal traits. Even if you do not have a formally diagnosed disability, in this technologically distanced environment I welcome dialogue about what makes you most engaged as a learner—and what sorts of approaches aren’t working as well as they could. If you do have a diagnosed disability and are registered with the AccessAbility office to receive accommodations, please communicate this as soon as possible. If you need to register with that office, contact them by email at The registration process can take some time—having been both a student and an instructor who has required accommodations myself, I can attest to this firsthand. 

Diversity Statement 

Building on the above statement, and seeing diversity as a strength of our class, I should emphasize just how much we’ll learn from the different perspectives and experiences we each bring to the table. I’ll expect comments to respect CCNY’s written code of community standards. This helps me facilitate our City College class and our virtual campus as “a place where all people are welcome, protected, and celebrated…a place where your experiences, perspectives and identity will be respected.” You can read the entire “We Are One CCNY” statement, from which that quote comes, here.

College Resources

One last way to think about academic integrity is this: students should have it, teachers should have it, but colleges themselves need to have it, too. One way colleges show integrity to their students is by offering support services. 

I invite you to add to this list over the semester by emailing me resources that have helped you. 

Conventions of Academic Work

We’ll do a lot of different kinds of writing in this class, but I wouldn’t be showing integrity myself if I pretended that the main one we’re here to engage in is academic writing. To do that, we’ll need to learn some conventions of that kind of reading and writing (literacy). Part of that is the exciting world of formatting and citation style. 

 Conventions are not so much “rules” as “guides.” At all points, you’ll have opportunities to draw on your existing knowledge and ways of articulating, framing, addressing, and complicating problems. 

MLA is not just about how a paper looks. It’s about where the work falls in a bigger conversation—and part of that is the information you draw on to develop your ideas. These are your citations. Something we’ll talk and think about over time is citation practices—an idea that exists alongside citation formatting, in which the academic writer intentionally highlights certain voices. 


Note: All necessary details and instructions are always on the “Chalkboard” and on our course site. 

T, Aug 29: Introduce the course’s goals, learning activities, tools, and participants

H, Aug 31: Go over syllabus, Bb, Commons; Exploratory writing, Language & Literacies (L&L) essay

T, Sept 5: Discuss Hughes; exploratory writing

H, Sept 7: Discuss Tan; exploratory writing

T, Sept 12: Conference drafts (in CONFERENCE — the other half)   

H Sept 14: Conference drafts (in CONFERENCE — half of you) 

T, Sept 19:  In-class presentations of spoken drafts of L&L Essay

H, Sept 21:  Bring in revisions of L&L essays

T, Sept 26:  Take-Home Peer Review of Spoken Drafts of L&L Essays

H, Sept 28:  Graded Revisions due for L&L Essays (proofread in class, turn in Friday)

T, Oct 3:  Discuss Jordan; introduce Rhetorical Analysis & Peer Profile (RA/PP) Essay 

H, Oct 5:  RA/PP Part 1 (10 on 1) Due to Bb (bring digital copy to class)

H, Oct 12: Interviewing (in-class); exploratory writing (description; quotations)

T, Oct 17:  Peer Interviews: Due T, Oct 17 by 2:00pm to Bb (bring digital copy to class)

H, Oct 19:  Peer Profile Peer editing & development activity (transitions; sensory detail)

T, Oct 24: Development workshop: Zooming in for concrete detail; “Show vs. Tell”

H, Oct 26: Peer Profile Due; in-class reflection

T, Oct 31:  Portfolio Version L&L Essay due to your CUNY Academic Commons site

H, Nov 2:  Research Essay Proposal Due (bring 2+ copies to class) 

T, Nov 7:  Sourcework activities (library databases, peer reviewed articles)

H, Nov 9:  Sourcework activities (library databases, images and primary sources)

T, Nov 14: Sourcework activities (open internet sources); Peer Editing Due, Researched Essay

H, Nov 16: Development workshop: Using images and multimedia effectively and accessibly

T, Nov 21: Graded Revision of Research Essay Due by 11:00am to Bb; In-Class work, Self Assessment

T, Nov 28: Conference drafts (in CONFERENCE — half of you)

H, Nov 30: Conference drafts (in CONFERENCE — half of you)

T, Dec 5: Graded Revision of Self-Assessment Due to Bb; in-class presentations of self-assessments

H, Dec 7: Presentations (if nec.) Draft of Digital Portfolio due w/ portfolio version of Research Essay

T, Dec 14: Revision of Self-Assessment and Final Digital Portfolio Due to Bb

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